The Proper Posture for Worship, in Seven Moods, Part 4

worshipposture2Mood, the Sixth 

So what is the correct posture to listen to someone speak about Jesus? What is the correct posture for congregational singing? What is the right posture for eating a meal with Christian brothers and sisters?

Perhaps we should lie on couches to take the Lord’s Supper. Jesus and the apostles did.

Perhaps we should climb into a tree to hear about Jesus.  Zacchaeus did.

Maybe we should require our preachers to preach standing in a boat or on top of a mountain, as Jesus did.

Maybe we should move the pews further apart so we have room to prostrate ourselves before God. Maybe we should even leave a dancefloor, to properly celebrate the return of God to his people and the coming of the Kingdom and the good news of the Kingdom of heaven.

These ideas sound absurd, even terrifying to some, because we have in the Churches of Christ a clash with the ancient Near East culture, in which feelings are expressed physically. The Eastern people described in the Bible dance, clap, shout, sing, bow, prostrate themselves, and otherwise make their feelings a whole-body experience. They celebrate with everything they have. Continue reading

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The Proper Posture for Worship, in Seven Moods, Part 3

worshipposture2Mood, the Fourth

The normal posture of worship in the ancient Near East was prostration — as we can see in such passages as –

(Gen 19:1 ESV) The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth

(Isa 49:7 ESV) Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

(Psa 5:7 ESV)  But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you.

Does that make bowing mandatory? Well, if we take Paul  in 1 Timothy 2 seriously, it’s really hard to lift holy hands toward God while lying prostrate (face to the ground, as the Muslims do in the mosques today). I bet you never, ever thought about that one, did you? Continue reading

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The Proper Posture for Worship, in Seven Moods, Part 2

worshipposture2Mood, the Second

Let’s start over.

Rule 1: All football metaphors for worship are bad. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Football is our culture. It’s not part of our culture; it is our culture.

And no football  season would be complete without a sermon or communion meditation on how we ought to be just as excited and emotionally expressive at church as we are at a football game.

The problem with the argument is that the fans at a football game are just that: fans. They aren’t players. And comparing church attendance to being a football fan is a very, very unhealthy metaphor. We should see ourselves as on the field playing, not in the stands cheering. We don’t go to church to cheer on the players. We are the players. Continue reading

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The Hand of God

PIA17566
From NASA.

I just spent the last half hour perusing NASA’s database of outerspace pictures. And I find myself on my knees.

Here are two locations to begin. If you find others, please share.

NASA.

FoxNews.

When I was a kid, around the fourth grade, I had my mother awaken me early and let me skip school to watch John Glenn’s mission — three orbits followed by a splashdown.

I remember Apollo XIII (and loved the movie).

There’s just something about outer space that has held a special fascination for me since my earliest years. I think it’s getting to glimpse another part of God’s self-revelation. Yep — it’s getting to see God.

The picture isn’t, of course, the literal hand of God. But you can see God there just as you can see Rembrandt in his paintings and Frank Lloyd Wright in his buildings. The art reveals the artist.

I was hoping, as a fourth grader, not to be too old to go to the moon. It turned out that I was too young. I’d love to go, but until we have inter-planetary cruise lines, looking at someone else’s pictures is a pretty good substitute.

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The Proper Posture for Worship, in Seven Moods, Part 1

worship-hand-signs-photo

I get emails –

It is my belief that worship is more of a lifestyle than an event. That being said, have you ever written anything regarding body language/posture as we worship? I’m thinking of the broad spectrum of what I consider worship, as well as the corporate assembly. (Remember that I’m from the background of singing ”Hallelujah” in a song with the same intonation as used in a dirge ~ almost).

It has made sense to me (partly as a result of recent TV sports-overload during the holidays) that body language is simply an extension of the emotion/ feeling/passion felt by the participants ~ including fans. … If it doesn’t make sense to me, then I don’t care who does it ~ I won’t. But it’s beginning to make sense. Do I make sense in all of this? :) I guess part of my desire here is to be able to defend rationally (even to myself) practices that will draw fire from other dirge singers.

I know that you are way ahead of me in this. At my home church there is some hand-raising, a smattering of clapping (mostly among young) and such. Nothing is frowned upon there, but it still has to be rational for me to give in to the urges I sometimes have. Continue reading

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On My Unintended Absence, Being Much Better than Death

Mostly deadSo Alabama’s losing the Sugar Bowl to Oklahoma in a lackadaisical effort last Friday was pretty awful, but I felt reasonably well physically.

Before the trip, I’d had my pee tested, once again, and I had been found clear of any remaining infection — meaning that my three rounds of antibiotics following back surgery two months earlier was finally over.

I was still recovering from the stiffness and soreness of my back surgery, and I was looking forward to finally getting back into decent shape after a brief vacation in New Orleans. Continue reading

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A Reader’s Questions about Commentaries

bookshelf
I get emails –

I have never owned any Bible commentaries, always resorting to borrowing as needed. As of late I have decided to purchase, or start to purchase, such items. Do you have any suggestions for sets that would be suitable for a lay-person such as myself? If you don’t recommend complete sets, do you have any particular authors that you would recommend? I look forward to your advice.

This is a tough one, because there are so very many commentaries and commentary sets out there. They vary in terms of the level of expertise they assume the reader has, the denomination of the author, the target audience, and all sorts of things. Continue reading

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Leaving for the Sugar Bowl

sugarbowlMy wife asked for Sugar Bowl tickets for Christmas, and so she got Sugar Bowl tickets for Christmas.

And this means I’ll be away from my computer the next couple of days. I have only one more post written.

So posts will pause for a few days, I imagine. I might find time and energy to write ahead. You never know.

Meanwhile, I’m searching for handicapped accessible gates at the SuperDome.

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Naomi Walters: Longing for Home

Naomi brings an especially interesting story to Wineskins. It all goes back to 1966. You see, it was in 1966 that my congregation planted a church in Stamford, Connecticut: the Stamford Church of Christ.

This was part of the Exodus Movement in which several Churches of Christ worked together to plant churches in the Northeast.

As I understand the process, the plant involved several families from the planting churches pulling up roots and relocating to the new area. There is a good article in the Christian Chronicle recalling this plant. And here’s one from 1965.

I moved to Tuscaloosa, and my church home, in 1975, and so this was nearly a decade in the past at the time. (We’re fast approaching the 50th anniversary — and really ought to plan something.) And this was a plant, not a mission congregation, and so it was a fully autonomous, self-supporting church by the time I showed up. (I wonder how many former Tuscaloosans live there? Do they still remember how to say “Roll Tide!”?) Nonetheless, it was a ministry that my church understandably took great pride in. Continue reading

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A Framework for Discussing Baptism: Unanswered Challenges

BaptismofJesus2Back on December 13, I posted a series of comments I’d made at earlier posts, as a post called “A Framework for Discussing Baptism.” This was an effort to frame and so improve the conversation regarding the absolute necessity of baptism.

That post has received over 300 comments thus far, with no end in sight. (This may be a OIJ record!)  But thus far, I’ve failed to elevate the conversation beyond endless repetition of ancient arguments that haven’t persuaded in the last 500 years.

I’m very disappointed that the challenges I’d made to the absolute-necessity-of-baptism position have been ignored by those who wish to push for that position because I thought that, even if I were proven to be in error, at least we’d make some progress. And we haven’t. Continue reading

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