WMB 5.0 — How does expressiveness fight against legalism in our liturgy is where I am going today in this WMB post. This is part of a series here
MYTH: Loud, expressive, extravagant, joyful worship is not as holy as quiet, still and austere worship.
Of course the goal is not to enjoy your expression of worship, or to reach a certain decibel level. The goal is to offer our lives, and in the context of liturgy, our communal life as a church. What happens in a church is a person who has some tattoos walks in, and begins “feeling” it while some of the staid-suburban-Dockers-wearing-Christian-veterans in the pews begin to feel something else–resentment.
Sinners when turning to God can’t help but celebrate
Often, in a church setting we see those who are sinful and coming to Jesus very expressive and excited. For some reason, being “mature” means that you want quiet worship and depressing tempos. Some of these beloved saints feel it is worldly since the ones who like the volume and have tears streaming down their cheeks are ones that they have “heard things” about. This narrative is nothing new.
When Jesus encountered one woman in the Bible, she took some very expensive perfume, broke the jar and literally poured thousands of dollars worth of beauty product on His feet. I bet her weeping was loud. I bet the volume in that room was not a “time of reflection” but a time of celebration. She loved Jesus so much that she dared not miss an opportunity to show it in the most bold way. After all, Jesus was a leader, teacher and single man. This must have been awkward to those watching this scene live.
One thing to note is that her reputation thinly qualified her at best to being in the room, if you do not realize Jesus as a friend to sinners. The idea that she cleaned her life entirely up before offering to Jesus is in question. In fact, could she have? Or, are we really like her living a hypocrisy cluttered with failed motives, even if our outward reputation supersedes hers? How dare a person with such a past or recent past come and offer Jesus something so extravagant!
Social action does not excuse us from extravagant worship
The legalists in the room thought things were whacked. Imagine if our volume in the church brings in people who do not have money or who have professions beneath ours. Or, do these kind of people tithe? Look how they are wasteful. In fact, we could rid ourselves of our sound system and feed the poor with it. This is exactly what happened in regards to this woman. Judas, wanted that money in his purse and used social action as an excuse to not worship Jesus himself.
Often, today I hear people say that corporate worship is not necessary if we are feeding the poor. Well, feeding the poor is not optional. Neither is coming together as believers to worship Jesus in a grand way. We need to sit at His feet, in order to learn to be His feet. It is a “both and” not one or the other. We cannot assume we are devoting ourselves to God by filling our need for altruism. That emotion is not worship any more than being entertained by a rousing worship band.
Legalists resent extravagant worship
Expressive worship has problems for legalists. Remember King David’s wife? She despised her husband’s expressiveness in worship. She wanted him to be solemn and was embarrassed by his crazy dance of worship and celebration. David loved God. How often are we critical of mature Christians or leaders who are expressive? We would rather things be quiet, not loud or expressive or joyful or big or in public!
David knew the grace of God, so he worshiped as a grace-filled soul. Sometimes we scowl and frown at grace-filled people because we have yet to know and accept that we cannot earn favor with God. We like being scared, guilty and prideful that somehow we can earn points with God. So, our worship at times has to reflect that.
We become emotional ascetics. We hate it when people are joyful in worship. And, because of that, sometimes volume becomes an issue. Why party in freedom and grace when one can wallow quietly in the pity that they are frustrated in earning their way to God.
It’s a good thing when people worship with expressiveness!
Now, not everyone can worship to rock music. That is cultural. Not everyone “feels it” when an electric guitar drops an open “E” or when the kick drum thumps your chest. But, if someone else does, isn’t that a great thing!