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30 March 2009

The Noise and Impact of Worship

This post was originally written on October 25, 2007 and was posted again in January of 2008. I suppose, then, that I've now won the Triple Crown or something by posting it yet again. The song in question -- "Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble" -- talks about worship in a way that is alarmingly not often considered by the Church at large.

This Sunday I'm planning on singing the song "Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble" in our morning services. The first time we sang it congregationally, my friend Christy justifiably asked me to explain what was meant by the phrase "dancers who dance upon injustice." Here are the lyrics to the chorus:

Open up the doors and let the music play,
Let the streets resound with singing.
Song that bring Your hope, songs that bring Your joy,
Dancers who dance upon injustice.

by Martin Smith, (c) 1994 Delirious? Music UK, CCLI Song# 1097028

Every time we sing this song I find myself reexamining the lyrics. It's one of the more metaphoric songs that we sing, and as such I want to make sure that it's theologically sound.

As I searched for references to "justice" in the Bible (again), I saw that out of 135 references, when the word is defined within a passage, it typically doesn't refer to making sure that right wins out over wrong (as in our court systems, which is likely what we're inclined to think of when we consider the word). Rather, it tends to communicate, whether by inference or direct statement, helping people who are physically or emotionally disadvantaged.

Zechariah 7:9-10 summarizes it well: "Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.'"

The song contains a beautiful description of the ideal actions of the Church. It speaks of at least a couple of things: 1) the Church worshipping and singing (either literally or figuratively) together in a unified voice so loud that its worship and its genuine joy is felt everywhere ("Did you feel the mountains tremble? Did you hear the oceans roar when all the people rose to sing of Jesus Christ, the risen One?"), and 2) the healing that can be found in bearing one another's burdens ("And all the streams flow as one river to wash away our brokenness").

However, the most important line of the song, for me, is the one in question: "Dancers who dance upon injustice." All the happy-happy singing within the Church doesn't amount to anything, and is arguably harmful, if our joyful worship doesn't spill over into everyday actions of justice.

"To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice." - Proverbs 21:3

How comfortable are we, being able to put a few dollars into an offering plate, thereby sparing ourselves the indignity having to get out and help real, live, hurting people? As I write this, I realize that I'm not writing it for you, but myself. The cry, "Let's put actions to our words!" is one that, as I look at history, I see every young generation trumpeting, and as they (and I) get older, the cry weakens, the desire for action wanes, and sadly, the drive for personal comfort often wins out.

Do you know of any Scripture that states we're to help needy people only if their situation is not of their own making? I don't. In fact, the words of Benjamin Franklin in 1757's Poor Richard's Almanac, "God helps those who helps themselves," are in direct contrast to the Word of God.

How many wars have been fought in the name of "God?" How many church congregations bring shame on Jesus Christ by inner fighting and division? How many fellowships are apathetic and complacent, perched in the middle of hurting communities and not lifting a finger to help, but instead singing songs one day a week about how good it is not to be a part of the riff-raff on the outside? Isn't it time we redeemed ourselves by our actions? If we want to be culturally relevant, let's be a part of the culture!

Just as the song says, let's make our noise of worship be heard by singing it with our lives.


Anonymous said...

Love your writing Dean. It resonates with me. Who would have thought we would ever be on the same page? Jodi C.

Dean Lusk said...

Thanks, Jodi. I guess it took much longer for me to get on that page than it did you. Thank you for the good words!

Anonymous said...

I don't know about that. It has taken me a while. I was just coming from the opposite direction. God is good. He knows how to get us where we are supposed to be. I can't wait to read uour brain gushing. :-)

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