Move That Body

BY LUE-YEE TSANG

A song often used as (part of) a call to worship of sorts begins:

We stand and lift up our hands,
For the joy of the Lord is our strength;
We bow down and worship Him now:
How great, how awesome is He!

Now, is it Chris Tomlin’s fault or ours that no one actually does those physical actions when they’re being described/prescribed? Oh, right, I forgot: only the heart matters, because it’s legalistic to direct corporate physical actions in worship. Or worse, the images used are just there to look pretty and nothing else.

We seem to have no objection to singing the same words together, so why not saying the same words and doing the same physical actions? Honestly, all of this wouldn’t be more foreign to an unbeliever than it would be to a white Cal student going to a KTV place near Berkeley; at the same time, you can’t possibly make worship of the true God any less foreign.

And if your thought is that the way of the world is to concentrate on what happens outside, let me remind you that it’s really not countercultural at all to think that life’s all about what’s inside. In fact, our modern society seems to be obsessed with privacy and personal choice and with all the privation that comes with it, so much so that good intentions are wrongly supposed to excuse people’s actions.

If we’re committed to worship being more than just an emotional experience, if we’re committed to worship being dictated by God and not by man’s desires (because the physical imagery in Tomlin’s song is probably biblical, though I don’t think the music really matches the lyrics as a whole), maybe we’ll think carefully about the physical actions we indicate in those implicit or explicit rubrics for worship.

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2 thoughts on “Move That Body

  1. I do agree that it’s silly to embed these images of worship within our worship, as most churchgoers rarely to never identify with them or follow through with them. It saddens me very much, though, that we don’t. To be so enthralled with God that you’re shamelessly jumping and dancing for pure joy before Him, that sounds to me like an intense form of worship which the One we praise is worthy of. Yet I find that it takes some boldness for the average person to get his arms in the air during a song (and that’s about as far as I’m normally willing to go, too). It’s true that we should be careful about placing capricious “corporate physical actions” in our worship, but I also feel that many of us (including myself) should think about stepping it up when it comes to offering praise to our Creator.

  2. I disagree and agree: I don’t find it quite silly to mention these things, since we have biblical models for them in the Psalms. So I think the Bible agrees with your disappointment that we typically do very little physically in worship. I’d be quite happy with corporate prostration (who says only the followers of Muhammad can bow down together?):

    O come, let us worship and fall down, * and kneel before the LORD our Maker.
    For he is the Lord our God; * and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

    It seems to me that if we actually used the Psalms a lot more in worship and acknowledged that they were Psalms and set them to music that matched the meaning (very important), we’d begin to learn a lot more about what the people of God has deemed fitting for his worship, corporately and individually. It wouldn’t be bad, either, to begin seeing (and hearing, and singing) the evangelical canticles – the Canticle of Zachary (Lk 1.68–79), the Canticle of the Blessed Virgin (1.46–55) and the Canticle of Simeon (2.29–32) – in corporate worship again.

    It would be rather a shame to be less physically involved than our brethren who worshipped YHWH before the Word became our incarnate Christ. Are we not more blessed than Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and David for exactly this reason, that we know God as they never knew him while they lived on this earth?

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