Worship in the Storm: Psalm 29

22 09 2009

BK01Lately, I have lapsed in my Lectio Divina readings.  However, I recently discovered that my fifteen-minute break at work is the perfect amount of time to read a chapter from David Crowder’s book Praise Habit.  Then, I can meditate on the psalm as I return to my shirt-folding. Yesterday was my first day to implement this plan, and I read Psalm 29, appropriately enough during one of the worst floods in Atlanta’s history.

God‘s thunder sets the oak trees dancing
A wild dance, whirling; the pelting rain strips their branches.
We fall to our knees—we call out, “Glory!”

Above the floodwaters is God‘s throne
from which his power flows,
from which he rules the world

On Sunday, I attended a new church and through a series of events, ended up talking with one of the pastors for about half an hour before the service began.  She had just returned from a mission trip to Gulfport, Miss., where her group had done relief work for Katrina (yes, it’s still going on.  And apparently, UMCOR is the only remaining NGO in that particular area that is still receiving money to provide services)  She told me about a Catholic church they had visited in Waveland, Miss., whose gorgeous sanctuary had been demolished during the hurricane.

St. Clare's Catholic Church - before and after

St. Clare's Catholic Church - before and after

How eerie.  The first thing you notice, of course, is the difference in the church building.  But look again at the tree, and the way it has been twisted completely around.

The NIV translation of Psalm 29 reads, “The voice of the LORD twists the oaks.”

But what of the Message translation?  How can this transformation possibly be described with the word “dancing?”  That wording conjures up the image of a sardonic puppeteer-God who forces us to dance while we are, in fact, contorting in pain.  What kind of God is that?

To me, the Message translation highlights the tension inherent in worship.  Yes, we worship in freedom and with joy.  But true worship also requires that we recognize the omnipotence of God, and that fact can be rather frightening.  This is why Scripture tells us to “fear God:” not because we need to cower  in terror at his presence, but because we should humble ourselves and kneel before our God!

In the context of this particular Psalm, we (humans) are not the ones doing the dancing.  We are simply watching God at work, and responding by recognizing his power within the events of the world.  We are exhorted to “ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name.”

Here, too, I think we can learn from the example of Saint Clare’s.  Following the storm, they put up a sign that testified, with one simple sentence, the power of God as they had experienced it:


Dance Upon Injustice!

13 09 2009

The church we attended today is nestled in a small, historic building, right in the midst of Midtown.  They keep the door open throughout the service for anyone passing by, and the walls are thin enough (or perhaps the music was loud enough) that we could hear the first verse of “Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?” as we we were walking in.  After we settled into the pews, the words really sank in for me, in a new way:

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

With the door behind us flung wide open, I suddenly had this vision of the church spilling open onto the streets, with the sounds of our worship resounding all around us.  This is exactly what “creative theology” is all about: an idea, a vision, for the kingdom lived out through music and dance (among other things).  Dancing upon injustice.

Sometimes the music and dancing is literally just that: music and dancing.  And sometimes, it’s the songs of our lives, our ministries, our stories, all coming together in kingdom-work onto the streets and into the city and into the world:

Do you feel the darkness tremble?
When all the saints join in one song
And all the streams flow as one river
To wash away our brokenness

And we can see that
God You’re moving
A mighty river through the nations
And young and old will turn to Jesus
Fling wide you heavenly gates
Prepare the way of the risen Lord