Monthly Archives: December, 2005

Come dance with Me

Just a quick post on Psalm 150. Sorry I’m so late.

Something that stands out to me is the commonality of dance among spiritual traditions. There is the Stomp Dance of the Cherokee, the Whirling of the Sufi, the Jewish circle dances, the moving meditation of the Tibetan monks….and on and on and on.

Dance is common. Why? I think there is heard, again and again in different places and eras the call – “Come dance with Me.”

Come dance with Me. Dance as an expression of spiritual joy. Dance as a means of drawing close to the Lover.

Personally, (though it has been awhile) I have been known to put in a CD (perhaps the David Crowder Band or Rita Springer…or something totally unexpected), close the blinds, crank up the volume, grab my prayer shawl to use as prop — and dance my heart out. Whirling, clapping, singing, shouting, kneeling, whispering, whirling again. Somewhere in there self-awareness stops and I notice that I am not alone. I am answering the call to dance with my Love and my heart is opened and healed.

I didn’t realize how much I had missed this until now. Thanks for the reminder!

Housekeeping

I’m hoping folks have been thinking a bit about where we might grow next. Thus far two options are on the plate:

Read a canonical book — preferably from the New Testament
Take a break

I suspect there are more possibilities out there. In particular I would like to have a general consideration of what we find helpful here and what we don’t so we might incorporate changes in how we do things.

Quiet Praise

We have now reached the last summit of the mountain chain of Psalms. It rises high into the clear azure, and its brow is bathed in the sunlight of the eternal world of worship, it is a rapture. The poet prophet is full of inspiration and enthusiasm. He slays not to argue, to teach, to explain; but cries with burning words, “Praise him, Praise him, Praise ye the LORD.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-92)

***

I read that the book of psalms parallels the spiritual journey. Two paths are outlined, the way to life and the way to death. If we choose God’s way to life, we still face blessings and sorrows, joy and grief, success and obstacles. All of these experiences of our lives can be found in the psalms. At the end of our journey, we may find ourselves inhabiting a place that not only revels in God’s grace, but also where we find God’s grace to be immanent and transcendent. When this is experienced, gratitude and praise are the natural emotions one feels and is movedto express.

My personality is not very extroverted; indeed, I am mostly drawn inward, to silence and to quiet conversations rather than to outward displays of exuberance (no surprise that I have the personality of a Quaker or a Buddhist…) This is not to say that I don’t feel a tremendous gratitude and praise for God. When the psalmist suggests all these outward displays of singing praise, I smile. Yes, we may praise in these noisy and jubilant ways – with the sound of the trumpet, or the high sounding symbols, the beat of the tambourines, and with the timbrel and dance as was once introduced into the temples and tabernacles, and is found today in modern churches. However… this jubilation and praise also happens in the heart, in the depths of our silence, in which we may be moved to tears with gratitude and love for this Absolute wonder of our lives. This is the feeling of rapture, of being so in love with the beloved, that one feels drunk with love and praise. And how does the silent heart sing God’s praise? Perhaps by being truly mindful, and by truly loving – by noticing and loving in a rich and warm and full manner for all that breathes, all that is experienced, and all that is given. Our own soft smile is a song of praise.

Praise the Lord

Looking up the definition of the word “praise”, I read that it means “to set a price on”, or “to commend the worth of, to express approval or admiration of, to laud the glory of, to extol”. And it is offered in response to what another has done … in response to their deeds.

I don’t normally think about praising Jesus/God and when I hear the phrase “Praise the Lord”, my mind adds the next line, “… and pass the ammunition” 🙂 (link) But sometimes I am grateful for the things I think he’s done for me, for his deeds, and then sometimes I sing to him.

The one thing I miss the most about going to church is the music, and if , as Psalm #150 says, music qualifies as praise, then I did participate in it. Now that I’m not at church, I still sing to Jesus/God … I sing the songs from a few “religious” music CDs (Taize and Robin Mark) but I think what he most likes are the songs of Peter and Gordon … 🙂

Nobody I know could love me more than you
You can give me so much love it seems untrue
Listen to the bird who sings it to the tree
And then when you’ve heard him, see if you agree
Nobody I know could love you more than me

Let everything that breathes praise the LORD!

This is the last psalm in the book of psalms.

It seems clear to me this Psalm was sung in corporate worship. It expresses a corporate experience of worship, celebration and praise. When I read the Hebrew scriptures looking for signs of what worship was like for the Israelites — I keep running into the instructions of Leviticus about separating the fat from the organ meat before its burnt on the altar. In the Christian scriptures I see well-ordered synagogue worship looking for all the world like a classroom studying the ancient scrolls together.

But here. Here we hear calls to worship:

Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with clanging cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

Sounds strangely like a modern day Pentecostal praise service.

What I run up against here — and I’m particularly mindful of it just coming out from under the Christmas celebrations of church and family — is that for the biblical peoples and for maybe all cultures — there are matter which seem like emotions, private, and personal experiences which are in fact treated like obligations and reinforced with coercive practices.

For scripture — the two which fall into this category are love and joy. Scripture over and over again tells us, yea — commands us — to love and to rejoice and be glad. Happiness isn’t a feeling isn’t an experience that happens to us — it is an obligation towards El Shaddai, God Almighty.

As a Christian I feel a certain obligation to take such things seriously — this is not because the Bible is the wholly infallible Word of God but rather because millennia of faithful worship and witness affirms it. And this call to praise and worship takes the imperative case. It makes certain claims on me. And while I am free to accept or reject. There remains a claim to authority here.

But I’m more of an introverted type. I’m more drawn to study and meditation than to dancing around with tambourines. I have some choices.

I refuse to participate — say ‘no’ to this whole project. I can participate (as quietly as I’m allowed to) while keeping my cognitive distance (my usual choice). I can lose myself in the celebration (something I find VERY difficult to do).

Let everything that breathes praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!

I deeper challenge than it appears on the surface. With Augustine I say Yes, Lord. But not yet.

Psalm 150

Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty firmament!

Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his surpassing greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp!

Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!

Praise him with clanging cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

Let everything that breathes praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!

Merry Christmas, Scripture Buddies :-)

Today, I’d like to remember Wenceslas, king of Bohemia in the 10th century … read more about this saint here.

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath’ring winter fuel

“Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know’st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

“Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither.”
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind’s wild lament
And the bitter weather

“Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly.”

In his master’s steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing


– Statue of St Wenceslas at Stara Boleslav

happy holy days or holly days or whatever

Christmas Link

another exit — stage left (or perhaps right)

Robert (aka RW) has asked his name be removed from membership. Robert was useful to me by reminding me you didn’t need to be left-wing to be a good Quake.

RW is also welcome to return when he feels so moved.

Clean Hands?

This psalm epitomizes O.T. religion, what Marcus Borg referred to as a ‘purity’ faith. In contrast Jesus was very unclean: talking with women! gentile women!, not washing his hands to eat. He said not one jot of the law should pass away. However the Sermon on the Mount shows the ways that Jesus transcended the law of Moses.

Speaking of Jesus Blake said he broke every one of the ten commandments and acted from pure virtue. So we’re talking about two different kinds of purity: a religion of purity and a spirit of purity; the two are vastly different. You might say that the O.T. focuses on the first and Jesus the second. You might even say that the first is emphasized by (too) much of the conventional church, while the diaspora emphasizes the second.