Tuesday, May 02, 2006

the cut of one's ephod

we all go through periods where we ask the heavy questions. who we ask and how we ask often determines the kind of response we receive, as well as whether the response is a satisfying one. people are emotional beings and often the emotions of a moment add so much colour to the events taking place that we start to lose track of what we are really about as people. i received this email from a friend who has a longer story than there is room (even on this long-winded blog) to tell.

short version? he felt disaffirmed when he was spoken to one day by the lead pastor about the importance of considering time and place when exploring worship expressions- being challenged to ask whether this demonstration is impactive or distractive in bringing the larger group closer to God. although he felt like he was being censored, he was, in fact, being invited to take greater responsibility for his role as one of the worship leaders within the assembly.

we are all worship leaders to some degree. our active or passive pursuit of the sense of God's presence affects everyone around us in some way. this is why it is important to understand the differences between corporate and private worship expressions. whether our heart is in the right place or not, the cut of our ephod can be a distraction to others and we need to prayerfully consider them as well, for corporate worship is done together with, not in spite of those around us...

"I can sing praises to my God any way I want. I can't sing praises to your
God any way I want. (My wife) and I do not want to be part of a church that
worships a God like that.
Christ Rules (and likes my style of singing!)"

paul addresses some public worship issues in 1 corinthians 12 and 14... here's the first bit of scripture- it is general and deals with the importance of unity and diversity as directed by the Holy Spirit, who presides over all worship expressions and gift employment:

(I corinthians 12.4-27)
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

the second passage is more directly related to worship expressions. it follows a 25 verse discussion of the importance of speaking words of prophesy and tongues in the right ways for the right reasons:

(I corinthians 14.26-33)
What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.
Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.

(friend) the reason i am sending these scriptures to you for your consideration is that i think that you may be misunderstanding (our pastor's) words to you about singing in church.

no one is telling you how to sing or how not to sing- in fact, i remember a conversation in my office last year where i had just written a song and you showed me how you would sing it... then you said 'but i know that that is probably not the right thing for a morning service.' you have a good sense of humour, and you made a joke about people running for the doors, which caused us both to laugh together.

i am not sure why you feel differently now. there is nothing wrong with being able to identify the right time and place for something. it's called discernment, and it's totally important today just as it was in paul's day. the passage in 1 corinthians 14.26-32 echoes this, maintaining that the purpose of our worship times together is to be the strengthening of God's people (for the spiritual battle that awaits them the other 6 days of the week?)

the passage here deals most specifically with the gifts of tongues and prophesy. i don't go around telling people this, but so that you may understand my heart and the ideas i am trying to communicate here, i need to speak from my own experience... the Holy Spirit gave me such a prayer language to be used for his glorification. the holy tongue that the Spirit blessed me with has in it words which i have never uttered in the open hearing of other people, believers or otherwise. it is a holy thing.

although it is clearly a gift of God that i could have never just conjured up on my own, and although there are times when i am tempted (yes- it's the perfect word, for the temptation comes from hell to use a blessing of God to be a distraction to the body) to utter these words while worship leading, or while praying at the microphone, i choose to remain silent in this way at those times, speaking only words in english within the hearing of the people.

the decision is mine, as a man who loves God, concerning what to do with the gifts that he has entrusted me with. i do not believe that my prayer language would be taken away, were i to use it carelessly, but it would confuse the people in the church. i don't want to do that. when we come together to worship, i want to worship with my friends, not in spite of them... every time i step up to the microphone, there is temptation and there is decision.

(friend), i love you, man- you know that. but saying "i can sing praises to my God any way i want" and speaking of God as being a different person for you than he is for your friends at (our church) is not biblical.

satan wants to steal God's glory away by trying to pollute your heart with regard to worship- don't let him. satan would love for you to 'behave' and be angry about it. he would love for you to put your own preferences first, in spite of the people who might be distracted by that in a small room like the sanctuary on a sunday morning. he doesn't really care whether you are loud or silent... he just wants it to be about you. he wants you to be haughty. he knows that will deflect the glory away from God, and that is his goal.

don't let him succeed. be Christ's and Christ's alone.

much love

although there were a few weeks when my friend did some crowd surfing at some other churches, he eventually recognized that there are already many people who love him and his wife for who they are right here, and building those relationships again elsewhere would not only take time, but would carry with it no guarantees either. he continues to celebrate God's goodness to him in our fellowship, whooping and hollering in the loud parts and falling on his face in the deeper, more intimate parts- which is inspiring to those around. we all grow by knowing one another, yeah?

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Blogger bjk said...


Blogger SocietyVs said...

Some things offend others, here's the funny thing, there is no end to how fussy people can be. I think on the worship thing it is wise to be in a place that helps others, since that time isn't about you and the correct attitude is to help people. However if they get offended at you over smaller things, like a tattoo, laugh.

Blogger curious servant said...

I used to be self conscious of how I worship. I am more demonstrate than the others. But one Sunday it was clear to me that I should let it flow. I shut my eyes and worshipped the way I felt.

I haven't opened them during worship since, and it has been over ten years.

Folks know me, know who I am.

So does He.

Not saying that this is right for anyone else. It is just my experience.

Good post.

By the way... nice note you left over at J.H.'s

I think he might freak some folks out a bit, but he has got a great heart.

Blogger jollybeggar said...

okay, major tangent:
i was just at a conference last week in calgary (sadly, no flames games in town on either night!) with my lead pastor and we were talking about getting tattoos or eyebrow piercings or something... we both shared a good laugh at the idea of the two pastors running unsupervised to the tattoo parlours in calgary while at a willow creek association conference.

had i been smarter or quicker on the draw, i would have gone to ardene or something and bought some little fake earring-thingies and put them in my eyebrows or on my lip or whatever... just to cause a stir.

you know what's really sad? how owned i can often be by others' opinions. i mean, it is pretty common knowledge that pastoral ministry attracts megalomaniacs and, at the other end of the continuum, those with people- pleasing tendencies. honestly, the only reason that i haven't gone in for a piercing or two is that i know i would feel the need to explain it to too many people, and would still feel that others are writing it all off to some mid-life crisis thing.

(of course, there's always the 'incognito-piercing' that nobody knows about because it's underneath clothing... i think to undergo the ongoing clothing-rubbing-discomfort-thing in the pursuit of youth in perpetuity would be worse than wearing a hairshirt in the pursuit or ascetic piety...)

however, having confessed all this, i must also say that i really love how free others are to express their individuality with body art. go man go- you are living the dream!!!

Blogger Cinder said...

good post...i think sometimes that worship is a really fine line. you want everyone to have the freedom to worship in their own way, but we still have a huge responsibility to worship according to scriptures. we're all blessed with unique worship styles and spiritual giftings, but He also expects us to use a lot of discernment, in order to make sure we use everything according to His will and that it never becomes a hindrance to those around us entering into worship.

"you know what's really sad? how owned i can often be by others' opinions."

i think whether you are a pastor or even once you're involved to a certain level ministry-wise, that this becomes an issue. it is sad, but often difficult not to have it happen. it's funny the differences between kids and grown-ups...my kids have walked around with huge temporary tattoos for a couple of weeks now and people think they're the cutest, but one year when i decide to dye my hair and face paint my face in support of my football team even though i couldn't go to the game and then went walking around Walmart with my then baby, i was considered to be a fair bit off.

i think it also comes to be based on past experience...i was told in the past by a few people that if i were to do a small list of things, that they wouldn't be able to look at me in the same light and would probably lose respect me as a ministry-leader...you end up conforming at times because of where you are called to be.

Blogger jollybeggar said...

"you end up conforming at times because of where you are called to be."

hmmm- conforming. hate that word. i often defer to steve martin's wisdom:

s: let's all repeat the non-conformist oath... i promise to be different!

all: i promise to be different!

s: i promise to be unique!

all: i promise to be unique!

s: i promise not to repeat things other people say!

all: mumble mumble

is it conforming or is it simply removing the really obvious obstacles to greater mutual understanding?

is cultural assimilation conformity?

and what of conspicuous alignment -green face in wal-mart in support of a local football team- isn't that what Jesus invited us to be part of? being conspicuously aligned with him and wearing that alignment proudly... not to 'in yer face' others, but to simply remind them that there is a game going on?

Blogger Cinder said...

you're right...i too hate the word conform, it's not one which usually comes off my fingers...it is simply removing the real obvious obstacles to gain a greater mutual understanding.

conspicuous alignment with Christ is exactly what we're invited to be a part of...yeah it's a great thing and when worn proudly, but not pushy, it is a simple and gentle reminder!

Blogger curious servant said...

Even though I have worshipped with my eyes closed for years, I am acutely aware of when I do anything out of the ordinary (from that of the congregation).

If I feel the need to kneel or to stand when others sit, there is a hesitation. I remind myself that the others there are not the audience for my worship.

I wrote a few weeks ago about painting during the Easter service... how I struggled with it... until I let it all go and truly worshipped. There was a comment on that post from a friend who said something very kind about that moment and how I appeared to others.

In the end, I don't take a lot of stock in what others think or feel when I am praying or worshipping my Lord. It isn't about them and if what I do is uncomfortable for them... they needn't watch. My heart, or rather The Spirit, dictates what I do then, not anyone else.

It is too bad that we are in such great need of the approval of others. The above comments are good illustrations for that. No piercings, no tattoos.

Judas Hate left a very interesting comment on my last post about a congregation turning its back on a pastor who had an affair. All his help for others was cast aside in their quick condemenation.

I would agree that pastors do need to hold to a higher standard, but if they fall, they need love and guidance like the rest of us. They need healing. That event hurt others as well, as clearly shown by JH's comment.

We should also consider the implications of this need for conformity. Astronomer and science fiction author David Brin wrote an interesting book entitled "Otherness" where he explores the ideas of conformity and the whole idea of us and them, cultures and beliefs, bropad and narrow world views. What was really fun about the book was its format. It would offer an essay about one aspect of it, the hispanic machismo, the asian ancestor worship, modern sexism, and then follow it up with a science fictioon story to play with the idea a bit.

Today, on this spinning ball of dirt, there are a lot of folks who worship our Lord, pray to our Lord, tell stories of our faith, in many different ways. We have Korean churches, and Catholics, and messianic Jews, and the 1,001 other approaches... In the past there was the early church, the medieval churches, the Renaissance, the modern age, the post modern era... and someday we will all share a single reality together. Heaven will be diverse.

So, if we are uncomfortable with some folks speaking in tongues, and others singing very serious, dirge-like hymns, what will happen in our hearts and minds when we are mixed together in one huge congregation?

Are we ready for it?

Blogger Cinder said...

Amen to that CS...if we can't get over our differences here on earth, how are we going to deal with things when we are one huge congregation. With pastors...I will stand beside my pastors through anything...they are human like the rest of us...they need to be supported in friendship, they need to know they have places to turn...my pastors have stood beside me through a lot and have given me timely guidance...they deserve the same from me, no matter what the situation...and they will get it!

"I don't take a lot of stock in what others think or feel when I am praying or worshipping my Lord. It isn't about them and if what I do is uncomfortable for them... they needn't watch. My heart, or rather The Spirit, dictates what I do then, not anyone else." I have a lot of admiration for you being able to do this...I close my eyes and worship the way I'm led, but for me the struggle is in daily life, especially when I'm stepping out of the boat in an area...learning to realize that in all things, I just need to live the way I'm led by the Spirit and not worry about whether or not I have the approval of those around me.

jb ~ "is cultural assimilation conformity?" i don't think it is, or at least it shouldn't be...people may assimilate into another country, but they still keep their roots and beliefs...it's more a matter of what the people around them bring upon them and how they end up living as a result.

i think this whole discussion brings up the thoughts to me of am i truly living out what i'm being led to? am i placing way too much stock in what those around me think? do i do the same to those around me? am i seeing this world through Christ's eyes each day or have i started living in way that's not...if so, am i comfortable with that and if not, what do i need to do?

Blogger jollybeggar said...

hey, remember the simpsons episode where homer and bart convert to catholicism and then the problem of denominations in heaven is explored? brilliant- one of my all-time favourite episodes... right up there with the one where homer and marge are naked for almost the entire show after getting caught being spontaneous and romantic at the mini-golf course.

anyway, i just recognized that my forthcoming comment was lengthy sermonizing- even too lengthy for me- so i wiped it out and inserted the fun little simpsons anaecdote above.

rather than go any further in the comment box here, i think i'll just say that the next post will be called 'i see dead people' and will be dealing with ethnocentricity and embezzlement in worship.

there's a bunch of stuff bubbling around in the murky backwaters of my brain. good discourse does that... thanks you guys.


Blogger curious servant said...

Bubble on!

Blogger jollybeggar said...

bubble on... isn't that where israel was exiled not once but twice?

yeah, that was lame.

anyway, on a mildly more serious note, as long as we are promoting books to each other, there is an amazing book written by ben pasley called 'enter the worship circle.' from the sounds of things, its format is similar to that of the 'otherness' book. it was one of the most refreshing books i've ever read.

Blogger SocietyVs said...

The cut of one's ephod, I have no clue what an ephod even is but it must mean 'cloth'. Have I got a true story for you concerning this same issue (kinda).
My brother and his friends (all avid church-going youth) started a band and played around town. It was a punk band and the church thought rock n roll was of the devil...weird huh.
Well what happened was they all started wearing leather jackets, ripped jeans, tattooes, spiked hear, piercings, and studded this n that. They didn't look the church part. They stood out and they got judged.
People, the higher-up's, thought what they were doing was inappropriate and pretty much condemned their every action; and it is costly to repent over a tattoo (laser surgery and what have you). I have to admit it was a weird time since it effected me personally.
They all left church, along with all of my friends for similar reasons. I figure if you take some people's opinions too serious it can actually drive you from church. I think there is a balance to be struck when heeding other's thoughts. That balance varies and people that get offended haven't seen any real sh*t in their lives.
For my brother what he was doing was nothing (just style) and compared to real things to get offended at like abuse, racism, violence, and sexual immorality. Style and the like just doesn't register in reality.

Blogger daubmir said...

great stuff, my man: keep the aspidistra flying, I say!


Blogger curious servant said...

I was working on a painting this morning... in the parking lot of our church.

I was using spray paint in the parking lot and found myself moving from shaking the can of paint to dancing with eyes closed.

I'm not sure if anyoe nticed me back there... but it doesn't matter, does it? He noticed.

Blogger jollybeggar said...

the allusion to ephods (pre-Christ judaism) is mostly connected to the story in 2sam6 where david strips down to an ephod and 'dance(s) before the Lord with all his might..." only to be berated by his wife, the daughter of saul, for it.

people often use that story to justify their worship expressions in public places, but it is important to note how david's worship expression was part of a huge moment in the life of his entire country, and his stripping down and dancing was noteworthy because of the ceremony attached to wearing the vestments of a king. he stripped down to his umbros before God and country and joined in the celebration of God's goodness- not as the 'big king that made it all happen' but as an everyman... which his wife interpreted as vulgar and carnal:
"How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!"

distinguished indeed... none of the other kings in scripture have a story like this one that speaks of a monarch being given to God and to God alone in a huge worship event.

"as any vulgar fellow would?"

there is nothing like the sound of a huge crowd singing like the saved, united in position and office by the grace of God.

CS- beautiful story. dance, man, dance. create and be used of God in celebrating his divine spark.


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