How being naked enhanced worship

Image taken from here

Image taken from here

There is a story in the Bible that conveys King David dancing before the arc of the covenant. And in the middle of this worship and joyful expression of a king dancing, many pay attention to the interpretation that King David may be wearing nothing more than an apron and his backside exposed. It is also understood that in this “surgical gown dance” David does is so full of joy that he literally throws his inhibition to the wind and dances near naked.

That is a sermon that I have heard more than one time and it is not a bad sermon, perhaps one that needs to be heard our “joy desert” culture.

However, I want to submit that David dancing near naked is actually enhancing worship and a form of social disobedience.

We have to remember that in the time of David, and even Jesus, it was shameful to see someone naked. It was more shameful to see someone else naked than to be naked. This is why Noah curses one son that sees him naked while blessing his other sons who were not exposed to this shame. It is also why it is political protest when Jesus says that if someone takes your clothes you should give them your cloak as well. Your nakedness will heap shame upon those who forced you into unjust nakedness.

David uses this naked/shame system as a form of social disobedience in order to enhance worship. When the King comes back into the city and everyone wants to hear the great story of the armies of David, David comes up with an idea to force people to literally turn their gaze to something else. By being naked (and one can imagine also that his whole staff might be dresses as the King) the people have a choice to make – make King David and his military the center of their worship celebration or look upon the arc of the covenant and make God the center of their worship celebration.

We do not have this same system of shame like David had. In fact today there is more shame to be naked than to see another naked, so it is difficult to imagine David’s culture. But if we can move beyond the puritanical impulses of our Puritan past, we can see a King who used a system of shame and his own nakedness to draw attention to God.

Sort of a genius move if you ask me.

What words are your go to words?

Have you paid attention to the words a teacher uses over and over again in their speech? I am not talking about the verbal mnemonic devices employed, nor the words that function as fillers - like the works "like" or "um". I am talking about the words that the teacher uses time and time again that underpin the teachers overall philosophy?

Richard Rohr's book, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi brought to light that Francis of Assisi used some words more than others. According to Rohr, "Those who have analyzed the writings of Francis have noted that he uses the word doing rather than understanding at a ratio of 175 times to five. Heart is used 42 times to one use of mind. Love is used 23 times as opposed to 12 uses of truth. Mercy is used 26 times while intellect is used only one time."

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Doing, heart, love and mercy were, perhaps, Francis's go to words that functioned as his philosophical and theological underpinning. I understand that the sheer number of times a word is used does not mean this word is important. For instance, a political candidate may use the name of an opposing party more than they use their own but that does not mean they are secret members of the opposing party. Nonetheless, the frequency of words to the frequency of other words in a given teacher's lexicon is interesting. 

There is this blog that makes word clouds of the different books of the Bible. And when you take a look at that you can begin to see some common themes. The first thing you may notice is how the Bible is often taught as a book about people and how to live - like a Christian version of Hammurabi's code or a moral document. However, the Bible's main protagonist is not humanity but God. This is a collection of books and stories written by people in order to try to put language and understanding around the indescribable and fully unknowable. 

What words are your go to words? What do these words say about where your heart is? If someone were to examine all your writings what would your word frequency be for words like "love", "I", "welcome", "peace", "sorry", "forgiveness", "truth" or "joy"?

Are we willing to be wrong in order to be loving?

You may know the story of what Jesus said in response to charges brought against the woman caught in adultery: "Those who are without sin cast the first stone." It is iconic in so many ways and functions for the Church as a standard for forgiveness, grace, mercy and creativity in the face of difficult situations. 

If you continue to read in John chapter 8, Jesus is engaged in a conversation with the powers that be. Here is the tail end of the conversation:

They answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are indeed doing what your father does.’ They said to him, ‘We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word. You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God.’

As you may be picking up in the story Jesus is echoing the story of when Abraham did not kill his son. Abraham may have thought that he heard God's voice tell him to go and kill his son, but when the time came to do that he was confronted with the reality that in fact, God desires mercy and not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6).

The Pharisees and Scribes that are talking with Jesus are so convinced that they are correct in their understanding of the law and of what should happen to the woman caught in adultery and what should happen to Jesus that in their pursuit of being right they were willing to kill others in the name of "being correct". 

Abraham and the Pharisees were both convinced they were right in their understanding of the desire of God. Abraham was humble enough to recognize that he was wrong. The Pharisees were not.

Are we willing to be wrong in order to be loving? Are we able to admit we are wrong when our convictions lead us to kill, destroy, remove, scapegoat, or condemn another? 

As Ghandi said, "I am prepared to die, but there is no cause for which I am prepared to kill."