Friday, January 8, 2016

Soul & Body

Well the holidays are over and life has resumed with all of its otherworldly ordinariness. 2015 is in the rear view mirror and 2016 lies ahead. Not one of us knows what the year holds in store for us, but we do know that our Lord sits on his throne, governing His universe in his most wise and gracious providence.

While I am sure there are many ways the Spirit is at work in each of our hearts individually, one topic that I have encountered several times is the joy that David expressed as he danced before the Ark. Something about that resonates deep within us. Perhaps it is because we know the joy of being declared His beloved, but we don’t always know how to express it.

As I am sure many of you know the Scriptures are replete with invitations to express the spiritual operations of our heart physically. Just take prayer for example. Prayer incorporates physical expressions such as sitting (2 Sam 7:18), standing (Neh 9:2, Mark 11:25), raising holy hands (1 Timothy 2:8), and the most common kneeling (Ezra 10, Daniel 6, Psalm 95, Acts 9, 20,21, etc…). Praising God has expressions of lifting hands (Psalm 63:4), clapping and shouting (Psalm 47:1), and dancing and playing music (Psalm 149:3). I wonder if we pay as much attention to the connection between soul and body as God intends us to? No less an intellectual than R.C. Sproul says “We are not to approach worship as if we were disembodied minds.” And C.S. Lewis illustrates in his Screwtape Letters that separating the body from our worship is one of the devil’s schemes: “At the very least, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget, what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls. [C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Letter 4]”
So why the hesitation that we so often experience? There are lots of reasons. Some of it is cultural. In an area dominated by Northern Europeans the tone is much more subdued than it would be in a room full of Italians or Kenyans. Some of it has to do with the emphasis given to the spirituality of the mind. We are taught to love the truth, pursue the truth and sometimes we can approach spirituality quite cerebrally. Others have hesitations because of abuses they have observed in bodily expressions that are either hypocritical (Rend your hearts, not your garments - Joel 2:13, These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me - Matthew 15:8) or create multi-layered spirituality which can be discouraging to people (I Cor 14).

So what is the point? There is freedom, even an encouragement for us as God’s people to use our bodies in worship to connect with and express the deep emotions that we experience. Again another well-known intellectual, Jonathan Edwards, puts it this way; “Some bodily worship is necessary to give liberty to our own devotion; yea though in secret, so more when with others . . . ‘Tis necessary that there should be something bodily and visible in the worship of a congregation; otherwise, there can be no communion at all. (From Miscellanies #101). Let us be free then, as the Holy Spirit gives us the ability, to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to him who has shown us great mercy (cf. Rom 12:1,2).

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