Tag Archives: Outpouring

Worship Like You’re Drunk at 9 a.m.

“These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!”
Acts 2:15 (NIV)

I grew up in a very traditional church paradigm for a midwest American Protestant. I, and my family, were expected to dress in our “Sunday best.” Every part of the church routine was carefully planned and orchestrated. The service had a certain pageantry to it. You kept quiet. You sat up straight in the unpadded wooden pew. You stood when you were told to stand. You sang the verses you were told to sing when you were told to sing them. You sat quietly and listened. It was all very proper.

In the nearly forty years I’ve been a follower of Jesus I have worshipped in a veritable plethora of environments across cultures and denominations. Catholic and Protestant, mainline and charismatic, traditional and non-traditional, I’ve had a lot of different experiences. I’ve worshipped in a poor mountain village on Mindanao in the Philippines where chickens scurried around the dirt floor and a dog wandered in to flop to sleep under the rickety table that served as an altar where I was preaching. I’ve worshiped in silence with Quakers and in the raucous call and response of an African-American congregation. I’ve worshipped at St. Patrick’s in Dublin, the National Synagogue in Jerusalem, and with a handful of Arab believers in Nazareth.

I’ve always held an expansive view of worship. There are always things I can learn from different cultures and traditions. I have, however, made a few observations along the way.

I believe that between the Reformation and the Enlightenment, Protestants by-and-large disembodied worship. The Reformation did away with physical gestures like genuflection and kneeling. The Enlightenment convinced us that our brains were the center of the worship experience, embellished by a couple of instances of standing, singing, and maybe a recitation.

Please don’t hear what I’m not saying. I don’t think the worship paradigm in which I was raised was wrong, but perhaps I’d describe it as purposefully limited. In my perpetual journey through God’s Message I find that the call to praise and worship is always physically active with repeated encouragements to shout, lift hands, dance, sing, clap, play instruments, lift banners and the like. I have yet to come across an exhortation in the Bible asking me to praise God with my hands in my pockets, to praise God with mumbling, or to rejoice in passive sitting.

I’ve also observed, both in scriptural descriptions and in my own experiences, that when Holy Spirit pours out on a group of people at worship things can get a little weird. In today’s chapter, casual observers thought Peter and the boys were drunk at 9:00 in the morning. When King David was worshipping in the Spirit his wife became pissed off at how publicly “undignified” he was acting.

This morning I’m enjoying dusting off some old memories of diverse worship experiences in which I’ve participated. I’m also reminded by the events of Pentecost in today’s chapter that I can’t think of one description of Holy Spirit outpouring that is described as a quiet affair of public propriety. When the religious leaders chastised Jesus’ followers for their raucous outpouring of praise, Jesus replied, “If they were silenced then the rocks would cry out.”

The further I get in my journey, the less I care about what anyone else thinks. I’ll take an outpouring of Holy Spirit anytime. I’ll worship like I’m drunk at 9:00 in the morning.

 

Summer Camp Experiences

source: Taylor Vander Well
source: Taylor Vander Well

Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
Acts 2:43-47 (NRSV)

Many years ago I spent a number of weeks during my summer teaching at a youth camp here in Iowa. Summer camp is always a really fun experience. You get away from daily life and routines. You get to play fun games, run around in nature, make new friends, and have a generally wonderful time together.

During one of these weeks, there was an amazing event that happened which was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. An outpouring of Holy Spirit occurred among a group of junior high kids during evening worship that was reminiscent of the Pentecost event described in today’s chapter.

I would have loved to have stayed at camp and experienced that event over and over and over again. It would have been fun to forget every day life and just stay in that moment, but at the end of the week I had to go home, provide for my family, and move forward in my life journey. I will be forever grateful and forever changed because of what I experienced that week, but it was a special moment for that time and place.

Along the journey I have heard many people bemoan that we do not regularly experience the events like those described in today’s chapter. They are often held as a standard towards which we should strive. While I am certainly not against striving for ideals, I have come to accept that God intercedes in supernatural ways at specific times and places for specific purposes. Mountain top summer camp experiences eventually give way to the valley of daily life. The incredible events of Pentecost would eventually give way to persecution, a scattering of Jesus’ followers, and the overwhelming necessities of managing a daily routine in a rapidly expanding grass roots organization.

Today, I am grateful for the indescribable experience I had that summer at Junior High camp. I am thankful for the things it has taught me and the ways it impacted my life journey. I am also mindful that there is just as much, if not more, spiritual growth and maturity that develops in the mundane disciplines of every day life.

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