“We lift our hands,” we all sang, but mostly we didn’t raise our hands, because that’s not the way we sing it.
This is not strange to us, since in the same song we didn’t literally lift our hearts and lives. We look like this all Sunday morning; it’s the way we learned. “God, our hands are here to do your work,” we might mean. That’s some good worship. This is our resting prayer face.
But when our visiting brothers from Kenya taught us a song, “Stand up,” they said. “We have to dance.” Not all of us did (not all of us do). But that’s how the song goes: you have to make it with your body and your voice. Our bodies and our voices have to learn it.
Well, this is how I sing it, I might think. In my heart, with my spirit. And, well, I can do that. But I’m never going to understand this particular song that way.
“I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.” (1 Cor 14:15)
I think I should learn it the dancing way. Not because it is good for me to know about “other Christians” who do different things. Rather, to understand the family into which I was born in my baptism. It is good for me to learn this song, because when these brothers call the church to sing, I am that church. Like any gift of the church, my voice – and my body – is for their sake.
I belong to them.
It’s going to take some practice, some seeking, to understand this. And I’m going to rely on my family’s hospitality while I learn (especially for the dancing).
There is a principle in popular music that I find my way to my music by following my desires to the performance that fulfills them. Church music is different. We are sung into a way of being in the world. I sing myself into an understanding of us.
In simple trust like theirs who heard
beside the Syrian sea
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us, like them, without a word
rise up and follow thee.
I belong to them, those pioneers of good news, at Galilee.
I belong to them, my brothers and sisters some hours drive to the north of that spot, in Homs.
I belong to sisters and brothers in Aleppo.
I belong to my family in Tanta, in Alexandria.
We often pray a prayer, “as the Lord taught us.” And I think I understand it better when we pray it together.
“We lift our hands.” Lord, have mercy.
Your kingdom come.