Whole-Body Worship

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David danced before the Lord with all his might. David was wearing a linen ephod… And David returned to bless his household. But Michel, the daughter of Saul, came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants, female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” And David said, “It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me  as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord — and I will make merry before the Lord!” (2 Samuel 6:14, 20-22a)

Last week, I had the honor of being in the bridal party for a close friend who got married at our college in Ohio. It was a crazy experience to be back on campus, running old running routes and visiting familiar piano practice rooms. Our whole group stayed in a guest house near campus, and each morning the groom’s aunt came to wake us up and lead us in Tai Chi meditation in the back yard.

We would stand apart and gather the five elements, vowing to be present with our days, to open ourselves to the lessons waiting for us. Then we would close by tightening our circle and dipping our hands into the middle to wash ourselves in peace and to bless the upcoming marriage of our friends. Then, our bare toes covered in wet grass, we’d share coffee and conversation together on the porch, soaking up the summer humidity. The whole wedding week felt like a spiritual experience, and it was beautiful to get to come around this couple in such a unique, intentional way.

But it was also nice to come home and return to more familiar worship. I often go to a Wednesday night candle-lit prayer service in Berkeley. It’s Taize-like, with meditative, repetitive music and long periods of silence. It always takes a while for my heart to really “drop in” to worship — for my mind takes time to settle down, to let go of anxieties and distractions, and to engage with the worship. But in this service, I always seem to be able to find that space of genuine worship.

This week, as evening darkened the sky outside the chapel, we sang:

Blow through me breath of God.
Blow through me, like a pipe, like a flute, like a reed,
making melody, the cosmic song in me,
Breath of God.
(written by Miriam Therese Winter)

I watched as a man a few pews in front of me lifted his arms to move to the music. Although he stayed seated, he danced with his arms and hands. His movements seemed so spontaneous and heartfelt: a beautiful display of genuine worship. His dance reminded me of my first experience practicing Tai Chi with my friends, preparing to bear witness to a beautiful wedding.

Watching him dance felt like the perfect homecoming after my trip, the perfect reminder to be present in worship, with my whole heart and my whole body. How much deeper our connection to God can be when we bring our whole selves: body and spirit, as David did before the Lord. I felt grateful that this man had blessed me with his movement of worship!

Have you ever had a deep worship experience, with body and spirit? What is your favorite way to worship?

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