2 Samuel 6:12-16 – It’s Not How You Worship but Who You Point To When You Do

Posted: June 4, 2018 in Book of 2 Samuel

2 Samuel 6:12-16
Moving the Ark to Jerusalem

I grew up in the United Methodist Church as a preacher’s kid. Most assuredly, I attended church from the time I was able to be taken to church after my birth. However, my memories of actual church services where I actually understood what was going on begin around age 9 or 10. Prior to that, it was just something that we did. Got all dressed up because mom made us. Went to church. Tried to sit still. Hating the dress clothes that my mom made us wear. My dad preaching a sermon in his pastoral robe and stole. Singing. Standing up for this. Sitting down for that. Hymnals. Organ and piano music or at least just piano music. It was not until I was older than I began to grasp what the hymns were about. I began to understand the point of the responsive readings. Understanding the order of service as published in the bulletin for the Sunday service. Understanding the announcements about church activities in the coming weeks. And most of all the symbolism of the mainline tradition of the United Methodist Church as expressed during the church services. The United Methodist Church as with most traditional churches was very scripted and organized. Hymns were played with organs. Choirs wore robes and sat in the choir loft behind the pulpit area. Everything was very sedate and cerebral. Everything followed a pattern every week. The only real variation was the sermon. Sure, my dad would move things around in the order of service but the component parts were always the same. Like I said, the only thing that really was different every week was my dad’s sermons. My dad was a great preacher. His sermons were well-crafted. His sermons were fully scripted/written out. He used a color coding system and arranged his sermon’s words on the page as he wanted to express them. He always delivered really good sermons. Even later in life, I still loved to hear my dad preach. He followed his scripted sermon from beginning to end. Sure, he might deviate from his written sermon momentarily as the Spirit moved him but his script kept him on track so he never “chased too many rabbits” as the saying goes in preaching. That was what I was used to all through my growing up years. The tradition, the symbolism, the orderly order of service – you knew what was coming next from the order of service in the bulletin.

That continued with my first marriage. The girl that I married was the organist at the one of the churches in Travelers Rest, SC when he was assigned there from 1976-1980 (though she was only a teenager she was very talented at music in those days so she had the job as organist at church from the time she was like 12 or something). So, even after my dad moved away to Charleston in 1980, I stayed behind in Travelers Rest having married. So, I stayed in the Methodist tradition for another 13 years until our marriage ended.

When I married my second wife, her family attended a non-denominational church in Greenville, SC called Abundant Life Church. Although the church was non-denominational, those who were the core families who established the church were of the Assembly of God vein. That combination was a mind-blower for me. They had guitars, drums, no pulpit. No choir in choir robes. The senior pastor did not wear a black robe and stoles. He didn’t even have a script for his sermon. There was no published order of service. There were no traditional hymns. There were not even any hymnals. The words to songs were displayed on screens on the wall. Even the layout of the church was different than a traditional church. I thought I had entered a foreign land. When my girls came for their weekends with me, their minds were blown too. We were like whhhhaaaaaa…!!! People raising their hands in praise. Sometimes people would even run down to the front of the church and start praising right in front of …. what could only be called …. a stage. There were even times when people would audibly say amen to sermon points. People would occasionally get so wrapped up in the goings on in the services that they would get in this angelic trance state and begin speaking in words that were not English or remotely close to any language I had ever heard. People would clap…aghast….along with the songs. And the songs…the songs were modern Christian music songs that, at that time, I had never heard of. It was not Blessed Assurance, or A Thousand Tongues to Sing, or any other of the traditional hymns I grew up with. But over the 9 years of that marriage, I warmed up to the modern style of worship. I was still a bit skeptical of the interruptions on occasion by one of the ladies of the church known to “speak in tongues” or “bring a word” where she would utter prophetic words to the church right in the middle of the service. But she was an awesome Christian lady that had an awesome walk with the Lord so I didn’t just blow it off completely. It was while at this church where church seemed so much more relevant to my life than in the traditional church that I grew up in that I accepted Christ as my Savior. Thus, in my mind, I began to associate modern worship and the freedom of expression that I saw there with relevancy and the traditional church as Orwellian armies of workers marching in lockstep into the nothingness of dark factories and irrelevancy.

After that marriage ended and I ended up in California, and Elena and I got married we attended a church with a modern worship style. It was while in California that my wife accepted Christ as her Savior and that I became more than a baby, immature Christian. It was the modern worship style and the power of the modern music that I began to associate with relevancy and growth and traditional church with stagnancy and lack of growth. When we moved to South Carolina, we chose the modern style of worship because that was what was relevant for us. The preaching was challenging and about real everyday issues and the music was awesomely current – all the songs we listen to on Christian radio, His Radio (89.3), the dominant contemporary Christian radio station in the Upstate of South Carolina. Every time we had to go to a traditional church with the hymns, the pews with the little placards on them dedicating a bench to a dead person or to a family in the church, the pew cushions that match the carpet, the stained glass windows again with little placards dedicated to a dead person. All of it seemed stuffy to me and devoid of emotion and typically these churches were stagnant and/or aging churches.

Now, we are in Illinois and I am on staff as a pastor and director of business affairs at my church, Calvary Church, it, too, is of the modern style of worship and all that the term employs. There seems to be more expressiveness in worship here than in my previous church in Lyman, SC but less than the one that was my first exposure to modern worship when I lived in Greenville, SC. Here, there are some that come forward and praise and worship at the foot of the stage. Here, there are some that will occasionally get very verbal in their worship. Here, the senior pastor will sometimes go off script to let the Spirit move as He will during service. I have seen our worship pastor skip songs as he senses the need for prayerful interludes of a powerful song. There seems to be more of that here than in my previous church. It can be pretty awesome to see and participate in.

That leads me to the question of how much is too much in worship. Are there times when speaking in tongues by audience members or them bringing a word is too much? Are there times when running up and down the aisles is too much? Are there times when modern worship music is too much? Are there times when incorporating “going off script” in the order of service is trying to manipulate and thus too much? That’s the thing that I thought of this morning…how much is too much in worship…as I read this passage, 2 Samuel 6:12-16. David was praising to his heart’s content while his wife thought it was too much for him as king. She thought it was undignified. How much is too much? With that in mind, let us read this passage now:

12 Then King David was told, “The Lord has blessed Obed-edom’s household and everything he has because of the Ark of God.” So David went there and brought the Ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the City of David with a great celebration. 13 After the men who were carrying the Ark of the Lord had gone six steps, David sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. 14 And David danced before the Lord with all his might, wearing a priestly garment.[a] 15 So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams’ horns. 16 But as the Ark of the Lord entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she was filled with contempt for him.

In this passage, we see that David was willing to look foolish in the eyes of some people in order to express his thankfulness to God fully and honestly. In constrast, Michal, David’s wife and daughter of Saul, was so disgusted by his undignified actions that she could not rejoice in the arrival of the Ark to Jerusalem. Michal could accept David as a military conqueror and as a king but she could not accept his free and spontaneous expression of praise to God. Some people may look foolish in their heartfelt expressions of worship, but we should use discernment before we automatically condemn them for their display.

We should determine if their physical display of worship for the Lord is to draw attention to themselves or if it just a noticeable display of their heartful gratitude and praise to the Lord. Similarly, all public manifestations of praise whether it be speaking in tongues, or simply dancing in the aisles at a church service, we must ask the Lord to help us discern whether the display is ego driven or the all-consuming gratitude and praise inspired by the Holy Spirit within a person.

And are the different styles of worship today, one better than another? I think it goes to the heart. If modern worship seems to glorify the lead singer or the lead guitarist or the senior pastor or simply the slickness of the production values themselves, maybe it’s too much. If traditional worship is devoid of any power and is simply mindless repetition and tradition, then the interest of being dignified and buttoned down is too much too. Yet, at the same time, there are modern worship services at which I have seen the praise and worship segments bring you into the mighty presence of God and you could powerfully sense, taste, and feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. Yet, at the same time, I have seen worship services in traditional church that have done the same. It is brought me to the conclusion that there is no one worship style that is better than others.

Sometimes in today’s church world the traditional church folk look on us modern worship style churches as freaks with three heads in our modern buildings and coffee shops and worship leaders with tattoos on their arms, bumpin’ sound systems, light systems, fog makers, drum cages and pastors with skinny jeans. The modern worship folk look at the traditional church folk with the same disdain because “they just don’t get it” with their old church buildings, pews with cushions, songs from 150 years ago, King James Bibles, choir robes, and so on. There are yes more thriving modern worship style churches than traditional but there are indeed thriving traditional churches.

I think it goes to the heart. People will be drawn to authenticity and repelled by fakeness. People are drawn to that which is inspired by the Holy Spirit and repelled by that which is not. When a church is to glorify a pastor, when a church is to glorify the musicians, when a church is glorify how modern the feel of the church is, when a church is to glorify its tradition and history and those who have gone on the Lord, then we are there for the wrong reasons regardless of style.

With regard to David, I am pretty doggone sure that he was simply worshiping the Lord and he didn’t really care who was watching. He was in the moment. He could have been out in the fields by himself at that moment and it would not have made any difference. Michal thought he was just showing off and thus being undignified. But David was just glad that he could now bring the ark to Jerusalem. After the mistakes made the previous time, he was just happy that the Lord was allowing him to bring he ark to Jerusalem. It was a validation of the unification of the county under David. He was just stoked to the max and thankful to the Lord. He was not showing out. He was just praising the Lord.
So, before we judge others for how their entire church worships, let us discern if people are being led to the Lord there. Let us discern if people are being discipled there. Let us discern what God is doing regardless of whether the church is made out of modern artsy metal or whether it has bricks and a steeple. Inside, let us discern in public displays of worship are drawing attention to the worshiper or to God. Let us get to the heart of the matter. Because it’s the heart that matters.

Amen and Amen.

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