I have to admit that Vacation Bible School is one of my favorite times of the year. At Christ Presbyterian we make a concerted effort to include people from outside our Christian community. I enjoy seeing children gather at the church to not only have fun, but learn about Jesus. VBS breaks down the wall of reverence that so often is put up between children and God. I appreciate the fact that our VBS is not ashamed to get goofy. I personally love dressing up in some strange costume and acting like a fool. (I know, act?) Doing so also helps to overcome the distance that is often inherent in the traditional view of a Pastor. I also appreciate that at VBS it's more than ok to wiggle, it's encouraged.
This gets me wondering, why is it that for the fifty one other weeks of the year, we often try to stifle the joy we experience during VBS week? I’m not just talking about the children either. I believe that far too often we have equated reverence with lack of excitement. Part of this is due to a traditional view of reverence which is centered in fear rather than freedom. If we have a dynamic relationship with God, we know that our God knows everything about us. God knows that most of us aren’t stoic curmudgeons who don’t smile. Then why is it that we choose to most commonly enter into God‘s presence with such a countenance?
I’m not advocating for a footloose and fancy-free attitude in our life together. There are solemn moments where silence and seriousness need to be the norm. This year during Holy Week I felt we did a great job of entering into an appropriate attitude and demeanor. We were able to engage in worship and prayer in a way that was fitting of the situation. On the other hand, we sometimes loose our sense of celebration because we are constrained by some misguided sense of propriety.
The music for Vacation Bible School is a wonderful example of how letting o
urselves go can be rewarding. I’m amazed at how the kids at VBS are able to truly experience the meaning and mood of the songs. While the lyrics of the songs are often heavy in content, they are paired with music and motions that help to connect the children with the lyrics. They also tend to express big ideas in simple ways. The other thing I love is that the songs stick with you. Colin is still singing songs from last year’s VBS.
It never ceases to amaze me when a congregation is singing a song that celebrates joy yet their demeanor conveys something different. Have you been guilty of singing “Joy to the World” with a frown on your face? Trust me, it happens quite often.
So how do we balance the need for reverence with the need for freedom to live out our intimate relationship with God? I think one step is realizing that while worship is an interaction with the sacred, it in itself is not sacred. When we worship we are just as human as we are when we are stuck in traffic; it’s ok to be ourselves. We must realize that we can be free to be ourselves in worship and study. We also need to remember that to be reverent doesn’t mean to be dispassionate. Did you know that the Presbyterian Book of Order doesn’t outlaw smiling in worship?
I feel blessed that at Christ Presbyterian we are actually increasing our ability to be genuine with God and each other. To be honest, our passing of the peace used to drive me crazy. I sometimes call it the “mosh pit of peace” since it can be so chaotic. Over time, I have come to realize that this is an expression of the relationship we have with God. Our life in Christ is not one that is not only quiet and expressed in a whisper but is also one that is loud, boisterous and lively.
Again, there is a time for us to do as the Psalmist admonishes us, “be still and know that I am God.” I love times of quiet reflection and prayer, and if anything, I have sought to bring more silence to our service. Nevertheless it is high time we stop reveling in the fact that folks think we are the boring “frozen chosen” and show the world just how alive in the Spirit we are .
love the “mosh pit of peace” description – too true !