"Praise the Lord . . . Praise him for his mighty deeds . . . Praise him with trumpet . . . with lute and harp . . . with tambourine and dance . . . with strings and pipe . . . with loud clashing cymbals!" Psalm 150
Interestingly, God did not ask for professional instrumentation in today’s verse, but rather a “loud clashing.” Such expressions delight the Lord if they refrain from distracting or dividing corporate worship. So, a kid on a kazoo pleases God just like a prodigy on a piano, if their hearts rejoice in Him. A song of praise from the shower, just like one from a stage, pleases God if the worshiper delights in Him. “Let the children of Zion rejoice in their King! For the Lord takes pleasure in his people” (Psalm 149:2, 4 esv).
Award-winning Christian musicians sell albums and put on concerts. Best-selling Christian authors sell books and put on conferences. We admire their ability to interweave worship with art. If we’re not careful, though, we may allow a lie to form a barrier around our heart: true worship and art must be “professional” or public in order to best glorify God.
You know, when Jesus walked this earth, religious leaders legislated worship to such extent that few could undertake the endeavor, much less enjoy it (Colossians 2:20–23). In doing so, the religious establishment built barricades between God and His people. Jesus blew such barriers to bits when He declared that true worship no longer depended on prerequisites of place (the temple and synagogue), or people (the religious leaders), or times (the Sabbath). He ushered in a new era of worship to move worshipers beyond the barricades of Jerusalem and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). He redefined worship as a redeemed person occupied with God, authentically and intimately expressing adoration and thanksgiving. “True worshipers,” said Christ, “will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23 esv).
Worship is spiritual because the Spirit indwells us and energizes our worship. Worship is true because it is based on a response to truth, especially as the Scriptures reveal it (Psalm 119:160). Worship, just like art, involves the heart and the head, soul and body. We include worship and art in our common, everyday lives, even lives filled with suffering and chaos.
BEYOND THE BARRICADES
The teenaged Audrey Hepburn learned to cope with suffering and deprivation from Nazi occupation through art, music, and dance. With her mom sewing ballet slippers from scraps of felt, Audrey choreographed recitals and staged them in secret locations to raise money for the resistance.
In the early nineties, dressed in formal tuxedo with tails, Vedran Smailovic sat on a stool, cello between his legs, bow in hand, and began to play Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor. The Sarajevo Opera cellist did not play in a concert hall. He sat in a crater of rubble where, two days prior, twenty-two people died by mortar shell. In memorial, for the next twenty-two days, “the Cellist of Sarajevo” played at funerals and wherever other bombs killed his countrymen.
Hepburn and Smajilovic, one a teenager, the other a classically trained adult, took the creativity and passion they had beyond the barricades, and theirs became offerings pleasing to the Lord. Anything we do, if motivated by wonder, love, or praise of God, pleases Him. That includes creative expressions through whatever medium we most identify with.
Do you feel like you only have scraps of felt? Sew them into ballet slippers and dance. Do you look out your window and only see craters and chaos? Set up a stool and play.