Monday, May 07, 2007

The Physical & The Spiritual

As the Hannaford Praise Team and I are going through Buddy Owen's The Way of a Worshiper, these last two Sundays we discussed "Using Our Bodies in Daily Devotions." What it really boils down to is this. There is a connection between the physical (what we do with our bodies) and the spiritual.

When we use our bodies in worship (including personal devotions), it enhances the spiritual aspect. When we don’t use our bodies, it stifles the spiritual. I personally believe that physical demonstrations such as singing aloud, clapping hands, kneeling, raising hands, and more are vitally important to our spiritual life.

I offer this passage from Brian Wren’s book, Praying Twice: The Music and Words of Congregational Song. Let me know your comments.

...The Bible affirms that human flesh, and the human body, are part of the material universe that God creates and affirms as “very good” (Genesis 1:31: Paul’s use of “flesh” in opposition to “spirit” describes, not the body as such, but human life in opposition to God). Because “the Word became flesh and lived among us, revealing God’s glory, full of grace and truth (John 1:14), we may logically affirm that “good is the flesh that the Word has become.”

By contrast, the early church acquired the increasingly powerful belief that the human body is shameful and distasteful, that sexual desire (seen as located in the body) is a temptation rather than a blessing, and that everything bodily is inferior to, and hostile to, our “spiritual” and “rational” nature ... Many worship traditions still act as if the body were an embarrassment. We find it hard to talk or pray about bodily matters in worship. Our seating patterns minimize movement, and our movement vocabulary is limited. We stand, sit, crouch or kneel, pass the offering plate, and occasionally shake hands or hug each other as we [greet one another in the service] ...

Yet God did not make us as brains walking on stilts, but as embodied beings. The Word became flesh, not disembodied intelligence, and our body life enhances or diminishes our spiritual life. Posture, eye contact, and body language help to shape our attitudes and relationships. When we sing from the heart, with full voice, some of us use our bodies more thoroughly, perhaps, than at any other time in worship. Our diaphragm expands to draw in air, which is expelled through the delicate muscles of the larynx, producing sound that resonates through the head, given meaning as tongue, teeth, jaw, and lips follow complex signals from the brain to form the words we sing. Persuade a congregation to sing the first stanza of [their favorite hymn], giving it everything they’ve got so that the roof shakes, and you’ll hear what a bodily experience congregational singing can be and rediscover how bodily commitment invites a commitment of spirit. Body and spirit are inseparable: ... When body attitude combines with deepest beliefs, [worshipers] are taken out of themselves into a heightened awareness of God, beauty, faith, and one another.