Saturday, June 20, 2015

We Need More Repetitive Worship (Tribal Worship Was 7-11 Worship)

Worship at Redeemer, at Furious Love
Tomorrow morning I'll preach on the repetitive worship now going on concurrently, in real time, as expressed in Revelation 5:7-14. We do repetitive worship at RedeemerGod often leads us to repeat lines, verses, even sometimes words of a worship song we are singing. This happens at the discernment of the worship leader, or myself and one of our pastors.

Many of us love this. But I think some people, not necessarily ours, despise it. Some even mock it, using the saying "This is just '7-11' worship: 7 verses each repeated 11 times."

OK. But tribal worship is repetitive. I've worshiped in several contexts in India. At one service the people repeated two lines for at least 20 minutes. I thought it was beautiful, and haunting to me in a good way. It stayed with me.

I've worshiped in several contexts in Kenya. At the pastor's conference I was speaking at there was a lot of very beautiful, harmonic, repetitive tribal worship. I recorded some on my phone. I was deeply moved by this.

African American worship retains this repetitive tribalness. (See, e.g., Peter Paris's The Spirituality of African Peoples for how African American worship and "church" owes much to its African tribal roots.) Certain lines are sung over and over and over... and over... Such worship is radically mindful, not mindless.

Hebraic culture was tribal. Therefore, Hebraic worship was repetitive. It was circular worship, not linear worship (4 verses, a chorus, then we're out of here "on time"). I've worshiped in several Asian contexts, and experienced a lot of repetitive singing of biblical themes and verses. I can see it and hear it right now. Repetition has staying power. Repetitive worship is meditative worship. Repetitive worship is the antithesis of McWorship.

Time is experienced differently in tribal contexts than it is in Western contexts. Western chronology fixates on the clock; tribal kairos-ology stays with the event. Tribal worship is event-oriented; Western worship is time- (chronos) oriented. The tribal-worship idea is that God is going to show up and do something. So we refer to Sunday mornings at Redeemer as God-events. Really, who wants anything less than this? And, BTW, God is not on our clock-time. God is not twitching and jerking to "get out of church on time."

Consider, e.g., Psalm 1. It sings:

1 Blessed is the one

who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
4 Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Remember that these words, in Hebrew, were sung by the worshiping congregation. But singing through them once takes only a minute. Did they sing this song just once in their worship? Taking only a minute to do it? If there were any Westernized clock-watching addicts among them they would be pleased at singing just once through this short psalm. But there weren't any digitized "worshipers" there, and the song went on and on and on... 

Linear, Westernized clock-time worship is shallow and ineffective compared to Hebraic tribal-repetitive worship. A one-time-through-a-hymn approach skims the surface compared to repetitive-meditative worship's staying power. Repetitive worship digs deep roots into the neuroplastic physical brain and one's spiritual heart. This is worship as spiritually exercising, doing "worship reps" that build, over time, spiritual muscle. The spiritual antidote for our shallow, surfacy tweet-world of today is: lots and lots and lots of worship reps in God's spiritual gymnasium, where we exercise unto godliness.

Repetitive worship is "better is one day in your courts" worship. Non-repetitive worship, Western-style, promotes a "thousands of days elsewhere" attitude. Real worship dwells, and longs to do so; it abides and doesn't want to let go. The real worshiper isn't anxiously tapping his foot because he's got other things to do.