November 8, 2011

Undignified

It doesn't matter what era or continent we live on. What age or gender we are. How rich or poor; holy or sinful; educated or ignorant. When our Creator knit us together in our mothers' wombs, He put His fingerprints all over our souls. And He gave us a universal love language to connect with Him: worship.

Since the beginning, worship has bound God's faithful together. And torn them apart.

After King David brought the Ark of the Covenant back to his city, the people erupted into spontaneous and enthusiastic praise of God—singing, dancing and playing instruments. The most unrestrained of them all, perhaps, was David who "danced before the LORD with all his might."

His wife Michal watched the goings on from a window and thought David's behavior was downright detestable. She greeted him with a verbal slap across the face: "How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!"

Yet, even stinging criticism couldn't dampen David's joy. "I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes."

I marvel at David's freedom. But for me—and many of those I know—undignified... humiliated... foolish... in worship? Not likely.

In Haiti there's a rural village called Kwa Kok (Cross of the Rooster). There's no church or school there and the residents have to walk two hours to reach the nearest church. As a result most of them just don't go to church.

The Sunday I was in Haiti we brought church to Kwa Kok. Under the branches of a massive shade tree we set up the chairs we'd brought.
"Church To Go." Do NOT try this at home! (Yes the truck is moving!)
People gathered to check out the commotion. They went back to their homes to clean up and put on their Sunday best. Some returned with their own chairs and benches. Soon the seats were all filled and it was standing room only.  
Folks quickly changed into their Sunday best.
Pastor Valentin (our Haitian leader) and his wife led the service. Others offered songs and prayers and testimony. The worship was beautiful. And humble. And reverent. No one seemed to notice that we weren't in an actual church.


Part way through the service there was a disturbance. Behind the worship leader (in full view of the congregation) was a dirt lane, and coming down this lane was a man. But he wasn't walking. It seemed he was horribly crippled and only had the use of his left arm, which he was using to drag himself along the dirt to make his way to church. He was filthy and other than wearing a t-shirt, he was completely naked.

At first I was shocked and horrified by the scene. I'd never seen anything like this before, certainly not at church! I wasn't sure how to respond.

But the service never skipped a beat as the man joined us. A few helped him sit on a bench. Then, in what seemed like seconds later, Dessalines (from our Haitian team) walked over to him with a pair of boxer shorts that he and Pastor Valentin helped the man put them on. I remember thinking how remarkable it was that we had an extra pair of shorts with us.
 
I found out later that we didn't have an extra pair. In a split second, Dessalines made the decision to go into our bus, remove his boxer shorts and give them to the man. Not because someone asked him to do it, but because he loves Jesus—and this is what Jesus would do. (I'm not sure there was a dry eye among us Americans as we witnessed this stunningly beautiful scene.)
The man is there on end, to the right. He sat there all through worship and VBS, clapping as he could.
The man stayed with us all afternoon. Perhaps having church in Kwa Kok was an answer to his prayers. I imagine he heard our singing and decided that no matter how difficult or painful it would be, he had to join us. Did he hope for healing? As he made his was down the dirt path, naked and filthy, did his determination waver as he felt the eyes of the congregation upon him.

Maybe some muttered their disapproval or whispered to their neighbor, "How he distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the Americans as any vulgar fellow would!"?

And yet, surely he responded, "I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes."

And in his celebration we experienced the love language of worship. Mesi Senye!

7 comments:

Terri Tiffany said...

This post brought tears to my eyes--praising God that you set church up for these people and that man reached out. Your memories will change you forever.

JerryLyn said...

The heart of worship...awe-filled wonder and praise to Jesus. What an amazing story and how joyful Jesus must have been to receive ALL in His name and the act of Dessalines--such an act of love. How perfect that it was all in the worship of the Most High! Undignified, maybe. But passionate and extraordinary. Thank you for sharing!

Sassy Granny ... said...

Wow. Something tells me God's heart swelled with love & pride at the coming of this one man; and at the humble love shown him.

I sometimes think our paradigm about what church ought to look like, or what church-goes ought to look like deserves an overhaul.

Beautiful post!

Susan S said...

What a wonderful account! On Sunday I helped lead worship at a nursing home. One woman, with tears in her eyes, thanked us profusely for bringing church to them. It is an awesome gift to bring people near and far to worship together.

Christine said...

Beautiful!

Sue J. said...

Thank you for sharing what you witnessed, and inspiring us with what you have seen....

Cheryl Barker said...

Wow, what a story, Kelli. What love -- both given and received...