Worship as resistance
Five years ago, I was worshipping in the Mt. Airy neighborhood, on the northwest end of Philadelphia. David Lose was the preacher. “Worship is an act of resistance,” he said. Those may not have been his exact words. But the idea has stuck with me. Every time we pray, sing hymns, listen to Scripture, take communion, or baptize a child of God, we’re naming that the way things happen to be is not ultimate. We’re bearing witness to the kingdom of God, whose love and justice and peace are still at the heart of reality, despite any current evidence to the contrary.
I often think of this while I’m at a graveside service. “I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus says. “Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s,” Paul proclaims. “By the death and burial of Jesus your anointed, you have destroyed the power of death,” we proclaim in prayer. These are all ways of boldly naming what’s right in front of us, death, while at the same time recognizing that there’s more. “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”
It’s a different kind of resistance. It’s peaceful, but by no means tame. It’s like balm on wounds, and like a voice crying out in the wilderness, all at once. Surely you know the feeling of waking up on a Sunday morning, and not wanting to go to church, either because something has happened in your own life, or something in the world has shaken you, or you’re just feeling exhausted, ashamed, or frustrated. But, as you likely have experienced, that’s often exactly when we most need to go: to worship God together and hear and proclaim God’s promises despite whatever lack of faith or fervor we feel. In other words, sometimes the resistance is against something in our own body or soul. It’s a refusal to let whatever has us upset, confused, or afraid claim power over us.
I felt all of this that day, worshipping on the outskirts of Philadelphia. I’m sure I would feel it today, too, worshipping amidst the grief and turmoil following the killing of Walter Wallace, Jr. In fact, I do, all the way over here in Davenport. Whatever evil forces threaten to overwhelm your own soul today, let’s fold or lift up our hands in resistant witness to the living Jesus.