Forgive me if I am trapped as a child of a couple of liberals who raised me to the tunes of Bob Dylan, cast me in plays about Che Guevara and put before me a petite working mum holding her own among towering suited giants. But I just can’t see Christ calling us to be beige. I just don’t see Christians having to invariably be the quiet ones in the corner.
Isaiah 24:14 “they raise their voices, they shout for joy; They cry out from the west concerning the majesty of the Lord”.
What marks Christians out shouldn’t be their volume or tempo, but what inspires us to shout.
Ours is the God who creates through His voice. Ours is the God who uses shouts to affect His will, specifically to bring His people home. The battle strategy that God gave to Joshua to conquer Jericho was unique for being precisely laid out by Him. It also made the Israelites look utterly ridiculous. God told Joshua to have the people march silently around Jericho for six days, and then, after seven circuits, on the seventh day to shout. As callings go, that’s got to be one of the harder ones to swallow. But the Israelites trusted, and they hollered.
Joshua 6:20: “So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city.”
Pentecost was probably one of the noisiest days in history, all for the glory of God. (and for anyone looking for biblical precedent for skipping in praise of God, see the healing of the lame beggar by Peter and John in Acts 3:7-8: “And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.) And it’ll be the sound of trumpets, an eagle shouting, mountains crashing, stars falling and just noisenoisenoise that brings us home again (Revelation 8 and 9). Ours is a God of order and peace (1 Cornthians 14:33), but He is also a roof-raiser.
I think there’s something sincere about shouting (and skipping). To want to make a show and dance, and to potentially make yourself look like a numpty in the process, I think you need conviction. And I think it makes sense given the immense, beautiful variety of God’s people and the gifts that He grants us, that we will all be convicted to do His work in different ways. Whether that’s preaching, working for God in your art, your music, your sport; whether it’s taking a stand on a social justice issue, or getting covered in glitter by Sunday school kiddywinks, there’s a squillion ways that God has provided to make our gifts bring His kingdom closer.
Romans 12:6-8 “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”
No hierarchy, just variety, authenticity and love. I love that the Holy Spirit will move you in ways that differ from me (#hipsterforChrist) because you will do with sincerity what I would only do with hollowness. If I pretended to have musical gifting, then we’d all be worshipping to the sound of an ocarina. I guess I am reiterating the ‘be true to yourself’ message of the classic Disney films, but because I think that is the foundation for truly well-meaning, and maximised potential in, service.
So, while I thought about writing this because I know some final-year Christians are about to forever escape the Cambridge bubble, I’d happily say the same to any Christian at any point in their life:
Keep Chaka Khan in your head, God in your heart, and go be sassy for Christ.
And in the spirit of acknowledging when someone’s gifts are greater than your own, I though I’d copy in this prayer by Roger Spiller because I think it’s so gorgeous:
you call us to be story-tellers: planting your explosive news into our defended lives;
locating us in the script of your human history.
You call us to be trailblazers: living in your future that we receive only as gift; subverting the fixed, fated world of low horizons.
You call us to be weavers: tracing, stretching, connecting the knotted threads; gathering up unravelling, disconnected lives.
You call us to be fools – for Christ’s sake: bearing life’s absurdities and incongruities; puncturing our seriousness and grandiosity.
You call us to be hosts: welcomers of the sacred, intimate, transfiguring; lavish celebrants of our communities and homecomings.
You call us to be poets: artists and illuminators of inner space; naming, invoking, heralding your ineffable presence.
You call us to be gardeners: sowers, cultivators, nurturers of fragile lives; benefactors of your gratuitous harvest.
You call us to be conductors celebrating polyphony, coaxing symphony; orchestrating the praise of your inhabited creation;
Lord, you lavish gifts on all whom you call. Strengthen and sustain us and all ministers of your Church, that in the range and diversity of our vocation, we may be catalysts of your kingdom in the world, through Jesus Christ our Lord.