Does it seem like I've been building up to a point in the last few posts? Are you wondering if I even have a point at all? I've been slowly, methodically working my way to a point. I promise.
In the previous posts, I've tried to explain my views about worship: (1) It is worship because of our intention, and because it is acceptable to God as such, (2) The elements of worship are sacred because God transforms them -- even when in our eyes they might have at one time been secular. Everything is secular until God transforms it, and (3) God calls us to bring input to worship; we are to be participants.
All of these posts have been written to work my way into a discussion concerning applause. Does applause have a place in worship? I believe that it does. I've heard (and listened to, and thought about) all of the reasons why you might disagree with me.
Everything is secular. Singing, speaking, praying -- all of it is secular. Until God changes it. There is nothing inherently sacred about any of it -- or inherently secular. If music can be offered as worship, then so can applause. When God calls me to this response; when it is the gift I bring with me to worship; when it is part of my participation in the service, then it becomes sacred. It is, in fact, no less sacred than the organ or the laughter during a sermon or the singing of a hymn.
When I applaud during worship, I know God is calling me to this response. It is offered as:
- Affirmation -- It is not easy to bring your gifts and to share them with a congregation, to lead us in worship, or to offer your gifts to God. My response -- whether it is an Amen, a time of stunned silence, or clapping -- are all offered as affirmation. It says, "You are doing well -- you are being brave and wonderful and are answering God's call. Don't stop."
- Love -- Applause can be offered as a sign of love -- agape love. It doesn't imply that the worship offered is excellent or above average or without mistake. It says, "I love you." When a middle school choir stands in front of 150 people and sings, I love them. They are worthy of praise, just for the act of their giving. And God calls me to the response.
- Praise of God -- Sometimes my applause is meant for God's ears. Sometimes it says, "Thank you, God, for the wonder of what you have done through this person. Through your action, I have come to know you better. Amen."
I know there are times when it is not an appropriate response. I know that there are times when my silence is more appreciated than my noisy offering. God knows that, too. I believe and trust that he will lead me to what is right and good.