Filed under: Christianity, God, Grace, Inspiration, Praise, Religion, Sermon, Shekinah Glory, Spirituality
During a rainy day I decided I would wax nostalgic. I clicked on itunes on my Mac laptop and began making myself a mix-tape. I used to love mix-tapes when I was in junior high and High School. If you don’t know a mix-tape is a recording of a person’s favorite songs on tape. Technically the other day I used a CD to make my tape so I am not sure if it really qualifies as a mix-tape. I usually like having a theme to my nostalgic hunger. This time I thought I would call my mix-tape “My Childhood Songbook.” The only criteria for inclusion in this musical mix were that they were important songs for me before I became a teenager. Racking my brain I spent the better part of that dismal day thinking back on records that my mother owned, songs we all sang along to on KLIN AM in the car, thick plastic wrapped records from the bins at the library or the clandestine 45’s that my sister and I listened to on my children’s record player on the back porch. Much to my current families dismay I was dancing around the house and singing to the Beach Boys, Andrea Crouch and the Disciples The Jackson 5, Johnny Cash, Ben E. King, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Stevie Wonder, Johnny Mathis, Wings, Dolly Parton, The Bee Gees and of course Queen.
Yet, there is one artist that I could not find. It is a song that I associate so closely with my mother and my childhood that I searched high and low for it with no success. It is the old spiritual “His Eye is on The Sparrow” by the incomparable actress and singer Ethel Waters. Although this is one of her most famous song it seems that it is not available on itunes. So, I started to look for an alternative. Shuffling down the list of artists that sang this famous song I was blown away. Mahalia Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes, The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi appeared as I listened to a snippet from each and then a name jumped right out off the page into my memory. Ah Dottie West…I could finally complete my album!
For those of you who are uninitiated in the history of Country and Western music Dottie West was a late 60’s and 70’s female country star. Her mentor was Patsy Cline and Dottie opened the door for many women country singers of the 1970’s and 80’s. The reason that I could put Dottie West on my list was because she is a prominent memory from my childhood. As you can imagine, there were not a lot of concerts that rolled through Lincoln, Nebraska when I was a little child. One however had everyone buzzing. It was the rising Country Superstar named Kenny Rogers. I had just won his record during a contest and was played it constantly. So, my mother decided to take me to see him when he came into town for the state fair.
As we eagerly waited in anticipation for Kenny to come out and sing Coward of the County the local DJ appeared at the microphone and made an announcement. “Before we bring Kenny out we have a special treat tonight. Dottie West will be coming and singing a few numbers to open up the show!”
Then making her way through the crowd was a spectacle that I had never seen in my short Midwestern upbringing. It was a woman in a bright spotlight with large blond hair and the most amazing glittering silver dress. She was waving and walked right past our isle on the way to the stage. It was an extravagant showing. She was a sparkling, singing and swaying diva making elaborate gestures to the crowd. It was something different and new, it was something that most of us would have only seen on television. For us it was fantastic and bordered on extreme. So, now every time that I hear her version of the spiritual, “His Eye is on the Sparrow” I am transported to that dazzling show.
That is also my image of Praise from this morning’s Psalm. It is a reminder that God has been so good to us that it forces us to throw caution to the wind and break into the most extravagant praise that is humanly possible. Strange instruments are broken out, people gyrate in bizarre dances and the slicing sword of justice is unstoppable.
I have to admit that I grew up in a holiness tradition where there was clapping, hands held to the sky and shouts of alleluia and amen from the congregation. Sometimes when I am worshipping I can not control the direction of my arms, when I hear the music leaving my mouth I can not control the swaying of my feet, when the word is moving in me during a sermon I can not control the excitement that just wants to make me shout and when other’s pray I can not stop from mumbling my agreement. That may not be the type of church that you grew up in, but we all have emotions and if praise does not touch us deep where our souls, minds and spirits intersect with our deepest emotions then we are spiritually dead. It doesn’t mean that you have to shout, speak in tongues, prophecy or dance around the room it only means that you must feel the emotions that God created you with in honor of that same creator.
This is the place where I meet God amongst you, the Palisades Community Church and that makes me want to shout, jump for joy and embarrass myself with a touchdown shuffle. To be given the opportunity to stand in the presence of the Spirit is the most humbling and exciting thing that a human can have. So, that is what I want to remind you on this rally day. Rally day is a kick off for the events of the upcoming year, but it is also a signal that we are refocusing our energies on the thing that is more important than my blood pressure, more important than your travel, more important than your retirement, more important than who is elected president and more important than getting everything right. If that is all that we do for the next 85 years here at TPCC we will be a roaring success for the kingdom of God. Let yourself go, let yourself feel the Spirit and don’t be afraid to glitter and shine in your praise of the Lord.
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