Worship in the Waiting
By: Michelle Higgins
‘‘Our humanity is our burden, our life; we need not battle for it; we need only to do what is infinitely more difficult — that is, accept it.’’ James Baldwin
I got all the love for Venus and Serena, y’all. It’s hard for me to verbalize the importance of their sisterhood of embodied unapologetic Blackness. My only journey into the realm of sportsgames (or however you say it) involves tennis tournaments, and Twitter clapback support when misogynoir comes for our sisters. I went all the way off a few years ago when a top tennis executive referred to the Williams as “brothers . . . scary to look at.” I am still livid, amidst all my un-surprise. Anti-blackness is worldwide and age-old, and even though misogynoir is a newer term, all that mess is ancient. The bodies of our Black sisters have been mocked, lied on and mistreated. Win or lose, their every movement is a cry of confidence, a demand for dignity, a reflection of full humanity—powerful and precious. Those who fear the beauty of Black bodies will someday tremble at the appearance of the King of the cosmos.
Can you imagine?
Our “faith become sight” will be the bronze-bodied, woolen-haired Word of God.
Lord, haste the day!
For Black women whose works set us in the center of our haters’ gaze, or under their power, our humanity is the gift that reminds us of God’s glory. Being our beautiful Black selves is a witness against those who disagree with God about our worth. In Him alone we live, move, work and worship. Our bodies are a resistance to those who would dictate the manner and purpose of our being.
Your bodies are made to be God’s temple, His holy worship space. Sis, while we wait for comfort everlasting, we are invited to worship with our bodies in Spirit and Truth. When we lift our hands, run the aisles, exalt our Lord and embrace each other, we are making movements as little temples. Humanity is the ultimate worship space. God’s table is the place where King Jesus shares His blood and body for the enrichment of our own!
Let the scoffers throw shade, boo. Whether you rock the Venus stride—smooth, long and lean—or own the bold bootyliciousness of Serena, God graces you with His presence and promises to perfect your humanity when you call upon His name. The One who made you is the One within you; He is your beloved, and He is coming for you. Worship Him while you wait.
Readings: Exodus 40:1-3, 34-38 / Ezekiel 40:1-4
Like the tabernacle that Moses was commanded to build, our bodies are unfinished dwelling places of the Lord. The tabernacle was impermanent, made to be movable whenever the people of Israel broke camp. God’s tabernacle is now with us and our bodies are His imperfect (yet perfected) temples. More than restoring us to our creational completion, He is building all of our bodies into a dwelling place together. Our cries for God’s justice to bring about real peace are an echo of our waiting for the day that God’s justice will also bring true human unity.
As we wait, worship is the incarnation, not just the anticipation, of the coming Kingdom. When we sing and pray together, we participate in the worship of the angels. The liturgies happening around the world now will endure forever. And those liturgies cannot be controlled by the opinions of people who are afraid of the Blackness that God made good. Your hip-hop dance team wants to jam out to “I Luh God”!? Do it. Jesus is the G. (and I mean the G. O. D.). Those who fear our freedom should fear the One who gave it to us, because nothing in the world can take it away. We know, they tried.
Exodus 40 is a picture of worshipping in desert places. God was not just teaching his people to worship so that they could worship in the land He prepared. He was forming them into worshippers who could sing to Him in the tent, see Him in the desert, follow Him out of slavery and praise Him on the march to freedom. They beheld God’s presence seated atop a tent. They did not move until God moved. The story goes: “Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out.But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up.For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.”
No wonder our foremothers viewed the African diasporic traverse as an iteration of Israel’s children. Blackness is a harmonized story of exodus and wilderness wandering, displacement and longing. As the Johnson brothers wrote: “Stony the road we trod.” Black gospel music carries a resistance to false notions that our lives can be defined by anyone except God. Black Gospel is worship in the waiting. SNCC Activist Euvester Simpson once said, “Songs got us through so many things, and without that music I think many of us would have just lost our minds or lost our way completely.” I know I am biased because I am a worship leader, but I FEEL sister Simpson so deep on that. Every note I sing among sin-sick, sad and weary saints is a prayer to our King to “show up and fix it.” I know He is coming and I know His presence is already here . . . that’s why I cry out to Him.
In this, Black music paints a picture of the Presence over the tabernacle, the Way-Maker leading us through wilderness. Worship then communicates something specifically to Black people: that we are shaped by our Creator and no one else. Our ethnicity has its origins not in the bellies of slave ships and kidnappers’ jails but in the mind of God. We are fashioned by God’s hand, from His imagination, born in the bosom of His providence. We are sustained through suffering by the promise of His coming perfection, which the Holy Spirit reminds us of through His current presence. The Lord Jesus knew that we would need this gift, which is why He sent the companionship of His Spirit.
All of creation groans for the Day of the Lord, yet the meadows are clothed with flocks And the valleys are covered with grain; They shout for joy, yes, they sing. (Isaiah 65:13)
We also, along with creation, groan inwardly as we await our adoption and the redemption of our bodies.
The angels themselves, the multitudes of heavenly hosts, are praising God, yet they too do not know when the Lord will appear. My sisters, Our Lord Jesus is currently sitting on His throne, and is waiting for the Day of the Lord. Yes, even the King lives in anticipation for the trumpet to sound. Jesus Christ, the one we long for, is longing for us. He is in a perpetual state of Advent, waiting for the Day of the Lord.
“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” Matthew 24:36
“I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Matthew 26:29-30
Father, we know that You are patiently waiting, not willing that any would perish. But often it seems that all we see around us is death. We know that You take no delight in our sufferings, so we pray that You would come and wipe away every tear.
Jesus, we know that You are the One who sees all in this world. On Your throne You see all pain and beauty. We long to be with You. We know that You long to embrace us in love undefiled from sin. We ask that You would teach us to live in this romantic anticipation.
Holy Comforter, like the children of Israel before us, we are tempted to look back to bondage when we believe the lies about our place in this world. We struggle to sing in these strange lands. Holy Spirit, be our cloud in the day and fire by night, lead us to Your land of freedom.
Recommended Reading: Citizen by Claudia Rankine
YouTube playlist: Worship in the Waiting