The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars, the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon. She makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox…the voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare, and in Her temple all say, "Glory!" - Psalm 29: 5-6, 9
Why is it that most people at the gym have such a look of grim determination, as if on a death march? Last week I tried out a new boot camp class. The instructor interrupted it ten minutes before the end to tell us she had a "fun surprise" for us. The blank stares and set mouths were interrupted only by a few audible groans.
The surprise, it turned out, was that we were going to file downstairs to the basketball court, where she cheerfully commanded us to skip in a giant circle. Everybody complied, dutifully, big and little, male and female, all of them wearing the same grim expression they had worn for reverse crunches a minute earlier.
Except for me. I had to tie my shoe. And by the time I was ready, there was no place in the circle for me. Thirty grownups high-skipping resolutely in a circle, trying madly to keep up with the person next to them, meant there was no room for me to edge my way in.
Sometimes I think that is what visitors see when they visit our churches for the first time: a bunch of grim-faced grownups in a determined dance, who all know the steps and haven't left room for a latecomer.
We don't mean to be so grim-faced. We've just forgotten why we do this. It's not just for the benefit of exercising our spirits. It's for the joy in it. We've stopped hearing the voice of the Lord, a voice that would, like a joyful boot camp instructor, strip us bare of our misbegotten dignity and make us skip like a calf.
After an embarrassingly long pause, one young woman noticed me at the edge. As she sped by, she looked me straight in the eye, slowed her skipping at risk of making everyone else topple, smiled to split her face and hollered "Come in, come in! There's room!"
And there was.
God, remind me of the joy in worshipping you, brighten up my default face, and give our churches not one but dozens of people who know how to make space for the latecomer. Amen.
Molly Baskette is Senior Minister at First Church Somerville UCC, in Somerville, Massachusetts.