Archives, Pondering, Songs of Assent, Wheaton

Handmaiden Humility

I haven’t given much thought to the face of wisdom’s handmaiden, Humility. But I encountered her so vividly last week that her subtle and beautiful features shine with clarity after leaving “Worship Camp.” Perhaps I can give you a glimpse of her lovely face.

My teaching partner, Reggie Kidd, and I have just completed teaching our twenty-first session at the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies (IWS). We have seen all kinds of cohort personalities over the years- each a synergy of gifted glory in their own unique ways. But it was not until this past week that humility would have been the first word I would use to describe a class personality.

The depths of this particular cohort’s gift was only revealed at the end of the week. Reggie and I teach the final content course in the doctoral program, and one of the “only-God-could-have-orchestrated-it-this-way” features of our course is that this final class plans a communion healing service for the whole IWS community on our final evening together.

Because IWS was originally founded as a school where a Christian leader with a masters degrees in music could obtain a theological doctorate, we are blessed with astounding talent among our student body. And the synergy of that giftness in partnership with minds and hearts informed and impassioned to enter deeply into worship has resulted in extraordinary communion healing services over the years.

While this particular class certainly had its portion of that giftedness, it was a small group. Eight students, to be exact. And they chose a unique path for an IWS healing service. They made it simple. They were free to look up and receive from the Lord that great gift of self-acceptance that acknowledges one’s giftedness and one’s limitations, and creates from within those parameters.

The Holy Spirit descended into our midst with that lovely signature of peaceful power from the moment they invited the community into worship. Here we encountered the clarity of the Lord’s outstretched hand to heal his people and to send us forth into the world in joy.

But there was yet another kind of humility offered that night. This small cohort invited fellow students who had been with their original class along the way but, due to the changes of life, were now at other stages in the program. So this small band created a worshipful space, and then stood back as two former classmates preached the gospel to us-not with words, but in mime.

This couple has a ministry of mime, and has blessed this community with their unique and powerful art on many former occasions. But in this particular moment, they invited us into the terror and desperation of the woman with the flow of blood as she struggled to reach Jesus and touch his robe. And we saw the contrast between a Jesus being bumped up against and a Jesus being touched in order to be healed. We experienced the intimacy and wonder of our Lord who delights to heal us, but will not do so by letting us remain anonymous.

The whole gospel “reading” took place without verbal cues of any kind, and the congregation sat stunned at the agonizing beauty and powerful intimacy of what was unfolding before us. By the time the congregation received the elements, they were standing in lines to receive prayer as well, to know and be known by Jesus even as they had received his touch through bread and wine.

There is no doubt that an extraordinarily gifted husband/wife mime team made a tremendous contribution to this service. But what keeps striking me is the lack of competition in this class, either with other classes or with each other. They set the table and stood back as the glory of God appeared in our midst. That evening there were no individual personalities–just a powerful encounter with the Lord who loves his people to seek Him, but will not allow them to remain anonymous as he heals them.

I will hold my new acquaintance with handmaiden humility deeply in my heart, the gift of the twenty-first session of DWS 704. May she continue to teach me the wisdom exhibited by a small class with a great God.

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