Last night I watched the Pittsburgh Steelers win a football game on the last play of the game as time expired. It wasn’t a playoff game and certainly was not the Super Bowl. It was just a regular season game. But I still clapped and cheered loudly enough and with enough enthusiasm that I woke my wife who had gone to sleep long before the end of the game. That is what fans do. You cheer for your team. You get excited when they win and you celebrate. If you are actually at the game you get caught up in the excitement of it all. People color their hair to match the team colors, paint their bodies to match, wave towels with the team colors and generally get more emotional than they do over most anything else in life. It doesn’t matter if it is American Football, Baseball, Soccer, or Rugby. It doesn’t matter if it is in the USA, England, Brazil, China, or Latvia. People get excited about sports to the point that it takes on religious overtones.
This morning I wake up and read Psalm 47 and am confronted with the juxtaposition of how we cheer for our teams and how we should cheer for our God.
Clap your hands, all peoples!
Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
2 For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared,
a great king over all the earth.
3 He subdued peoples under us,
and nations under our feet.
4 He chose our heritage for us,
the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah
5 God has gone up with a shout,
the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
7 For God is the King of all the earth;
sing praises with a psalm!
8 God reigns over the nations;
God sits on his holy throne.
9 The princes of the peoples gather
as the people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
he is highly exalted!
So much of worship in the Bible is a public demonstration of love for God. There is shouting, clapping, dancing, singing, waving branches in the air. When Jesus entered Jerusalem on what has become known as Palm Sunday, it probably looked more like a parade celebrating a championship sports team than the typical worship time in most churches, at least most western churches. For some reason Christians in Uganda, Egypt, Bangladesh, India, and Brazil have no problem publicly expressing their love and affection for God. They don’t seem to care that they are being emotional and enthusiastic about God. They don’t fear being seen as fanatical in their devotion to God. I wonder, what it is about many western Christians that we will insist on quiet, emotionless worship at 11am on Sunday and then break loose with all sorts of shouting, clapping, fist-bumping, and chest thumping at 1pm?