Summary: Our actions speak clearly about who we are and what we need; we need to lie down in worship and study, we need to walk in the valley of human need, and we need to engage those who are different from us.
Takoma Park Baptist Church, Washington, DC October 18, 1992
I want you to look up here and then feed back to me what I am saying. I’m asking you to watch me and then tell me what I am saying to you.
(Clumped shoulders): “I certainly am glad to be here.”
What did I say?
My mouth said, “I certainly am glad to be here.” But what did my body say? It said, “Groan.” Groan, here I am again, why did the Lord put a Sunday morning in every single week of creation? Groan! The words and the body did not agree, did they?
Let’s try again.
(Fist on hips): “I love everybody in this room.” What did I say that time?
My voice said, “I love everybody in this room.” But my body, with fists on hips, said, “You miserable peasants. I can hardly stand the sight of you.” Words and body did not agree, and although you heard the words, you understand the words, somewhere down deep you felt offended. You felt unwelcome. Why?
Why? Because body language is a very eloquent language. The way we use our bodies to communicate is very powerful. Many of us, even though we say one thing, express something quite different with our bodies.
My wife tells me every Sunday after church what I communicated. She doesn’t quote my sermon. She tells me what my face and my shoulders said about what was going on. Body language.
We’ve now endured three nationally televised debates. One of the reasons it’s so important to watch these debates on TV is that we can get a better sense of who the candidates are by watching them than if we just read their statements or listened to their voices. Their body language speaks to us. In fact, the other day the newspaper ran an article about the candidates’ body language after the first debate, and commented on the ways they communicated composure, friendliness, and initiative. We may not learn everything there is to know about them by watching their body language, but we discover a good deal.
Some of us are old enough to remember President Franklin Roosevelt. I wonder if in the television age we would ever elect a man who took pains never to be photographed in his wheelchair or his braces. His body language would bother people today, wouldn’t it?
And if I have not yet made my point clear about the importance of body language, then just take a look at the vice-presidential debate. I made a videotape, since I couldn’t be home that night. Watch that video with the sound turned off, and you’ll learn a lot. Maybe even more than if the sound were turned on! You have your choice of Gore chopping wood, or Quayle trying to fly, or my personal favorite, poor old Admiral Stockdale holding his head between his hands, trying to shout out the buzz! The body language was incredibly eloquent.
Now, what does your body language say about your relationship to Christ? If it is true that “what you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say,” then what are you and I saying to Christ with our bodies? Most of us can talk a great game. We know the right words to say. We’ve mastered the right formulas. But our body language has the power either to confirm or to deny what we have spoken.
The 23rd Psalm, loved by everyone, is full of body language verbs. It speaks with clarity about what you and I can choose to do with our bodies. The 23rd Psalm is wonderful body language.
And its message is, “We are to follow the shepherd, the leader, wherever He leads.” Wherever Christ the shepherd leader leads, there also we can go.
Notice, first of all, that we can put our bodies into places where we can be refreshed and replenished. If we are to be faithful to what we believe, we are to use body language and put ourselves into places where refreshment and restoration can happen.
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul.”
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures [and] beside … still waters.” Why do some of us push ourselves so hard? Why do some of us find it more virtuous to work ten and twelve and more hours a day on our jobs, frantically trying to achieve more and more? What is the real value of that?
“He maketh me to lie down …” Why do some of us feel guilty every time we sit down to read a book or listen to some music? Why have we made our lives an interminable checklist of things to be done, which, when they are done, give way only to another, longer list of things which have not been done? Why do we not lie down? Why do we not value quiet and reflection and simply being with our God? What is this agenda-driven thing we have?