By Pastor Paula Burchill
I have written before about how much I love the image of us being Christ’s body. I recently heard a great story on NPR that was yet another reminder for me of how we are connected. Of how, as Paul wrote in I Corinthians 12, the eye can’t say to the ear I don’t need you. Otherwise how would the body hear? No, we are all connected. We need each other. We work better when we work together.
The story on NPR was about an experiment some scientists did on the connection between dance and pain. They had people dance and then they tested their tolerance for pain by squeezing their arms like happens in a blood pressure test. What they found was that if you dance on your own, it has no effect on your pain tolerance. If you dance in a group, each person dancing their own dance, it has no effect. If everyone in a group dances the same dance, but they wear headphones so they can listen to their own music, it has no effect.
But if you dance in a group, all dancing the same dance and listening to the same music, your tolerance for pain increases pretty dramatically.
The scientists hypothesize that this is because humans need to connect with each other to survive—that is how we evolved. Almost every culture in the world has some form of folk dancing that everyone knew and did together as part of their religious or civil celebrations. These dances are important because they remind us that we have each other to count on. Subconsciously they remind us that we are not alone.
I would say—they are proof that we share Christ’s body and we are stronger when we are together.
Isn’t that an amazing discovery? And isn’t it sad that I bet almost none of us reading this know or ever do any community dancing. We did do some line dancing together at our last Western Family Night, but mostly, I would guess the last dance you did with others was the chicken dance at a wedding many, many years ago.
So what does this mean? How can we connect with each other more often? One place where we sing and speak together is in worship. That is what liturgical Christians do. Liturgy means the work of the people. We sing and we pray and we respond to God’s word in unison to remind us that we are God’s people. That we share Christ’s body. Dare I say we might want to add some dancing?
If you’re like me, it might be hard to imagine dancing in worship. But I can join with my fellow members of the body in song. We might even add a little bit of a sway sometimes. The researchers didn’t study singing together and its affect on pain, but I know from personal experience that when I have gone through hard times with a community of faith and without a community of faith, being with others in pain was far more bearable than being alone.
It blows me away sometimes how smart God is! How God made us so that we crave ways to be in community with each other—even our bodies respond when we follow our instincts.
You are Christ’s body. Sing! Dance! Give praise to God—just be sure you find ways to do it together.