Personal Trials and Hope
Easter and the Living Hope
I danced this medley of songs on Easter Sunday at my home church. The following narration is based on the verbal introduction given before the dance. None of these hymns and choruses are traditionally used at Easter. Nevertheless, they are about the Christian hope and so they can be easily adapted to be used either for an ordinary service or for Easter. Since these songs have the thread of the “Christian hope” running through them I often refer to them as the hope medley.
What I hope for in people or God is numerous. What a Christian hopes for includes, for example, eternal life, forgiveness of sin or salvation, a new and just social order when Jesus reigns and hope of deliverance during times of troubles or trial when living on earth. These songs touch upon the hope of deliverance from sin and hope of deliverance in times of storms or troubles in life.
Hope as a concept includes the idea of the future. The future is forward moving. Consequently, the steps used in dance and this dance in particular to represent the “living hope” is also forward moving. All the false hopes move us diagonally, sideways or in a circle as depicted in the video.
Secondly, hope involves looking forward to the future with anticipation. The anticipation is for something positive. I depict this aspect of hope during the musical introduction by putting my hand on my forehead as the photo shows and looking forward with a smile on my face to express the idea of looking forward to the future in a positive way.
Thirdly, it involves trusting, leaning or resting of the mind upon the promises made by another or trusting in the promising attributes of an object. I represent this aspect of hope by placing my head side ways on my arms as if resting my mind on a mimed object and with my body leaning to the same side like this photograph shows.
Hope also involves an object. There is an object or person that I (we) attach my (our) hope to or lean on. Some put their hope in themselves, another person, a group of people or a god or belief system like astrology. Likewise, some put their hope in an object or goal such as wealth creation. I however, choose to put my hope in the living God, Jesus, which is what this song glorifies as the living hope.
I often hope for help and comfort in times of personal storms and so have a lot of people in the past and present. For example the apostle Paul had many periods of distress in his life and was as he put it (in peril). After he lived through one of these perils he commented about God, “He has delivered us from such a peril. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.” (2 Corinthians 8-10).
Likewise, the Christian author David Aikman in “Hope --The Heart’s Great Quest” wrote “I had no concept of it (hope) as the only lifeline that at times can keep a person afloat when floodwaters of trouble and catastrophe seem certain to engulf him or her” (p16).
The first song “The Solid Rock” is predominately about the true and living hope- Jesus. The second song praises Jesus the rock and deliverer and the third song is about Jesus’ love for his bride or church. Hope and praise as concepts, and the bride as a symbol are important within the church and Christian dance and so I will tackle them as separate narrations. They will be three separate narrations in a series similar to the Trinity series.
Ballet, jazz and hip hop are different styles of dances with separate theory and technique and Christian dance is in some ways a different style too even though it borrows from many styles of dance. The moves and gestures of Christian dance and their combinations are unique because they represent Christian truths such as God’s grace and the living hope and Christian wisdom that are unique and not subject matter of traditional secular dance. God’s grace and the living hope are both subject matter that are original to Christian dance and are original also because I did not borrow them from other Christian dancers but I believe came from and was inspired from the creator of dance and creator of all.
We need to put our hope in other people to some extent because we need wisdom, help and comfort from others. They cannot always help or protect us though. I have put unrealistically high hopes and trust in individuals or groups of people such as institutions like hospitals. People and their institutions are not perfect just like I am not. They do not always know what the best thing to do is. They do not know the future and so sometimes they let me down. When this happens I have had that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I think it is safe to say that everyone has had this experience at least once in their life.
Me, other people and institutions because of our (their) imperfections are not a strong secure foundation or ground on which to place my (our) hope. Due to our frailty we are like sinking sand. I represent the idea of ground which is sinking sand by doing a twisting downward motion as shown in the photo. I put my head in my hands at the bottom of the twist to represent the idea of despair or disappointment --the sinking feeling. As the song asserts “All other ground is sinking sand.”
I can put my hope or trust in a sweet frame such as a person or institution or even myself. I am learning not to have high hopes in others like this song says “I dare not trust the sweetest frame.” I represent the idea of individual people by extending my left arm to my left side then my right arm to my right as the following photo shows as if to reach out to them for my hope. God is vertical to us and other people are horizontal to us. Horizontal gesturing is thus meant to represent our relationship to others. The movement of the dance steps are sideways or in a circle as well. A subtle way of showing that I (we) do not move forward if our hope is not placed in the right object of hope- Jesus.
I represent the idea of reaching out to groups of people or institutions like the government, or financial institutions with both arms to the left or right of me to represent the idea of many. This photo is meant to depict this idea.
I represent the idea of looking to myself and my own wisdom, intellect and strength to save me in times of trouble by having my arms in fourth position and looking at them. I do this to represent the idea that I am the frame of reference for my hope. Because of my own imperfections I do not always solve my problems in the wisest way. If I am not careful I find myself repeating the same mistakes and thus going around in circles instead of moving forward. I move around in a circle to represent the idea that I know I will not move forward very far in life if I only hope or rely on myself. This photo shows the move I use to represent myself as the object of my hope.
Other gods or belief systems are not all wise, powerful or know the future either. Astrology for example, believes in the influence of stars and planets. Stars and planets are made up of rocks. Unfortunately, they are not living and therefore cannot help us with our trials. I represent hoping or reaching out to other gods by reaching my left hand out and high like the photo shows and them repeat the same gesture to the right. If I followed the lead of these diagonal arms I would move diagonally but not straight forward.
I think it is safe to say that we have all been tempted to believe a certain political belief such as democracy is the answer only to find out it is a false hope. Democracy has just as many pitfalls and problems as communism as long as man is the head of it. I just have to turn on the news to see the problems within the governments of the west. Political belief systems are flawed because man is. Jesus is perfect and is the only one that will govern perfectly. God and gods and the intellect is seen as superior and found high up above the body. God and the gods are above earth and traditionally are represented as a vertical line connecting man to God. Vertical moves of the arms up high also represent this idea.
On the other hand, Jesus and God the Father are all powerful, wise and perfect and know the future. Jesus is also a living God. He rose form the dead on Easter Sunday; consequently, he is the living hope too. The living hope arises from a living personal relationship with Jesus. I represent the relationship and hope in Jesus I have by reaching both arms vertically upward and I do forward moving steps and jumps. My life will move forward finally if my hope remains in him.
As the next photo shows my eyes are looking heavenward and my arms are reaching forward and heavenward not sideways or diagonally.
I often pray for reassurance that what I dance about and write about is in accordance with God’s will and not mine. I find he often leads me to a bible verse or a book written by another Christian who was led to similar conclusions or asserted the same truth. While I was writing the rough draft of this narration I came upon this following response from Thelma Wells in the meditations “Hope for a Woman’s Soul” The words to “The Solid Rock” were on the opposite page. Here is what she has to say “He’s (Jesus) our only real H.O.P.E.
E: Everlasting Saviour
When we trust in him alone, life may still shake us up, but our spirit will be safe in the net of his love” (p.74). She came to the same conclusion about Jesus but states it in a different way.
Jesus is symbolically represented as the one who died on the cross by using the shape of the cross in various ways. I use that symbol throughout the medley with my body making the cross shape like this next photo shows.
Jesus by dying on the cross on Easter Friday gave me and all who believe, the free gift of forgiveness known as God’s grace. I represent the gift of God’s grace as this photo shows. See the narrations about the grace medley for more details. When we forgive each other or when God forgives us it means we do not hold onto the wrong someone does to us we throw it away and give the person another chance. Another way of looking at forgiveness is that we clear the slate of these wrongs. For those who believe in Jesus and accepted him into their hearts, he has died so our individual slates can be wiped clean. I represent the idea of wrongness by creating an “X” shape with my arms and I do a throwing away or clearing the slate gesture to represent the idea of throwing or removing the wrong.
Like this song asserts “I rest on his unchanging grace.” which is what I do as well. I know that Jesus saved me from God’s judgment and wrath and that the gift of saving grace does not change even though at times I do not feel his presence in my life. Hope of being saved from this wrath or forgiveness is touched upon in this song.
Another aspect of Christian hope is touched upon in “The Solid Rock” and carried through the other two songs as well; namely, the hope of deliverance in times of trouble.. The forgiveness we received when Jesus died makes us right before God so that we can now approach the presence of God. We can now have a personal intimate relationship with God- --His Spirit with our spirit. As the song asserts “My hope is built on nothing less that Jesus blood and righteousness” His blood that was shed for me on the cross paid for my forgiveness and made me right in God’s eyes. I can now approach God and ask him for help in times of trouble or trials or during my storms of life.
There was a veil or curtain in the Jewish temple that prevented the access of anyone except the High Priest from entering the Most Holy Place where the presence of God was. The moment Jesus died the veil was torn from top to bottom. The torn veil in the temple symbolizes this approachability or access to God the Father we believers now have through the work of Jesus his Son on the cross. This earthly temple was a representation of the heavenly temple. Like Hebrews 9:24 states “For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one: he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.”
In Hebrews 10:19-23, Paul states “Therefore brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most High Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, open for us through the curtain, that is his body, let us draw near to God. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess.”
I represent holding or attaching to the object of my hope, namely, Jesus by reaching forward and heavenward as these photos attempt to show. I depict this “firm and solid attachment within the veil to a place in heaven itself as Aikman describes the Christian hope by reaching forward and up high as if attaching firmly to Jesus and his promise to help in times of trouble - to this hope of deliverance during the storm.
I encourage everyone to grasp onto Jesus figuratively speaking in these times of global and personal storms. Terrorism epitomized by the destruction of the World Trade Center can be allowed to flourish in our hearts or we can let Jesus Christ give us his hope and firm security.
In the Bible and in poetry, the soul is often depicted as a ship. A ship has an anchor attached to a firm ground that keeps the ship from being carried away and damaged on rocks and sunk. Likewise Jesus is like the solid ground for the anchor of the soul during the storms a soul goes through. As the song states “In every high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil.” My hope in Jesus who is within the veil in heaven anchors my soul and keeps me from sinking in despair and destruction. As David Aikman states “hope is like the anchor that holds the ship in place--the ship biblically being our soul--no matter how much the storm rages around us and tries to tug us free” p181. In Hebrews 6:19-20 It says “ We have this hope as an anchor for the soul firm, and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the veil where Jesus who went before us has entered on our behalf.”
Another biblical and poetic symbol used in this song is the solid rock or the firm foundation. The soul is often represented as a house whose hope or life is built on a strong or weak ground or foundation. A weak foundation such as sand washes the house away and destroys or damages it during the storm. A strong foundation keeps the house or soul standing during the storms and it is saved.
I am building my soul and hope on the solid rock--Jesus and I find if I hold firmly to him or using this metaphor stand firmly on his promises, obey him, obey the wisdom in the bible and his obey his guidance he gives me,the storms do not hurt my soul but instead I remain standing and am saved.
When I put my hope in a weak objects like other gods, belief systems, other people and their institutions or money, they become like sinking sand; they let me down. A strong solid hope that can protect, support and save me during storms is metaphorically represented as a rock solid foundation and this Rock is Jesus. What a contrast. We can choose sinking sand or the rock as a foundation for our soul.
As Jesus in Matthew 7:24 states” A wise man built his house on the rock” Jesus was referring to his teachings--his word as the rock. Jesus taught a lot but one subject he taught just before this verse was about worry. In Matthew 6:25-26 Jesus said “therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life. Look at the birds of the air your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” God our Father knows our needs in times of trouble and will help us and provide for our needs. This is but one of many times this promise is stated in the Bible.
I represent Jesus as the rock solid foundation who keeps me standing during my storms and worries by doing a wide strong stance in second jazz position with my hands rolled in fists to depict the strength of the rock. The wide firm stance as pictorially shown in the photo is meant to represent the solid ground I am standing on. I stand on the promises and teachings of Jesus during my storms.
When I dwell upon the fact that we have a God who forgives us and will help us during our storms in life and showed his love by dying for us so we can have a personal relationship with him I want to praise him, which is what the next song in this medley (Praise the name of Jesus) is about.