Lion of Judah
The style of music of this song is contemporary. The style of dance reflects this. The drumming and thus the rhythm is very prominent. Consequently, most of the moves in this song are from the style of dance known as jazz. There are some ballet and hip hop moves thrown in too.The outfit I had made for this more jazzy song is white and black. I chose a style of outfit that reflects the contemporary feel of the music. The outfits and their color can create meaning and make a statement so I thought I would share ideas and give examples in this narration to illustrate this. For example, the outfit I had made for this more jazzy song includes a white top and black pants and black jazz shoes. White often represents purity, righteousness and the idea of being cleansed while black can be used to represent impurity, dust , dirt, pollution or darkness or sin. It follows that white clothes represents pure motives and will while black represents impure motives and will. I like the white dress-like tunic and black pants and black jazz shoes because it better represents who I am right now. I know I am not perfect or pure like the white represents. I am blackened by my own weaknesses and imperfections and by the dirt around me so to speak.
Even in the bible white is synonymous with being washed. For example in Psalms 51:7 it says "Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean: wash me and I will be whiter than snow. Earlier in the Psalm David says ,"Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin."52:2. I may be cleansed and made right before God because of my belief in Jesus who died on the cross so I could be forgiven hence the white tunic but my motives are not always perfect or pure yet and neither is anyone else's in the world hence the black pants and black shoes. We are tempted towards doing our own will, seeking self-glorification, self-gratification and self-preservation.These selfish motives that originate in our hearts blacken us so to speak. When our motives are to love God and other people expecting nothing personal in return it is a pure motive and will that can be represented by the colour white. Jesus himself stated "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean'. For from within, out of men's hearts , come evil thoughts, greed, arrogance etc. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean'. " Mark 7 :20-21,23. A white ballet type dress represents the church or bride of Christ at the wedding feast. She will be perfect, clean and white. A white and black outfit can be used to represent the church and individuals in a church, including myself as they are right now; forgiven but imperfect and still struggling with the uncleanliness from within. In conclusion,the colours of our clothes and the type of garments we wear can represent our soul, heart or will and its state of purity as well as a style of dance.
Another angle to the colour symbolism is looking at Jesus' work on the cross. Jesus by dying on the cross cleansed and purified us so we are white as snow in God's eyes. Those who believe in Jesus are cleansed, purified and made white because of the blood shed by Jesus on the cross. Blood has cleansing properties. It removes toxins and refuse from our cells for example and thus cleanses our bodies. Blood as a symbol has a spiritual cleansing property attached to it too. Before Jesus came it was necessary for a lamb or another animal to be sacrificed so the Jewish people could be cleansed and forgiven by God the Father. In the Old testament shedding of lambs, calves or other animal's blood was done extensively by the Jews to cleanse everything including peoples hearts. As Hebrews 9:19,22 states "When Moses had proclaimed every commandment to the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop and sprinkled the scroll and the people. In fact the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." Further down, in Hebrews 9:28 it says "So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people."Jesus became the sacrificial lamb who shed his blood on the cross just like a lamb's blood was shed to forgive the Jews. He became the Lamb of God. I represent him having his hands pierced by the nails like the video shows. I do those particular sets of movements during the phrase of the song "glory, glory to the lamb." Can you imagine how painful it was when his flesh was torn by the nails. He loved us so much he chose to suffer and shed his blood for us. He deserves the glory because he died for us. He truly is a good sacrificial loving king and God. This next picture shows my one hand in the shape of a nail piercing the open palm of the other hand. It is hard to show the sequence of moves in a picture but the video shows it more clearly.
Our heart and soul is seen by God as lily white because of the forgiveness of sins Jesus purchased for us. Due to Jesus I and others who believe in him are in effect clothed symbolically in a white robe before God. In other words his blood has cleansed me and thus the clothes I wear , therefore, I am clothed in white and in righteousness before God the Father. The white tunic represents our white soul or heart, God sees us as having because we are forgiven and it also represents the white heart we will have after he is finished cleansing or transforming us. Christians are just as imperfect as the next person. The difference is our belief in Jesus and his work on the cross and our desire to let God change us, makes us clean and clothed in a white robe before God. A lot of my motives may still be selfish hence the black pants but as I turn away from these motives and stop letting them influence me with the help of God, I am slowly transformed and become more Christlike. It takes quite a while for God to change us but despite this we can still come before God the Father now because of the work done by the Lamb of God--Jesus. We may be clothed in a white robe because of our continued belief in Jesus but the transformation into a perfect Christ-like Christian takes time. My slacks may be black because of my imperfections and weaknesses but because of Jesus I am clothed in a white robe before God. It is good to know there is hope and that we have a gracious forgiving God.
The world around me effects and tempts me too. The dirt and dust of the world dirty my shoes so to speak; hence, I wear black jazz shoes. Walking upon this earth means we are effected by the dirt and pollution around us. For example, my sensitive nature helps me dance with emotion and drama but it also causes me problems when I let others around me or the world hurt, anger me, or effect me negatively. Forgiveness of others is important for me to do. Praising God and focusing on him instead of people's faults also brings me out of this sin or what is the flip side of being sensitive. The world around me and my circumstances may be a drag at times but when I lift holy hands to give glory and praise to God I have victory over this. For example, in this dance I do a jazz drag with my feet and with my hands uplifted to show that glory belongs to Jesus the Lamb which I give him even if, at times, I am dragging my feet because I am feeling overburdened or hurt etc. The jazz drag of my legs with my hands gesturing and glorifying God above also reminds me that we can serve and glorify God despite our imperfections. The video shows these moves when the song says "glory, glory to the lamb". I am doing a jazz drag when the "glory, glory" part comes on. There is power in praising and glorifying God. I may struggle with dragging my feet upon the ground but I will conquer this when I chose to stop focusing on what I see around me or stop focusing on my burdens and instead continue praising and glorifying Jesus. This picture attempts to show the jazz drag step and arms gesturing up high in order to give glory to Jesus.
Many songs as well as the bible refer to Jesus as the king. When God's people acknowledge and praise God the Father and\ or Jesus the Son as the king and lord, Jesus becomes a powerful king in their life and if it's his will does battle on behalf of his people and protects them, just like good kings did for their people in the past. He does it for individual Christians, groups of Christians, the church, the tribe of Judah in the Old testament etc. I do this warfare praise dance when I need victory over fear or anxiety for example. I have conquered fear and anxiety by the end of this dance and joy has returned. I like this song because I find it uplifting. By the end of the song I am hip hopping, jumping for joy and skipping. I hope it lifts you up too so you do not drag your feet upon the ground.
In the bible there is a story to illustrate the truth that God sometimes asks his people to simply praise him when warfare is happening. In the Old Testament there were three armies ready to attack the Jewish tribe of Judah. Judah means praise in Hebrew. This is significant because when King Jehoshaphat sent before the army of Judah a number of praisers who began praising God, 2 Chronicles20:22 states "the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. The men of Ammon and Moab rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped destroy each other." It is interesting to note that lions are known to ambush their enemies. God was acting as the lion for his tribe, Judah when they praised him. When King Jehoshaphat prayed to God before the people he first praised God for his power and his rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. 2 Chronicles 20:5-7. Sometimes God asks his people to praise him for the battle is his. This happened here. The amazing thing is God answered the prayers and honoured the fasting and the praises by turning the enemy against itself and thus destroying it.
In many ways this song follows the same ideas but in song form. The writer of the song praises and calls out to Jesus as king and Lord. The writer acknowledges Jesus as powerful and that in Jesus' name, we as believers, will conquer. There is precedence for this in this Old Testament example. God still gives victory to his present day praisers (the tribe of praisers so to speak within his church) . A lion is brave and powerful and able to conquer. Jesus is a lion-like king. When fear arises in my heart again like a vast army and it seems overwhelming, I will dance this song knowing God will give me victory over it again. The great dragon of fear who wants to enchain me in fear is defeated by praising God. As one person put it, " the Lion of Judah will break every chain and give us the victory again and again." I came across this quote under a picture of a lion I bought; unfortunately, the name of the poet was omitted. God's response to the King of Judah and the people of Judah was "Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's." God worked behind the scenes to destroy Judah's enemy. The Jews, because of their praises, won. Likewise, he works for us in ways we do not see immediately or at least he has done so in my life on various occasions. Sometimes I sense he works behind the scenes and problems are amazingly solved.There is indeed power in praise. I show a lion-like pose as the following picture shows to remind us that Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. I use it in the dance during the phrase "Hail, hail, Lion of Judah" For Christian dancers misunderstanding is our enemy so I do these dances and narrations to overcome misunderstanding about Christian dance. Sometimes God asks us to do things to overcome problems but sometimes he asks us to simply praise him and have faith that the battle is his. That is why it is important to pray to God and ask him what he wants us to do and than obey.
Before we are blessed with victory we need to praise Jesus as king and lord. God then honours us with victory too.We surrender to the will of a king or lord, we bow our hearts or bodies in honour and trust to a king and we crown a king. I use these three symbols of a king; namely, hands of surrender, bowing and miming a crown in this dance. To make someone a king means to surrender to that person or to that God. We surrender to the ones in authority like the picture shows for example when we are arrested by police and I have noticed many people including those in my church use the same arm symbol of surrender as a way of acknowledging a non-verbal communication of surrender to God during the praise and worship time. In the dance world these are known as jazz hands. People in church are dancing with their arms and hands and do not even know it! I do the surrender arms and hands like the picture shows and a bow to represent that Jesus is my king and lord. I do it to show that I surrender to Jesus as my king because I know his plans and will are better than mine. I use them during the phrases of the song "Hail, Jesus your my king " and "Hail Jesus your my lord". The next picture shows these jazz hands of surrender.
The second dance move or symbol of a king is bowing to that king. When I went to a Christian dance conference hosted by CDFO (Christian Dance Fellowship of Ontario that I believe is affiliated with CDFC which is the national or Canadian fellowship) and its Ottawa area division in Ottawa during the summer of 2002, a Christian dancer, Valerie Henry, explained how people in the past would bow to the king. The neck is exposed when one bows before a king, God or another person and apparently, the king who sometimes carried a sword could at that point cut the head off of the person or bless the person by touching the sword to the persons shoulder. There is a vulnerability, a humbleness and a trust a person has who bows to another. I know I can bow and trust Jesus to bless me and not harm me. The king also had great power to bless or harm his people. Since the song moves fast, there is only time to do a slight bow with my head and upper body like the picture shows.
The third symbol of a king I use is a miming of a crown. As my ballet teacher Alice Kwong explained to me, one way of showing kingship in dance is by miming a crown. Kings all wear one. In this world we make ourselves king, our bosses kings or others kings. For example, we are in effect king of our own heart when we do what we want to do. We let our boss be the king when we yield to his will. I give my personal crown symbolically to Jesus when I mime taking my crown off and giving it to him who deserves it. It is a visual way of saying you are my king and I will yield to your will because I know you are wiser than me. Using arms of surrender and bowing are also ways of saying non-verbally that we yielding to the will of others. This next picture shows the move of miming a crown. To see the sequence of steps of removing my crown to give to Jesus, the arms of surrender and the act of bowing, I suggest viewing the video. I use these sequence of moves when the song says "Hail, Jesus your my King" and "Hail Jesus your my Lord"
One thing we say consciously or unconsciously to a king is "Not my will but yours be done." Jesus said this to God the father too. On the Mount of Olives, before his death on the cross he prayed "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."Luke 22:42. Jesus grappled with avoiding the cup of suffering. He knew of the pain and humiliation he would have to go through. The Father's will and saving us was more important than Jesus's will of self-preservation and avoiding suffering. This song uses the same phrase. I do a sequence of steps and arm moves to represent the idea of "not my will but yours be done. I have used these moves to also represent God's righteousness in the grace medley and the hope medley.
I will attempt now, with God's grace to explain the meanings that can be attached to these moves in this song. When we look to the world, doing our own selfish will and giving glory to ourselves, is what it seems to be all about. Anderson and Saucy from the "Common made Holy" attribute the advice to be selfish to Satan."Save yourself at any rate, sacrifice duty to self-interest and the cause of Christ to personal convenience."p102. After all we are the "me" generation. Our will is placed above God's will in many situations. I use my left hand pointing up and high in the air to represent "my" will. God's will is pushed down in effect or even ignored especially when we say there is no God. I represent God's will as my right hand and finger pointing up. My will (left arm held high) is above God's will (right arm bent and lowered) as represented by the move seen in the next picture and in the video. The right hand is bent and the finger beside the thumb is pointing up to represent God's will lowered or ignored. I use it to represent the phrase "my will". When I do my will I naturally look to myself and what is best for me.To show the idea that I am looking to myself and my own will I look towards my left arm in order to represent the idea that my focus is on my will. The picture shows the direction of my gaze. Our eyeline or the direction of the turn of our head can speak volumes.
When I face the congregation with my arms like this it kind of looks like a check mark like this picture attempts to show. For example, for those who do not believe in God it looks right to do their own will and ignore God. After all there is no God. In school a checkmark is used to mark the right answer. I make a checkmark to show that for many people and for many reasons doing their own will takes precedence over doing God's will. It looks right to look to self-preservation etc. when we look to the world. Doing our own personal will is right and deserves a checkmark as far as many of the philosophies of the world are concerned as well. The above picture also shows the arm and hand moves used to create this check-mark move.
In contrast, when I look to the cross and see that God the Father gave his Son Jesus to me-(to us) because the Father and Son loved us so much I realize God's love and will is superior to mine. His will is selfless and pure while mine is selfish. The Father sent his Son to die on the cross not for his benefit but ours. After all no one likes to see their son suffer and die and neither did God the Father. Jesus died on the cross to become a sacrificial lamb for us- on our behalf- so we could be forgiven. Jesus loved us so much he willingly died for us. God's love, his plans and his will are superior to mine. God the Father selflessly gave his son and his son selflessly died. Looking and thinking of the cross reminds me how much more pure the will of God is. I can trust a king like this. I gladly and willingly submit my will to his. God's will is placed above my will which in effect is in submission to his will. My right hand goes up and my left hand is bent at the elbow and thus appears lower by contrast than his as this next photo shows.
My left arm which represents my will is bent to the superior will of God so to speak. Another way of putting it, is succinctly stated by the writers of "The Common made Holy"; namely, Anderson and Saucy, "The will is to be more and more bent toward the good and acceptable will of God, Romans 12:2, p. 54. The bending of my left arm at the elbow can represent my will being submitted, yielded to or being bent toward the good and acceptable will of God. I also look up towards heaven and the right had to further stress that it is God's will that is over mine. I am looking to God and his will to represent the idea that my focus is on God's will. Now my will is the same as God's will because I have decided that his will is superior to mine because I know he selflessly loves me.
In many churches, including mine, there is often a cross facing the congregation behind the pulpit. For me to look to the cross I need to turn my back to the congregation. When I do this my arm configuration looks like a checkmark when read by the congregation. This next photo attempts to show this. I have taken a disco- like move and used it to show a profound truth. We are made right or forgiven in God's eyes because of the cross . I used these same moves to represent God's righteousness in some of my other dances. In this song though it is meant to represent that doing God's will makes sense and is truly right especially when we look to the cross and the meaning of the cross. When I look to the cross I realize the glory belongs to Jesus and the Father. I also realize God's will and kingdom work is the right thing to focus on by me in God's eyes--thus the checkmark. I do the above set of moves with foot moves that are used to help me move direction. They help me move toward the cross as well as help me face the cross or help me move away from the cross and help me turn my back to it. These moves in concert help me interpret and represent the phrase "not my will but yours be done. The tempo and thus the moves of this song are quick so if you blink you might miss it!
We have free will to choose to do our own will, someone else's will or God's will. We have been given free will by God. When we look to the world we are influenced by it and to tend to choose self-preservation, self-gratification self-glorification etc. After all we are part of the "me" generation. When I face the world, self-gratification, self-glorification, competition with others, greed etc. is what I see is all around me. When we look to the world and ourselves we turn our back on God the Father and Jesus his Son. We turn our back on the cross. We ignore God and his will to love him, and others and we ignore working for his kingdom. I could not get a cross image behind me during the dance video but you can imagine there is one.
By contrast, when I face the cross and focus on it and Jesus who died on it I have my back to the world. When I turn my back to the world which I literally do during the repeat, I am looking towards or facing the cross. The video shows this. During the first repeat of "not my will but yours be done", I am facing the congregation and the door which in most churches leads to the outside of the church and in effect the to the world. My back is literally to the cross found hung on the wall of most churches. When I focus and am influenced by the world I have my back to the cross and Jesus and thus God. Now others can see this truth through these dance moves. It is illustrated visually. The world can be imagined as being out the door of the church or the world wide web for example. This appears to be right hence the checkmark but when I die I cannot take the toys and trophies, possessions or wealth I have collected with me here on earth. We choose to turn our back to God or to the world depending on whose will we are focusing on. These sequence of moves represent the idea. In others words, we choose to turn our back to God as represented by the turning of our back to the cross as seen in the dance or we choose to turn our back to the world as represented by turning our back to the door leading to the world at the back of the church. Either we turn our back to God or we turn our back to the world we cannot do both.
Jesus conquered death by rising from the dead three days after his death on the cross. It follows that he has the power to help me conquer my weaknesses or any power that tries to stop me from doing God's will for example. When I have faith that he will give me victory over fear, he does. When there is something that stands in my way blocking me from doing his will or something that blocks a group of Christians or a church from doing his will it follows that he has the power and ability to help us conquer it just like he gave the tribe of Judah victory over the armies approaching them so very long ago. I gesture to everyone watching me that they are the "We" this song is talking about. I raise my arms and bend them at the elbow with my hands making a fist like this picture shows to represent the idea of conquer. I do a lifting of his name gesture to represent the idea that we conquer because of the power that is found in Jesus name or the faith we have that Jesus is the one who will help us conquer our weaknesses or whatever else in our lives that need to be conquered. We as individual Christians and we as the Church will conquer and have victory over evil or the devil or the temptation to sin just like Jesus did when he rose from the dead. When we proclaim his power like the song says "We will conquer in his name" We will conquer because of our faith in Jesus the lion.
In the bible, Jesus is also called the Lion of Judah. In Revelation he is referred to as both a lion and lamb. In Revelation 5:5-6 John who is upset because no one is worthy to open the scrolls says "Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep because the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals. Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing, in the center of the throne." Jesus eventually opens the seals. He is like a lion, brave, powerful, triumphant, victorious and able to conquer. He rose from the dead on Easter Sunday and conquered death. He had victory and triumphed over death --- the death he suffered on the cross. He had victory because of the cross. Without dying on the cross like a sacrificial lamb he would have not risen from the dead like a triumphant lion. I portray the image of a lion as the next picture shows. I call unto the lion of Judah knowing he is powerful enough to rise from the dead and thus help me conquer what I need to conquer. I dance with great joy in my face "Hail, hail, lion of Judah how powerful you are." We have great reason to celebrate the Lion of Judah who is also the Lamb of God.
This song is called "the Victory Chant" and it celebrates the victory that Christians can have so I do a "V" pose with my arms at the beginning and the end of the song to represent the idea of this victory. The next picture shows the pose. I also begin the dance doing a floor pattern of a "V". If you look at the video you will see I move across the floor tracing a "V" shape pattern with the movement of my feet.
After I make the "V" shape pattern I do a "cross" pattern. During the part of the song "I will praise you all my days" I move forward towards the congregation in a straight line. This forms the vertical axis of the cross. The interesting thing to note is praising Jesus who is the Lion and the Lamb of the cross is the key to our victory in the cross so to speak. I am praising Jesus the one who died on the cross. I am also raising holy hands in praise of Jesus at the same time. My feet movements and arm movements both are done with meaning and thought behind them.
Next I step back one large step in order to to get ready to trace out the arms of the cross.I do this during the next verse of the song: namely, "You are perfect in all your ways" We would not have victory over death or evil or the devil if Jesus did not die on the cross so I choose to pair the "V" patterns the "cross" pattern as a reminder that they are tied to each other. These floor patterns are subtle when I dance them. Unless you are aware of them they will probably be missed. I did a "cross" floor pattern in the "River is here" too. I bet few people if any noticed it. That is why I decided I should explain my use of floor patterns somewhere in one of the narrations. It is easier for the congregation to see if there are 5 or more dancers creating the "V" or "cross" formations instead of just one person.
Very few modern kings i.e. prime ministers or presidents, CEO's etc. can be both gentle loving lambs ready to sacrifice themselves or their desires for the sake of their people and be brave victorious lions and yet that is what Jesus is to his people. He is the well rounded, perfect king. We can say about Jesus "you are perfect in your ways" I do ballet arms in fifth through to second as the video shows to create a circle with my arms. This next picture of rounded arms in ballet fifth shows the move used to portray the idea of the well-rounded perfect king. In other words,I make the circle with my arms to represent our well "rounded" and "perfect" king. Jesus is indeed perfect in all his ways and also the perfect king we are all searching for. We are looking for the perfect king in the wrong place and get upset that man as king can never be that perfect king found to be Jesus only.
Jesus is the perfect king that is both known as a lion and lamb. He is indeed a wonderful king. The New Encyclopedia Dictionary of the English Language defines wonder as that emotion which is excited by something new, strange or extraordinary. It is indeed new, strange and extraordinary to learn of a king that is both a gentle sacrificial loving lamb towards his people and a brave lion who will battle people so that his people can say like the song says "we will conquer in his name." It is extraordinary to learn of a king and God who can be both a gentle, sacrificial lamb and also a brave triumphant lion. How can someone be a lion and lamb. They seem to have such opposite character traits. It is because Jesus, as king, has the balanced blend of the good characteristics of both. He is indeed "perfect in all his ways."
When I dwell upon the concept of Jesus being both a gentle, mild sacrificial lamb and a mighty victorious king I can only take in a little of this idea at a time and push back or shield myself from the rest because it is so wonderful and there is too much to take in all at once. When someone surprises us we bring our hands up in this way too. The definition of wonder includes the element of surprise, astonishment or amazement. I use the same movement in amazing grace to represent the idea of amazing. The extreme contrast of the gentle lamb and powerful lion fill me with wonder. Being taken aback or thrown off balance because of this extreme contrast is also part of what wonder does and thinking about Jesus as taking on opposing symbols and their characteristics namely, the lion and lamb. I am taken "aback " so to speak when trying to take in these contrasting and seeming opposing truths about Jesus' kingship. During the phrase of the song "How wonderful you are" I lean back slightly to express the idea of being taken "aback". Naturally, when something is wonderful to us we go "wow" in surprise. The perfect leader and king has been found in Jesus. I can only understand it slowly and in bits. I push back on the rest ,so to speak with fear of being overwhelmed, until I am ready for more. The jazz hands and body moves as seen in this picture is meant to represent this as well. We push back in fear that it is too much. I am pleasantly surprised and amazed by it though so I do the "wonder" move with joy expressed in my face.
The novel idea that Jesus is such a king captures my attention. I represent this by looking up as if to heaven where king Jesus is, for a second, as if my attention has been arrested by who he is-- an extraordinary king. This next picture attempts to show this idea of my attention being completely focused on him. The definition of wonder in this dictionary goes on to say "or that arrests the attention by its novelty and inexplicableness". I am at once surprised and joyful when I think about and look at this lion-lamb who is the perfect king. My facial expression as the picture shows is meant to express this surprise and joy. It is a novel way for me to look at Jesus in this way but a joyful one. This expression is also meant to be mixed with admiration. According to this same dictionary, to be "struck with wonder" means "to look with or feel admiration" In other words, I look up to heaven where the king of king reigns with a mixture of surprise, joy and admiration in my face. That is how I as a dancer try to capture and express the meaning of wonder through dance. I hope this dance brings the feeling of wonder towards Jesus afresh to your heart as you watch this dance of the "Victory Chant".