by Helena Thomas
Scripture says that God's Word contains the power necessary to accomplish His purposes. As I've come to know the zeal of the Charismatic Episcopal Church to discover and walk the "ancient paths" of the faith, I find it right in sync with the road I have during my ministry calling. About that time, I began to make banners, flags and garments, and minister with them in worship and pageantry. From the beginning, I have been keenly aware of the importance of portraying and reflecting accurately the truths of the scripture in the colors, symbols and designs of the objects I have produced, and in the messages and choreographies of the stories I have told with them.
The scripture says that God's Word contains the power necessary to accomplish His purposes. My desire has always been to tap into the eternal, transcendent, Spirit-power of the Word of God. I have little interest in using my energies making things that are based in sentiment or cultural language. These things have only emotional power, and it is only temporal at that. And so I have been on a continuous pilgrimage in the Word, searching out and learning symbolic language to be translated into the visual mediums of banners, flags, garments, movement language and pageantry. In my quest to uncover the biblical roots of pageantry, I have discovered that God loves a parade! He orchestrates them from Genesis to Revelation with animals and people and objects, and on occasion, even processes Himself.
The purpose of this article is to reveal the pageantry of the scriptures and examine our responsibility to reflect this aspect of physical proclamation in our worship expression. Although accounts of pageantry exist all through the old testament, it had been virtually lost to the church through the ages. We do have the Catholic church to thank for the preservation of vestiges of pageantry through the 2000 years of church history and we should be grateful to them, for it is a mighty tool. The power of pageantry is, in recent years, being returned to the entire Body as the mystery of the restoration of David's tabernacle is revealed in these last days, and worship is explored in all its Biblical dimensions.
Pageantry and proclamation
What is pageantry? Webster defines it as "grand spectacle" or "gorgeous display." It comes from the word for medieval mystery plays. A pageant is often a dramatic presentation portraying historical events. In the case of Biblical pageantry, we can portray historical events and interpret their importance and prophetic significance to our present day. We also portray "historical events" that have not yet occurred in time, echoing the character of our God Who "calls things that are not as though they are." (Romans 4:17) Prophecy can be foretelling, or it can be forth-telling. Biblical pageantry is prophetic in the sense that we are "telling forth" the truths of what has been, what is, and what is to come. This is proclamation, a tool that is sadly under-used in the modern church. Islam, however, understands the power of proclamation. In the Mideast, the blaring loudspeakers of the Islamic mosques blast the "wisdom" of the Koran into the air at regular intervals.This has great significance in spiritual realms, for constant exposure to this pervasive chanting can reshape the thinking of the listeners.
The church has the opportunity and the responsibility to use the powerful tool of proclamation through her pageantry. As we lift up declarations of God's sovereignty into the air around us, we invade enemy territory. (Remember that Satan is called the prince of the power of the air.) Our proclamations fulfill the directive given to us in Ephesians 3:10. "[God's] intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms..." We can make God's wisdom known to the spiritual realms through pageantry. This is a facet of true spiritual warfare. We cannot kill spiritual powers and authorities, because these are ancient, eternal spirits. However, by lifting praise and proclamation into the physical realm that surrounds us, we can displace these powers and principalities, knowing that darkness must flee from the light.
Processional models in Scripture
Processionals are a part of the pageantry of the Bible. To process means "to go forward". The simple act of walking forward is powerful in the spiritual realms because it represents the advancing armies of God. Let's go to the scripture accounts of some of the great processionals of all eternity. The first processionals are found in Genesis 2:19 and 7:14-16. Here the animals "parade" before Adam to be named, and then there is another animal procession as they come in pairs to enter Noah's ark. Notice that it is an orderly activity. You could say it was choreographed. It is right to plan and order our processions. (And recruit the appropriate participants!)
This orderliness appears again in Numbers 2:34. Israel camped by their standards (banners), and moved out (processed) in family groups, each with their father's household. This practice is a military function that we can model in our pageantry. An army is divided into troops, each with individual identities and assignments. Processionals can utilize this pattern by incorporating vignettes, or groups in which all the elements of the group contribute to a common proclamation or message.
In Joshua 3:17, we again see Israel processing, this time before the priests holding the Ark . As the priests stood there, Israel crossed the supernaturally dried-up Jordan river and entered the promised land. This was a procession that included a holy object--the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was a physical, visible reminder that the presence of God was the power holding back the waters of the river. In our processions today, it is biblically appropriate to use holy objects to represent the messages and truths to be expressed. We do this in the opening processional of the Eucharistic service. The cross, the torches and the book are physical elements of this processional that "speak" the truths of our faith.
Joshua 6:12-20 contains the account of the famous procession around Jericho. This procession had a battle plan: an order of the marchers, a set number of circuits, and a culminating "big finish" that included seven priests blowing seven trumpets and a collapsing city wall. You might say it was spectacular. God seems to love spectacle and uses it to communicate His power and purpose. He is a God who has presented Himself as a pillar of fire, and who has lifted up His own Son in the most passionate of spectacles--the crucifixion. We have every reason to make our pageantry as magnificent and awe-inspiring as possible, as it is meant to honor and proclaim this God of spectacle, splendor, and indescribable love.
One of my favorite processions is found in Exodus 33:18-23. Moses said to the Lord, "I pray Thee, show me now Thy glory!" And He said, "I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you.....You cannot see my face, for no man can see me and live!.....Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but my face shall not be seen." In this amazing account, God Himself processes before Moses, but takes care in the way He does it that Moses might not die. We should look for God to be in our processionals, as His presence and His glory goes before and after us. But we should also soberly recognize that God can only be approached successfully according to His own requirements.
There was a massive procession in 2 Samuel 6:12-15. It was the bringing back of the Ark to Mt. Zion from the house of Obed-Edom. The choreography seems to call for a sacrifice of oxen and fatlings every six paces. There was shouting, and the sound of a trumpet, with David dancing before the Lord with all his might, wearing a linen ephod. Here, the king's garments tell of his priestly role in the festivities. Garments are an important element in processionals, and can speak a vital part of the message. Processionals can sometimes be hard work, take a very long time and incur some expense. Imagine the extravagance of this offering of thanksgiving. If an average pace under the load of the Ark was 18 inches, and only two oxen and two fatlings were dispatched each time, that is 440 sacrificial stops and 1760 animals per mile! When you compute the time to kill and burn the offerings, you realize this procession could have taken days, perhaps weeks to accomplish. There can be great requirements of strength and time and resources in the doing of Biblical pageantry, as well as a need to organize and prepare gargantuan projects that don't make a lot of sense to the natural mind.
Jesus himself led a procession into heaven. Ephesians 4:8 says, "When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men." He also made an open spectacle of His enemies, "When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him." Colossians 2:15. When Jesus processes, the enemy is laid to waste, and gifts are given to men; gifts of revelation, healing, deliverance and blessing go out from the processional to be received by His people.
It was customary for the closest kin to the victor to lead out in celebration. In the event of the parting of the Red Sea, Miriam, the sister of Moses, led the celebration dance with a tambourine (Exodus 15:20). How much more should the church, the Bride of Christ, celebrate the victory of her champion, Jesus, and fulfill the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:13 "Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, and the young men and old men together..."
In the courts of the King...
Pageantry allows the King to display the beauty of His queen. In the book of Esther, King Ahasuerus has a six-month long party in which all the riches of his kingdom are exhibited. It is culminated by the celebration of a feast, in which the king orders the beautiful Queen Vashti to appear in her crown and be paraded for public viewing. The queen refused, and was subsequently deposed, making the way for Esther to become queen. The principle here is that the king has a right to display the beauty of his queen. When we participate in pageantry, we respond to the King's desire to show the glory of His Bride to the world. We foreshadow the great procession of Revelation 19, when Jesus comes on his white horse, displaying the beauty of all His saints behind Him, dressed in white linen.
The throne of God is a recurring theme in the pageantry of the Bible. Isaiah saw the Lord "high and lifted up", His train filling the temple. Ezekiel saw a vision of the throne with all manner of glorious manifestations surrounding it. John saw the throne of God in Revelation 4, and it is the focus of a great pageant of worship activity. Pageantry prepares us for this throne-room worship of eternity by exposing us to the etiquette of the King's court and by reminding us of the awesome deeds and wonders and character of our Holy God.
In Psalm 68:24 , the psalmist declares, "They have seen Thy procession, O God, the procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary". If they saw it, there must have been something to see! One of the strongholds that operates in the church today is the deception that we can worship God just by our thoughts and heart attitude. This is the dualistic thinking of the Greek mindset that seeks to destroy the godly Hebrew concept of the whole, integrated person of spirit, soul and body. "Thou shalt love the Lord Thy God with all of thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all they strength." (Deuteronomy 6:5). Love is an action verb! The expression and the demonstration of that love as we present our bodies is our "spiritual service" spoken of in Romans 12:1. As we join our strength and our emotions in the physical expression of our heart of worship, God is glorified in wholeness--the way He has ordained. An exchange takes place. An acceptable offering is received, and we are changed in the encounter. What makes pageantry powerful? It is the exchange that happens when we connect with the Holy God by following His rules and patterns for approaching and glorifying Him. In this true worship, incremental adjustments are made to our being as God conforms us to the image of His Son. His Word does not return to Him void, but accomplishes the purpose for which it is sent. When we are faithful to represent His Word in our pageantry, we will see the power of God move in our midst through this public, exhuberant expression which brings the gospel and the proclamation of God's sovereignty to the world, the principalities, and to the church.
This article was published in the April 2000 edition of Sursum Corda, the official publication of the International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church. It helped prepare many of the more than 2,000 who attended the International Convocation of the ICCEC, held in July of 2000 in San Juan Capistrano, CA. Helena was part of the team that prepared the environment and brought pageantry for the three day event.
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Great article, Helena!
I have named my house Obed-Edom because when I was about to move in, I read how "The Lord blessed his house and everything in it" I thought - yes, please Lord - that's for me!