This is a picture of an Indian woman adorned for her wedding day. She is dressed in symbols of flowers, gold, rubies and even henna, going so far as to decorate her very skin for the big day. But most importantly, she is wearing a red sari. Just like nobody wears white at a western wedding, nobody wears red at an Indian ceremony. Red is the bride’s color. It is the color of the rising sun. The color of new life, new beginnings. The color of resurrection.
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-10
So, when you picture the Bride of Christ at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, what do you see? It’s likely that most of us see a white woman in a white wedding dress, designed by Vera Wang. We don’t see red saris. And when we picture the throne room of God in the New Heavens and the New Earth, many of us probably picture this:
And the truth of it is, that’s okay. There’s no need to worship like other cultures do, just because those expressions of worship aren’t as popular. I say, if you’re a westerner, worship like a westerner. On my wedding day, my wife didn’t wear red. She wore white, because for us as Americans that symbolizes her purity before our community, her holiness before God, and her beauty before me. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way. She was (and is) the most lovely one in the room, and the traditions of our culture meant something to us that day.
But the problem comes when we train foreigners to worship like us. You might say, “Well Adam. We can’t allow worship that way because it’s worship for other gods.” Well maybe it should be for Jesus. The Indian Holi festival (pictured above) may have symbolic meaning rooted in Hinduism, but that doesn’t change the fact that acting like sweet, innocent children and chucking fistful’s of vibrant color in the air is a breathtaking act of worship. Maybe the reason it only exists for Hindus is because they don’t know there’s a Jesus to throw paint with.
The point is, it’s not about the expression, it’s about the Jesus. Once Jesus is the center of our worship, we’re free to express our worship in whichever cultural context we choose. And when we go on mission, it is Jesus that we bring, not culture that we take. As we prepare ourselves for a multicultural throne room in Heaven, may we bring it to Earth by releasing all of God’s people to worship Him in their own unique expression. As a celebration of that, I leave you with some unique forms of worship from around the world: