Tag Archives: David

Is that Jesus dancing?

There is far too little tribal dancing in the church. That is my critique for the day, so if your train stop is coming up, you can stop reading, you’re good.

I think we may have finally “got it” the other night on Mardi Gras and “did the word”:

Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp” — Psalm 149

We did not have specialists interpreting with dance or waving flags and such (which is fine too); we just got out there and shook it as the common good we are.

We even had a flash mob moment in honor of Ben/Gwyn and Nate/Jen — which made Gwyneth teary over Uptown Funk.

Of course we did that! It’s in the Bible!:

Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow” — Jeremiah 31:13.

Jesus has saved us and made us his people. We’re happy. That’s a good enough reason to dance. So if you are getting off the train now, feel free to stop reading. You probably have what you need.

We have good reasons to dance

But I do want to point out that there are some more very good reasons to dance. I’m glad we exercised a few. Yes, people showed up for our party! –- and they even danced with nothing lubricating their system but fastnachts and root beer!

Dancing makes trust.

For most of us, it is hard to get out on the dance floor. Ra begged Gwen and me to get out there and get the party rolling, since nobody will dance at a dance for the first half hour. She reminded me of jr. high when I was in dance class and the teacher would taunt us boys to walk across the multipurpose room floor and ask a girl to waltz. Terror.

Being pushed out on the floor was threatening. It reminded me that people love looking at dancers and talking about how they dance. A couple of my dear friends were, indeed, rating the best COH dancers the other night. That’s scary. Some men, in particular, refused to dance all night and stood off to the side like the kids in the Lord’s quote: “They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: “‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance’” (Luke 7:32).

But when you get out on the floor and realize we are all in this together, heedless of the fear, forgetting the judgment, and despising our shame, it loosens the place in us that trusts God and works trust into our very bodies! And getting out there does wonders for trusting others, too. Dancing with someone is pretty intimate, pretty vulnerable – its trusting someone because you think they love you enough to do so. We need that. Dancing is a trust system and we want to live in one.

Dancing commits us to joy

Very few people can dance with the tribe without a smile on their face. I suppose that’s why the Baptists I worked for were against it. Actually these Baptists were privately pretty fun and happy, but publicly they were straight-laced and sober because they thought that was being holy and they didn’t want anyone to know they were secretly a lot less perfect than they appeared. For quite a few years my dancing instincts were squashed by the Bible lovers who ignored all the dancing in the Bible.

They were like Michal watching David dance when you’d think everyone would want to be as out-of-control holy as David was: “Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets. As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart” (2. Sam 6). I don’t know, for sure, why Michal despised David, but she sure was not increasing the joy in town that day!

There cannot be too much joy, even when things are bad and people are bad and they don’t deserve to be joyful – or insert any Michal-like judgment you feel here____. The fact is, most of us are not Michals and it makes us happy to see you dance. It probably makes you happier too.

Dancing represents a common good.

One time, a long time ago now, a close-knit church I was in realized that they felt really good whenever someone got married and the whole church got our on the floor at the reception and danced like one big group, partners notwithstanding. A few times they made such a positive impression with their happiness and togetherness that it became the talk of the rest of the guests and the bride and groom were proud of their cool, Christian friends. So we decided to hold a dance for All Saints Day. The one glitch was that the Brethren in Christ also thought dancing was not a holy thing to do. So we asked the bishop to give us a special dispensation. He did not think we would fall into sin, so he dispensed with the policy. I’m not sure he had the power to do that, but we went ahead.

Heimo Christian Haikala, “Christ Dancing on the Sea of Galilee.” Oil on canvas. Source: http://www.heimohaikala.com

In a communal group like the BIC, dancing is a great visual aid. It is an incarnational demonstration of being the visible body doing what Jesus does. At least it represents God’s mindset as Jesus describes it in the story of the lost son. The father says, “Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing (Luke 15).

You could have “heard” our dancing a long way off on Mardi Gras! — stomping, hooting, Cyndi Lauper wailing about girls and fun. It drew quite a few people into our common good. Near the end I was dancing with a group of men who were finally into it. One of them came in mentally worn out and for a while got some relief. He could feel his spirit rise. That’s what Jesus does. We hope to dip people in the music of his body to share some happy resonance.

Everything else we do builds trust, joy and the common good, as well. But I really like it when we dance — even though it is kind of silly for me to dance. We don’t hear about Jesus dancing (I bet he did, though) –- but we do hear a lot about people thinking he was silly, and we still hear that directed at us whenever we act like Him, too. His whole life was kind of out on the dance floor, wasn’t it? — asking people to dance, making people know joy, demonstrating a different way to live. Our Mardi Gras party was a good training.

Devising Ways for Reconciliation

Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die.
But God does not take away life;
instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him.
2 Samuel 14

I was happy to speak to a great “audience” on Sunday at the Madison Street Church. One of their great gifts to the world is to accept someone as they are and envelope them  in their long love for each other. I was happy to have been there at the beginning of that love and to still be included, though living far from the wind-swept skies of California.

Pains and losses of long loves

I had a great weekend. The weather was spectacular; the celebration was moving; the time for renewed friendship was precious. But lurking in the background of the joy and love was the pain and losses of long lives, long loves and long mission. The same background was threaded through the scripture I used for my Sunday message. I am still pondering the reality.

I am especially interested in how hard it was for David to let go of his losses and let Absalom return to the kingdom. He lost the integrity of his family when his son Amnon raped his half-sister Tamar. He lost his son Amnon to murder. He lost his son Absalom to banishment. He would not let go of his losses and let Absalom return, even though his holding on to them created new loss, as he continually mourned the absence of his son.

Do you unconsciously hold on to your loss, sometimes, like I do? It is like we feel it would be unjust of us to not hold on to the losses we carry – the lost virginity, the lost integrity, the lost love, the lost health, the lost opportunity, the lost years. We own our losses them like they form our identity. Our lives can be so threaded with what we’ve lost, the feelings twine around our hearts and strangle us.

Lost friendships

I am especially thinking about the lost friendships that weigh on us. I was in my home town this weekend and I couldn’t help but feel sorry about the dear friends of our youth that we couldn’t even locate anymore. And I couldn’t help but hear about the losses incurred among families and between parents and children. The scripture above implies that such feelings are inevitable, since we are like spilled water on the ground. What has happened has happened. Our life is moving to death, so every day has some death in it.

But since we have God on our side we have life to hold on to. I have often experienced him breaking the hold of loss on me that I am holding on to. We know so well that in Jesus God brings us eternal life. Grasping that in the middle of our dying is the secret to our joy in Christ, isn’t it? Especially when it comes to the losses we experience in our relationships, we really need to go with God’s eternal strategy and devise ways for loves that can be renewed to be renewed. If the banished can return, we need to help with the process, not just mourn. God has gone to great lengths to reverse my self-banishment. I need to follow his example. Whether I have been so hurt I banished someone, or I hurt someone so badly they banished themselves, or whether we were both just stupid and we got unwittingly banished, I need to devise a way to reconciliation. What’s more, for all the people who are self-banished from God, I need to work with Jesus on God’s great plan for reconciliation.

It is a season of reconciliation among the Circle of Hope. I have been glad to see hearts softening and banishments ended. I doubt we will get it all done during Lent. Some people have been driven far away from us and from God. Some devices will be hard to invent and harder to implement. It could take years. But if we are close to the heart of God, I don’t see how own hearts would become adept at much that is better than strategizing for reconciliation.