Life In His Name - Week 2: Dance
Over the next several weeks we'll not only be celebrating the season of Easter--which will continue until Pentecost in May--we will also be seeking to answer a very important question. The question that we'll be wrestling with is simply this: Jesus is risen, now what?
We celebrated Easter, we got excited, we sang, praised, proclaimed and otherwise lifted up the notion that Jesus is risen. But what does it mean that Jesus is risen? What does the Resurrection mean to you and to me--especially during this time after the big celebrations, after the build up and the big event?
I believe that we are Resurrection People called to live in the name of Jesus. We are called to live abundant, purpose-filled joyous, intense, engaging lives--lives lived in hope. As we learned last week, those who have hope must live different lives--a life lived in hope will inherently be different as opposed to a life lived without it.
How do we live into the hope of the Resurrection on a daily basis? Well, as we noted last week, the answer to this question is to live our lives in the name of the risen Jesus.
Which is why we called this series, "Life In His Name." When we live our lives in the name of the risen Jesus--we find joy that we never knew was possible.
And we also express that joy in interesting ways. We might sing, for example or dance or play or simply live. Over the course of this series, we are going to explore what it means to live into the hope of the Resurrection to fulfill our destiny as Resurrection people--to sing, dance, play and live.
Today we're going to step into the next installment of this series, a sermon entitled: Dance.
I want us to remember this one thing as we move forward together today--if you remember nothing else, I want you to remember this: Living in the name of Jesus gives you the chance to truly dance.
I am a terrible dancer. Let's just get that out of the way. But I will dance on occasion. My wife is the only person on the face of this earth that will get me to slow dance. The only time that I will really dance it up is if there are way too many people on the dance floor and I can just do my thing without anyone really caring.
Back in the 80's we just did a lot of navel gazing dancing that you could do without really knowing how to dance. Now I need to spend hours practicing in front of Youtube before I go to a wedding just in case they play "The Wobble."
I am aware that there is a show called Dancing With the Stars. I say I am aware of this show because I have not actually watched it. But apparently lots of people do. Right now my man Von Miller, the MVP of Super Bowl 50 who happens to be one of the World Champion Denver Broncos--is on Dancing With The Stars.
That's all I know. In fact, that's all I need to know.
But lots of you probably watch this show, and I applaud you for it. Millions of people tune in every week to watch football players, actors, musical artists and the like learn how to dance like professionals in a very short amount of time. Why? Why do we watch a dancing show about people who can't dance, actually dancing?
I think it's because it tells us something that we long to hear. "You could do this. You, too, could be a dancer if you only had the right music, instructor... if you practiced a bit (they don't show you the hours upon hours of practice it actually takes, mind you) and if you actually had rhythm.
And the truth is... when we're alone, and when no one is watching, we dance... Oh yeah, we dance like flipping Fred Astaire... like Michael Jackson moonwalking... like Usher in a music video... like Super Bowl MVP Von Miller. Of the World Champion Denver Broncos.
There's something very human about dancing isn't there? It's like we were created with this desire to move when the music moves us. When you think about it, there's something so joyous, so freeing about dancing that it's... almost holy. And when you are dancing for joy and it is holy... it's like worship.
One of my favorite stories in the Bible comes to us from 2 Samuel 6:12-23--the story of the great King David dancing in his underwear. Let's read:
12 Now King David was told, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. 13 When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. 14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, 15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.
16 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.
17 They brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.
20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”
21 David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”
So in this story David is returning the Ark of the Covenant to the city of Jerusalem. He's doing this as a final kind of symbol of the legitimacy of his kingship after the death of his rival and former father-in-law King Saul and his son Jonathan.
As he's coming in to the city, Saul's daughter and David's former wife Michal is watching from a window. I say former wife, but she was actually still his wife--kind of. They'd once loved each other when David wasn't a threat to Saul, and before he'd had to run for his life for fear that Saul was going to kill him. David spent years away from Michal, who was remarried to another man in the interim.
Upon Saul's death, David claimed the throne and reclaimed the Ark of the Covenant as well. But he also reclaimed Michal as his wife--further legitimizing his connection to Saul and to the throne of Israel. It's hard to say how Michal felt about being passed around, but it's not hard to say how she felt about David in this moment.
David dons a linen "ephod" it says in the text. This was actually priestly underwear. What the priest would wear under his priestly garments. And David took this ephod and gathered it up so he could do some serious dancing.
Dancing in the ancient Near East was a lot like Middle Eastern folk dancing that you may have seen on TV. There was a lot of whirling, jumping and gymnastics involved in these ancient forms of dance. Archaeologists have discovered depictions of ancient Hittite dancers from this time period. Interestingly, there were dances that involved queens, but definitely not a king.
It was unseemly for a king to do such things. It was also possible that as David whirled around dancing he was actually flashing all of the young girls who were dancing around him. Nice, right?
So Michal is not amused by this. She despises him for being so unseemly. Her jealousy and contempt for him is evident. She believes him to be riffraff---she is royalty. She's also oblivious to what is actually happening.
You see, David was dancing before the Lord. The only ruler that could bring a king to do something so undignified was God himself. David was debasing himself, but lifting up God as a result.
The text goes on to tell us something incredible shocking and sobering about Michal. It says that because of her missing the point and despising David she never has children. We have to consider the context when we read that part of the text, to be sure. Not being able to have children in the ancient Near East was a sign that God had cursed you.
The implication here is that because of her contempt of David as he worshipped, Michal missed out on what was considered the ultimate blessing in her culture.
Here's an interesting question for you... Where do you find yourself in this story?
Are you watching from the window?
Or are you dancing in the streets?
Let's do something crazy... let's dance.
There's this fascinating Greek word that was coined by ancient Christian theologians who were trying to understand the complex notion of the Trinity--the idea that God is three in One. That God is one, but that God also has three distinct expressions: Father, Son and Spirit.
So this Greek word that these ancient theologians came up with is the word perichorisis. What does this word mean? Essentially it means, "Holy Dance." The idea that these ancient theologians had was that the Father, Son and Spirit are indeed one, but also three distinct "persons." And the three persons of the Trinity are engaged in an eternal holy dance. This dance is one filled with joy, defined by love and eternally expressed in this world and the next.
Sometimes the Father leads, sometimes the Son and sometimes the Spirit. Complete unity in diversity, distinct yet indistinguishable, one and three. And joyous--so joyous. The Father delights in the Son, the Son delights in the Father and the Father and Son delight in the Spirit--eternally dancing, spinning, and filled with love for one another.
There are times--when I look into the night sky that is choked with stars, for example--that I am so aware of the Father and his creative, beautiful love. There are times when I am filled with joy at the resurrection power of the Son--when I see a marriage saved, an addict sobered up, the poor lifted up... what was left for dead come back to life.
Then there times when the Spirit is all around me and I feel a thickness in the world, like anything is possible, that goodness is actually going to prevail.
What if this is something that is in all of us? If we believe that we are created in the image of God then it stand to reason that this joyous desire to dance a holy and eternal dance is within us--part of who we really are.
Living into the hope of the Resurrection gives us the freedom to embrace our true selves. And living in the name of Jesus gives you the chance to truly dance.
So back to our questions from earlier. In the story of David, where do you find yourself? Are you watching from the window? Are you always hanging back, refusing to dance? Refusing to join in the joy, never moving from the wall? Looking down with contempt on the people who decide to join in, perhaps?
Or are you dancing in the streets? Are you worshipping God with your whole life with joy and abandon? Are you filled with the joy of the Lord--not caring what you look like, or how it seems to others? Are you the person whose always moving in rhythm with whatever God seems to be up to in the world--finding joy in serving, giving, celebrating God's grace for the broken and messed up of the world?
Some of you made the choice to get up and dance a bit earlier. Some of you didn't. There were some of you who thought for a second, "I might do this." But then the moment came and went, and you didn't do it. It passed you by.
There may have been some of you who wanted to dance, but you couldn't. You couldn't get up or you would have--listen, brother, sister... you danced. You totally danced.
There may also be some people here who looked with contempt on the whole proceedings. "Look at those idiots." "Here goes Pastor Leon again." "Disgraceful."
I need to say something about worship styles while I'm at it. When you see someone worshipping in a way that gives them joy, that draws them closer to God, that fills them with the Spirit---then who are you to say that's a terrible way to worship.
Your choice of worship style is a personal preference, not a mandate for all other human beings. Don't despise someone because their worship preference is different from yours. There are a lot of ways to do this, people. As long... as long as we worship with the kind of spiritual abandon that David exhibited.
If someone is experiencing the joy of the Lord, and you are griping and complaining about it, then chances are you're sitting on the window and not dancing in the streets.
How long are you going to keep doing that?
How long are you going to just watch other people dance, and assume you can't?
How long will you sit at the window missing out on the blessings of God?
When you could be dancing in the street... When you could be living your life with wild abandon. When you could be kicking off your shoes and jumping into the pit with all of the other people of the Resurrection who feel the joy, who hear the song that God is singing and can't keep from dancing...?
Isn't it time you left the window?
Because living in the name of Jesus gives you the chance to truly dance.