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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Dance Like Everyone Is Watching

2015-07-12 Dance Like Everyone is Watching

2 Samuel 6:5, 12b-22

Mark 6:18-29


Oh. I left out an announcement this morning. This one got handed to me late.


"The Presbyterian Women will meet in the parking lot immediately after worship to carpool to the Magic Mike movie."


I don't know much about this movie, but I guess it's about a magician? Named Michael? I hear he also dances?


I'm starting to wonder if this announcement is a prank. You'll have to ask Cheryl and Debbie. They're the ones who handed it to me.


Dancing. It's always caused problems. No wonder the Baptists just say no. Have to nip it, nip it in the bud. And for good reason, which we'll hear about in just a minute.


Remember when TV wouldn't show Elvis below the waist? Or when people thought "Dirty Dancing" was? Or when the Lambada was the "forbidden dance"? Or the Macarena? That was only forbidden when your parents tried to do it.


Now we've got Magic Mikes and Miley gettin' twerky at the Home Depot.

So You Think You Can Dance? Try Dancing with the Stars. Be a Dance Mom. Maybe you have Dance Fever. Boogie Fever. Saturday Night Fever. Or maybe it's just a really bad twitch.


Every generation says the new generation's a mess. The music is just noise. The manners are atrocious. Their work ethic is non-existent.


And their dancing! Oh. My. Gosh. Lookit… No, don't. Every generation has unique moves and they're always controversial. There was a time when The Charleston was scandalous. And The Twist. Out with the old, in with the new. Dance is a symbol of departure.


Dance - if it's popular - is always public. Those motivational signs say, "Dance like nobody's watching." No, no no. That defeats the purpose. People are SUPPOSED to see you dancing. Dance is self-expression. Dance is the outward expression of inward stuff. Beautiful stuff. Good stuff. Weird stuff. And sometimes new stuff. Dangerous stuff. Strange gyrations. Dance can be - and often is - a brazen act of rebellion. Don't believe me? Just watch. Not me. Watch Bruno. Watch Beyonce. Serious moves, there. But it's not the moves as much as the attitude. It's more the stance than the steps.


I'm not a Doctor of Dance or anything, but I'm pretty sure this is true: Dancing doesn't CAUSE problems. The problems - or opportunities - are already there, at large, in society. Dick Clark knew it. He televised the revolution. Whenever there's a new dance sensation sweepin' the nation, look at what's happening. Dance is a signal that the times, they are a-changin'. The world's about to wiggle, to pivot, plie, and grand jete. Lives are in limbo.


I'm pretty sure that's true. At least, it was in the Bible. We see it both scriptures today. People danced, times changed, and God moved.




Once upon a time, after long years of building his kingdom, David finally had the holiest thing on earth brought to Jerusalem. The ark of the covenant. As the ark is wheeled into the city, David leads the big parade. David dances. Dances like a wild man, wearing only his ephod. What's an ephod? Apparently, not much. Spinning, twisting, jumping. Kicking high.


Meanwhile, David's wife Michal looks down from a window and sees him dancing and whirling in the presence of the Lord, and she despises him in her heart.


When he comes home, she says, "What a glorious day for the king of Israel, when he made an exhibition of himself in the sight of his servants' slave-girls, as any vulgar clown might do."


("Why, those slave girls could see right up your ephod.")


David's unmoved. "Before the Lord I shall dance for joy, yes. And I shall earn more disgrace and demean myself still more in your eyes. But those slave girls of whom you speak -- they will hold me in honor for it."


So, was David dancing for the Lord, or for the slave girls? The Bible leaves that one unanswered. Which was more important to him: God or public opinion? We don't know.


What we do know, is that with the Ark in his possession, the Davidic Dynasty of Israel took its place in history. The world of the Bible twisted and shouted. This was the grand sign of God's delight. It turned into a sign that David's heir, Jesus, King of Kings, the true Lord of the Dance, was someday gonna shake things up, more than even David's fans could ever imagine.




Fast forward about 900 years. John the Baptist would take them to the river and wash them in the water. The Holy Land that King David once ruled is now overseen by Rome's puppet dictator, Herod. And Herod is married to Herodias, the instigator of a whole new craze.


Herodias loved the night life. She had dumped her husband, semi-king Philip to run off with his brother, Herod, who had more power and a bigger house. Herodias and her tart of a teenage daughter, Salome, moved into the castle with Herod, who wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer. Herod enjoyed having his porters port him down to the River Jordan so he could listen to the funny little preacher John, who kept shoving people under the water.


Unfortunately, the ONE day Herodias shows up for church the sermon is about HER. Could have come on Christmas or Easter like normal people, but no, she had to show up on the Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time when the scripture was Mark 6. I don't know if Herodias disliked all Baptists, but she sure didn't like John The, and this sealed the deal. She started to look for a way to get rid of John, permanently.


On his birthday, King Herod threw a monster party for himself. Invited all the bigwigs. TMZ and Us Weekly sent paparazzi. Drinkin and dancin all night long. And then, Herod's niece and stepdaughter, the lovely young Salome enters the ballroom. She does a dance that would embarrass Nikki Minaj. And King Herod, after a bit too much refreshment, is, the Bible says, "delighted."


So before his crowd of guests, he swears an oath to Salome. "Ask me for anything you like, and I will give it to you. Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom." Salome's cute, but not too swift, so she runs to her momma, the wicked queen Herodias, to ask what she should ask for. "Tell him," says Herodias, "tell him you want the head of John the Baptist on a plate." Ask and ye shall receive. Dance over.*


(*But the Lord works in mysterious ways. A couple of years later, Herod dumps Herodias and in a Woody Allen move, marries Salome. And so, barring some sort of pre-nup that the Bible doesn't mention, Salome would, then, have been entitled to half the kingdom after all. While all Herodias got was a preacher's head on a platter.)


So once again, a dance is the signal of a change. A HUGE change. The focus shifts from the pointer to the pointee, from John who proclaimed repentance, to Jesus, who preached salvation, liberation, and mercy. From the house and lineage of David comes the King of Kings. Dance step 1, to dance step 2, to step 3, the Lord OF the Dance.




So, how's your dance going?


We live in dangerous times, hopeful times, changing times. How does God's dance go for us? What are the steps?


What's the appropriate outward expression of our inward soul, in OUR day and time? You put your right foot in. You put your right foot out. Swing to the left, swing to the right. Spin in dizzy circles where you are. Sometimes it seems like we're doing them all at once. Desperately trying to keep up. I think we're all kind of waiting for someone to take our hand and show us the moves. Here, do this, do that, and it'll all be OK.


But something we learn from the Bible is that it's never that easy. We have our graceful moments, you and I. We have times when the party of life and the gliding of the living Spirit seem to take us over. Things just flow. Those are times when we're better than ourselves. Times when we do or say things that are smarter or more compassionate than we have any right to be. Those are the times when Christ catches our hand for just a second. We're no longer self-indulged. We're no longer indulging our lusts for public opinion or revenge or Facebook visibility. We're just God-indulged.


And then as quickly as the moment comes, we're spinning away from God again. Stumbling over our feet, our words, our lack of the grace-full. The dance floor takes yet another seismic shift beneath us. We struggle to find our orientation.


The Bible is a testament to us. An old and a new testament. A command -  to keep hanging on, to keep reaching out. Because just as the people of scripture, some good, some not-so-good, some tripping straight down the road to destruction... just as the people of the Bible held out hope that the Lord's hand would once again find theirs... so we can hope, and so we can trust. So we can know that the Lord of the Dance will once again turn our direction, lifting us up, and turning our world around for good.


Dance, then, whoever you may be. Dance, then, because God is inviting you to dance at this brief party of life. Everybody dance now. A little closer. Closer to God. Closer to the people nearby. Closer to the earth. Dance then, and wherever you may be, keep reaching out so everyone can see the good inside you. Squeeze the hand of the leader, Christ Jesus. And let that be a sign unto you.