Jesus and Dancing
by Kerra from PA
based on 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19
Todays liturgy comes from a worship service designed by Ann Weems called Jesus
and Dancing. In it the messenger steps out into a single spotlight and announces to
the congregation, In the book Footnotes and Headlines, Corita Kent quotes Jerome
Murphy as saying: If we left it to the Spirit there would be nothing in the church
but Jesus and dancing. Thats right. If we left it to the Spirit, there would
only be the Way and celebrating, The Love and the alleluias. The Living and the joy. The
Gift and the thank you. The Song and the singing. The Good News and the shouting. But do
we believe it? Were given abundance and we complain. Every day is a birthday and we
walk around lifeless. God gives us Light and we close our eyes. God hands us Christmas and
we yawn. The miracle is that God is always there, not dwelling on our chaos and our
deadness, but offering us change: Life Joy Song Dance. What would it
take to snap you awake? What would it take to make you alive and free to react, to
respond, to live to Gods music?
Once there was a time when you danced. Remember? You werent afraid to dance then.
Once you would cry and laugh and dance and sing. Once you could be angry and direct your
anger appropriately. Once you could love fiercely. Unless you turn and become like
When I think about Jesus and the children, I think about openness,
about open arms his and theirs. I think about holding and cherishing. I think about
flowers and games in the sun. I think about squealing and giggling and unrestrained
laughter. I think about the spirit with which he received them, accepting, loving, seeing
the aliveness that adults often forfeit for security and prestige. I think of their
spirit, trusting, free, ready, eager. For such is the kingdom. Should we
sh-h-h-h the Kingdom of God?
Ann Weems is one of todays champions of the gospel. In words both simple and
eloquent, she tells the truth of Holy Scripture a truth that we long for, and a
truth that scares us to pieces. What does it mean to become a church that is all Jesus and
dancing? What does it mean to become alive in the gospel? What does it mean to cease from
shushing the Kingdom of God? All very important questions that have no easy answers.
My impression of Sunday Schools past is very similar to that of Ann Weems that it
was a place where children were taught manners, politeness, appropriate dress,
memorization of scripture verses, and singing but were taught very little about the
truth of the gospel. In my younger days, Sunday School was already beginning to wane in
attendance, but I did get the impression that it was about minding my ps and qs
(whatever ps and qs stand for.) The more my questions dove into the heart of
the gospel, the more reluctant the Sunday School teacher was to answer them, and the more
she would blush at my insistance, the more times I was sent to the pastor or back home to
try to get some real answers.
Doesnt it seem funny to you that Jesus says that its children who really
understand the gospel best, and yet we do our best to hide its complexities from them.
Children are much more tuned in than we give them credit for. Cade has known the tones,
both good and bad, of our voices for a long time, and yet he still can only speak a few
words. His first learned word that initiated a response in him was shimmy, his
form of dancing. Its ironic that his first efforts at communication were ones of
Portions of the story of Davids rise to power and exertion of that power are
often found in childrens Bibles, but the story as its told, has all the
complexities of intensely adult levels of emotional anxiety. For instance, this story
about Davids dancing before the ark tells of Davids yearning to enjoy God, his
struggle to please God, and his fear of displeasing God all feelings we too tend to
bottle up inside.
Davids first thought given to this honor of parading with the ark of the covenant
is to rejoice, to offer praise, to dance joyfully, wonderfully, and prayerfully at the
head of the celebration. David was selected for royal intentions as a boy, so some of that
boyish eagerness was still very much a part of him. He led the whole house of Israel in
celebrating in a festival atmosphere.
However, the carnival spirit was snuffed out when Uzzah reached out his hand to steady
the ark, and as the text reads, he was struck down dead by Gods hand. For centuries
later, weve been trying to figure out what this means. My best guess is that Uzzah
didnt want the party to get out of hand. He stepped in to control it, to censor the
dancing, to disallow any to and fro swaying of this holiest of the sacred relics. Why this
would kill him, or so kindle Gods anger against him is still a mystery. However, I
think that the message to us is something like Dont mess with Gods
party. It may carry some negative consequences.
The interpretation of this act as an act of Gods wrath killed the party spirit in
David too. He became so afraid of what he might do wrong that he sent the ark to someone
elses house instead of bringing it back into his care in his home city. He only
brought it back when he heard about the great blessings it brought to Obed-edom and his
family. When we let God in, it invites blessings, and the blessings sometimes scare us
more than the predictable regularity of our all too normal days.
There are other tangents to the story about Sauls daughter railing on David for
his dancing display, and the barrenness it brought to her. Theres Davids own
back and forth with God as to his emotions of joy and fear. But like in so many other
stories of scripture, the message is DANCE, enjoy, this is your life. Its a gift.
Dont waste it by being a sour-faced censor. Dont bash people who are having
fun. Dont poop on Gods party. It wont be good for your health. If youre
not quite sure yet that you can trust in such a lively gospel one that sounds
suspiciously contemporary and perhaps not very Presbyterian, try to recall the first
question of the Westminster Catechism. It asks the learners of formal Christian doctrine,
What is the chief end of man? (Today we might say of humankind.) The
surprising answer is that the chief end for us all is to glorify God, and enjoy God
forever. That doesnt sound like an answer many Christians would formulate today. In
fact, Christians, modern American Christians, are often stereotyped as hard-nosed,
What are we going to do to change our image? What are we going to do to allow the
Spirit to fill our churches with Jesus and dancing? What are we going to do to welcome the
children (not to make the church grow) but to learn what it means to live into the kingdom
It is a criticism of our current ways to be sure. The Presbyterian Church continues to
be known more by conflict than joy, more by decline than by laughter, more by its head
than its heart. It makes me sad. My church, the church I love, struggles to be faithful to
the heart of the gospel and sometimes it seems as though were losing that
struggle. But I take hope from Davids story that we havent quit dancing, we
havent quit yearning for Gods blessing, weve just gotten scared that we
might get something wrong so we keep God at arms length at the house of our Gittite
In many other nations, especially in Korea and the African countries, the church is
thriving on Jesus and dancing. In other denominations, theres a real zeal for the
joy of the gospel even when the theology can be somewhat shallow. In non-church
goers, there is a revival of spirit and good news that is taking place far apart from
organized religion. Its a jolt to be sure.
Another way Ive heard the question raised is that on that final day, when we meet
God one on one, the divine judgment wont be about what we did or didnt do, or
what we got right and what we got wrong, God will simply ask us, So, did you have a
Why else would God give us so much? It isnt for us to be the keepers of the
straight and narrow, thats for sure. The folks with whom Jesus ministered were about
as diverse as we can think of, and yet he offered the same gifts to all of them, the Way,
the Truth, and the Life.
I could recount a bizillion stories, some scriptural, some inspirational, some
fictional, some that happened to people I know that tell and retell this truth about Gods
desire for us to be dancers, at least spiritual dancers even if were awkward on our
feet. Our souls ought to dance with the good news that God loves us and offers us the
world. Ill close again with the messengers final words:
"Is there an alleluia deep inside you growing rusty? Awake and stand in the light.
Praise Gods name with singing and dancing! Unbutton yourselves and stand open to
catch the wind. May they say of us: They are drunk on new wine
. The new wine of the
Weems, Ann. Reaching for Rainbows: Resources for Creative Worship. The Westminster
Press: Philadelphia, 1980. pp. 91-99. Jesus and Dancing.