And David Danced With All His Might
a sermon based on 2 Samuel 6:12-19
by Rev. Thomas Hall
Dancing is a biblical form of worship. In the
Hebrew Scriptures, folks pushed the tables back and got the accordion out for special
occasions-weddings, funerals, bar and bat mitzvahs, birthdays, for having clobbered their
enemies, or when experiencing a heightened sense of Gods presence, when the baby
took his or her first step, when the kid finally graduated from high school, when grandma
came to visit, when the in-laws finally left, and even for a successful return from
Thursday night knitting. Anything could be grounds for offering God a dance.
I remember once being a guest at several kibbutzim along the West Bank in Israel. We
would first eat a community supper, usually in a plane hangar, then everyone would push
the tables and chairs aside and someone would get the accordion out and the dancing would
begin. We would join hands and form a huge circle and slowly begin to dance. But with each
strain of music, we would spin faster and faster around that huge room, kicking our feet
and clapping our hand and singing joyously. Just outside, women and men would have their
carbines ready and their eagle eyes scanning the horizon for any movement around the camp.
Life on Israeli kibbutzim was always lived in the valley of the shadow of death.
Well, Im not Jewish and youll never see that Id Rather be Dancing
bumper sticker plastered on my Toyota. Its just not dignified for ministers to go
around doing the Charleston every time theyre asked to pray. Besides, I grew up
believing that dancing is not a good thing to do. That it was actually "worldly"
and since I was a Christian I could no longer do worldly things-no matter how much fun
they were. So Ive gone on my way never dancing. No matter. I couldnt dance
this new stuff anyway. Have you seen these new dance steps? You just stand up and jiggle a
little here and there and shuffle your feet a little. No, Im no Fred Astaire, but
dancing is a symbol of joy that makes me envious of my Jewish and non-Jewish dancing
Our text brings us to the dance floor this morning. Did you pick up on that part of the
first lesson? A lot of dancing going on. David dancing before the Lord, because Gods
presence being paraded into Jerusalem. Hes got plenty reason to dance. His kingdom
is united-the north and the south are finally glued back together. Hes got a neutral
city-Jerusalem-that allows both groups to gather at.
But as the parade makes its way near to Jerusalem a tragic thing happens. A man tries
to steady the ark with his hand. He immediately falls down and dies. The parade stops in
its tracks. No one dares to move this Ark of the Covenant any further. Dangerous stuff,
Gods awesome presence is. Gods holiness is nothing to joke about.
So the ark gets stashed away in the garage of Obed-edom. Strange thing, though. He
doesnt die. In fact, he prospers! Word soon hits the street that Obeds
wife-whos nearing retirement has suddenly gotten pregnant. Not only that, but just
look at Obeds weed-infested fields. Whey theyre covered with flax. The writer
wants us to know that good things are happening in Obeds life, and it has something
to do with this box containing Gods presence that sits in his garage.
Well, David decides to try and bring this unusual box back to Jerusalem. Now, he knows
good and well that one person has already died for treating it like an old couch, pushing
it around. But he sees how Obed has prospered in the presence of God whose presence
resides in the box. So David takes the risk. And the risk pays off-no more casualties,
only the promise that God is again present with the Israelites. So delighted that no one
gets bumped off by God, David dons an ephod. Ever seen an ephod? Its a short,
one-piece cloth that allows for much exposure. David puts this thing on and begins to
dance and scamper around the ark. Not a very dignified thing to do. Can you imagine
someone the stature of George W. wearing purple leotards and leaping gazelle-like out to
the rose garden to meet Israels prime minister? Pretty strange.
Leave it to his spouse to bring him back down to reality; to point out what Dear Abby
says about the proper deportment of kings. She really lets him have it. Makes derision of
his dance. Dancing? In church? "Come on, David, wake up call. Have you forgotten that
you are on the board of regents at Valley Forge Christian College; that you sit as the
prime minister of your country?" But I dont think David hears too much from his
critic. He still revels in the dance. He cant get his mind off that little
freckle-faced kid who started to laugh and mimic him. Began to dance and leap and praise
God like him. He had thrown him a raisin cake. Had thrown thousands of raisin cakes and
given away a truckload of sirloin cuts too. What a day!
So what is this story about anyway? Does this story confirm line-dancing in the church?
Or maybe is this a story about how we should be generous? Or that we can enjoy some
light-hearted moments before God every once in awhile? You know, to throw caution to the
wind and let fly a few unscheduled hallelujahs?
But something inside me wants to press closer to this passage and ask David if
hes ever tried to dance with the devil on his back? "Hey David, you ever
offered unrestrained worship while Rock of Ages filters through speakers in a room full of
people who look at their loved one, speaking in hushed whispers? Its hard to dance
when you take that final look. Hard to dance when the medical specialists says,
"Im sorry, its spread to your lymph nodes." Its hard to dance when
the person youve loved for better or for worse, in sickness and in health has become
unfaithful. Its hard to dance when you see a friend standing wordless on your porch
at 1 am. Her streaked eye-liner tells you that her boyfriends been drinking again.
"Sure, David, go ahead and dance when youre king and everythings going
well. But you come on down here with the rest of us and see how well you can dance.
Thats what Id like to say to David. Except to say that maybe David knew
something about dancing that we dont know. Maybe David discovered that God calls us
to the dance floor not because things are going well for us, but because of who God is.
Maybe our passage questions the very reason we come to church. Do we come to church to get
our needs met or to ascribe worth and value to God? David could dance when no other court
officials would be caught dead near the parade grounds because he was aware of something.
He became aware that God was present. That no matter what happened-good or bad, life or
death-God was present and thats what really matters after all.
The dance God calls us to is based upon an awareness that our mysterious God is so in
love with us that he came to dance the dance of death on our behalf, so that we could
dance the dance of life. So, every once in awhile we dedicate a dance in Gods honor.
In the face of suffering our dance becomes an act of deep conviction-that God will never
leave us nor forsake us. In the face of the valley of the shadow of death we offer the
dance of presence because we are convinced that "thou art with me."
Were never too old to dance. Just ask our older adults around here. Recently on
one of our patriotic days, they celebrated at their meeting. They saluted, played taps,
and participated in a sing-a-long that rivaled Madonna on tour. Then one of them came to
me with a request. Could she offer us a solo? I noticed hat this person had a nebulizer
pack around her shoulder. "Sure," I said in my official capacity of chaplain.
With a cane to guide her, she finally got up in front of us and then she took out her
harmonica-Key of C-and began to play Amazing Grace. The deep inhaling that almost drowned
out the melody didnt bother her, for Jeanette was honoring God with a dance! But she
didnt want to dance alone! So she motioned for the pianist to jump in, and then she
eye-balled me to stop sitting around resting my trumpet lips. So three of us danced before
the Lord. And with the sweep of her hand the rest of the group joined in. It was as if the
ark of Gods presence had entered the room for we knew that God was present among us.
Eighteen years ago, I danced for the first time. Dixie was pregnant with our daughter,
Lizzy. Soon into the pregnancy, problems developed in her womb. The doctors told us that
it could be life-threatening to the babys development. When I went to Bible study
that Wednesday evening at the campus church that I pastored, I was so low that I
couldnt even raise my head. Word had gotten out to my congregation that Dixie was in
trouble, so when I arrived, they began to sing several little choruses about Gods
strength and ability to be strong for us. "And now let the weak say I am
strong, let the poor say, I am rich, because of what the Lord has done
for us, give thanks."
Give thanks? I suddenly became aware of Gods presence in that storefront church.
I knew God was in the illness and in the healing. My daughter would be healed here or with
Jesus. So I offered God a dance; I lifted up my hands and started to praise God. I knew
that no matter what, God would be there for me, and that this congregation would be there
for me. The Are of Gods Presence had entered that little campus church in Kentucky.
Have you danced lately? Dance a dance in Gods honor. Dance for joy. Dance out of
your grief. Dance to the God who through his Son says to us, "May I have this dance
with you?" Amen.