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And David Danced With All His Might
a sermon based on 2
Samuel 6:12-19
by Rev. Thomas Hall   

ancing 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 God’s 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, I’m not Jewish and you’ll never see that I’d Rather be Dancing bumper sticker plastered on my Toyota. It’s just not dignified for ministers to go around doing the Charleston every time they’re 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 I’ve gone on my way never dancing. No matter. I couldn’t 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, I’m no Fred Astaire, but dancing is a symbol of joy that makes me envious of my Jewish and non-Jewish dancing friends.

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 God’s presence being paraded into Jerusalem. He’s got plenty reason to dance. His kingdom is united-the north and the south are finally glued back together. He’s 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, God’s awesome presence is. God’s holiness is nothing to joke about.

So the ark gets stashed away in the garage of Obed-edom. Strange thing, though. He doesn’t die. In fact, he prospers! Word soon hits the street that Obed’s wife-who’s nearing retirement has suddenly gotten pregnant. Not only that, but just look at Obed’s weed-infested fields. Whey they’re covered with flax. The writer wants us to know that good things are happening in Obed’s life, and it has something to do with this box containing God’s 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? It’s 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 Israel’s 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 don’t think David hears too much from his critic. He still revels in the dance. He can’t 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 he’s 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? It’s hard to dance when you take that final look. Hard to dance when the medical specialists says, "I’m sorry, its spread to your lymph nodes." It’s hard to dance when the person you’ve loved for better or for worse, in sickness and in health has become unfaithful. It’s hard to dance when you see a friend standing wordless on your porch at 1 am. Her streaked eye-liner tells you that her boyfriend’s been drinking again. "Sure, David, go ahead and dance when you’re king and everything’s going well. But you come on down here with the rest of us and see how well you can dance.

That’s what I’d like to say to David. Except to say that maybe David knew something about dancing that we don’t 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 that’s 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 God’s 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."

We’re 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 didn’t bother her, for Jeanette was honoring God with a dance! But she didn’t 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 God’s 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 baby’s development. When I went to Bible study that Wednesday evening at the campus church that I pastored, I was so low that I couldn’t 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 God’s 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 God’s 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 God’s Presence had entered that little campus church in Kentucky.

Have you danced lately? Dance a dance in God’s 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.