July 15, 2018: Dancing Fools
Scripture: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12-19
After David had been crowned king, claimed a spot for the capital city, defeated the Israelites’ arch-nemeses the Philistines, he had one more thing to do to solidify his reign: bring the ark of the covenant to the royal city.
So they go to get it – thirty thousand soldiers – and we find they will bring with them instruments of music rather than war. Imagine it. Even if not every person had a harp or timbrel or cymbal, even if only five thousand did, that would be a loud procession. And they were excited. Not some kind of formal, boring march but an exuberant one.
You can see it: the large host coming toward the city gate. Just one long line of big banners, soldiers in their armor, and in the middle is the grand ark of the covenant. Just imagine it with its gold covering, jewels all over it, the ornate carvings and statues of cherubim. They were bringing God’s law into their city! It would be as if we Christians had found the original cross and brought it to the Vatican.
It’s a major statement – God is here! The God who gave them a home, who delivered them from their enemies, who promised to be with them always. And now they had the centerpiece of that promise in the ark coming to its new home. It was a time to celebrate! This is like all your favorite teams won all the championships. You wouldn’t be doing the golf clap.
But then you see him: the king, the leader of the army, David, and he’s at the very front. Not in his kingly garb; not on a steed straight and upright; not in the regal posture, but down on the ground, and he’s dancing like a fool.
This may seem weird to us with our leaders today with their formal gestures and rehearsed speeches. Here we see the king – dancing his heart out! Verse 14 says he was dancing with all his might.
Can you imagine any national leader dancing with all their might? But at this moment, he wasn’t chief legislator or military commander – he was the spiritual voice of a nation. When God’s involved, it’s okay to break from the formal.
As the procession gets closer to the city, the city erupts in excitement too. Everybody is going nuts. Well, almost everybody. The former king’s daughter Michal is looking out, and she is mad. The reading from the lection ends at 19, but if you read ahead, it says she mocks his behavior, accusing him of dishonoring himself in front of the female servants. But David is not concerned. He tells her celebration of the Lord is most important.
And celebrate they did. In verse 13, it says they sacrifice an ox and a calf. They offer more sacrifices when they get to the city, and by the end, the king offers the whole crowd meat, bread, and a flagon of wine. When you go to a big public gathering and are given food and drink, it’s called a party.
This passage brings me a lot of joy. For one, this is what the people of God should be like. This is what worship should be like – excited. Whether you are a high church connoseuir, a country church ‘amen corner,’ or a lights-and-sounds church, what makes worship good or bad is not about style – it’s about conviction and passion. The key to this passage isn’t the fact he is dancing – it is that he is worshiping with all his might unhindered by concern of others.
For all the conversations and debates churches have had about worship style, song choice, and “who we are,” these are all simply means of worship. What matters is passion, and the way you can tell the health of a church isn’t in their style but whether or not people encounter God when worship happens. The places where the church is growing fastest – they don’t have these arguments. Their instruments are whatever they can find.
The second thing that brings me joy about this passage is how David handles a nay-sayer. Saul’s daughter Michal witnesses this
moment, and she has a very negative response to it.
Before you make assumptions about Michal, you should know a couple of things:
- Her dad and brother had just died in the battle that led to David being crowned king. She has some baggage.
- The reasoning is valid – the servant girls should not accidentally see any part of the king’s wardrobe that is not meant to be seen.
- The failure here is not that she looses respect; it is because she harbors anger at David. Her concerns are not aired with humility – they are aired with selfish rage.
David’s response to her in verse 22 is great, “I was celebrating God…I will continue to celebrate God, I may even humiliate myself doing so, and then I will be humbled. But I am not disgracing myself or anyone.” He’s confident, yet humble.
The central point here is not about how to worship but the relationship that worship points to. This scripture is about the foundation of why we worship at all.
I was watching a TED talk by a man named Simon Sinek. If you have walked by a bestsellers section of any bookstore you have probably seen one of his books: Start with Why, Leaders Eat Last, Together is Better, Find Your Why. He’s one of today’s gurus on not only leadership development but how to make any impact as an individual or an organization in our modern, busy, overly stimulated economy where everything is trying to get your attention all the time.
His main schtick in every one of his books can be boiled down to a simple question: do you know the ‘why’?
In another sermon for another time, I will relate this to what he relates this to: leadership development. But he notes over and over in his books and talks that organizations that do not offer a clear meaning of why they exist will fail to interpret it to those who are supposed to benefit from their existence. If we don’t know why we are here, it’s difficult to explain to others why they should be here, too.
In worship of God, a lot of things happen. Some things the Bible tells us, and some things we expect from personal experience. These are things like being offered healing and hope, hearing what God is saying to us through Scripture, learning from the sermon on how to live out one’s faith. The purpose of all of this is to cultivate the desire to build a relationship with God.
That is what is supposed to happen when you come to church. It is my job to offer space for you to engage with God, but after a certain point, it is up to you to decide if you want to invest in the relationship.
Especially today, it is so easy to find and connect with other people, that we have grown too accustomed to it and don’t try all that hard to invest in those relationships. We are losing the desire to try. This is evidenced in the rise in depression, anxiety, and loneliness in our country. We have a systemic problem developing relationships that are good for us.
So our half-full sanctuaries are the product of people who don’t feel a need to be here and our lack of communicating why they should. Whether it’s not communicating what we need to those we love, not having a healthy community to support us, and/or having a shallow spiritual life, our problems come down to broken relationships.
That is why David dancing is foreign to us and should deeply matter to us – we don’t celebrate love very well. It starts by saying yes to God. Yes to relationship.
So allow me to ask you again in closing, do you know why you are in worship today? Is it for reasons like David, because you are so excited about God’s love that you feel compelled to celebrate? Are you like those playing their instruments in a great chorus of praise? Are you in the crowd hoping the excitement is good news coming your way? Or are you like Michal – wanting none of this because your relationship is broken?
Allow me to offer you an invitation: I once went to a conference where the pastor talked about having consistently great worship because he didn’t have to do anything other than preach.
At a church with thousands in attendance, he said he has tons of volunteers involved in planning and execution so that everyone has the opportunity to encounter God – so they too can have their moments to dance, whether literally or metaphorically, and celebrate God’s blessings. And when more people are engaged in making worship good, when they coordinate their Sunday schedules around that first, the whole church prospers.
I hope you will take this time to reflect. Are you ready to invest more time in this relationship? Will you have the courage to come talk with me about helping make this service a place for dancing fools like King David? We need more joyful presence and hospitality. If stone silence and stillness are your dancing moves, then go for it, but for those who feel a little too tight or stuffy, you will get no sour face from me or from God.
Are you unsure of how to build that passion? Let’s talk. Seriously, I’m here to talk.
Whatever it is, God loves laughter and music and folks who worship with all their might. It is up to you to say yes.