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Pr. Matt James

Lectionary 15b

July 14/15, 2018



We Dance and We Are Sent


Grace, peace, mercy, to you from God our Creator, our Sustainer, and our Redeemer. Amen.

I love musicals. Like love love. There is almost always a moment usually not long after a show begins where I think to myself: ‘This is IT!’

It only just dawned on me a couple of weeks ago when a friend was commenting on how much she loved movie The Greatest Showman. That what I really love… is the dancing. There is something about watching the human body move, often in ways that do not seem possible that mesmerizes me. And a little bit of me always wanted to be one those people.

I attempted to stretch my dance skills in high school, I was in show choir for three years, and embraced the swing music craze of the mid-1990s. And a lesser-known fact: in college, once I deemed my brain was no longer capable of being a math major, I made appointment to see about changing my program to musical theatre. I remember being both scared and elated about the various types of dance that I would need to master. However, it turns out that was a moot point because I missed my appointment with the program administrator and was too embarrassed to show my face in that department again so I let it go.

But I didn’t lose my fascination with dance.

And it’s not just musicals, of course, there’s ballet, and modern and jazz, and dancing at weddings and parties … I even remember dancing at the reception at my uncle’s funeral.

Nearly every emotion can be expressed with just the human body, words are not necessary.

And we see that in today’s bible stories.  Tales that may not be the first ones you think of when thinking about biblical stories. Or maybe stories you’d never even heard of.

Like the story from 2 Samuel, for which I must confess needed to refresh my Hebrew bible history just a bit.

Jerusalem has just been named the capital of the newly united kingdoms of Judah and Israel.

And David (after several battles and assassinations, including a beheading!) has been named king of this new kingdom. Likewise, the Ark of the Covenant, what was understood to be the very presence of God here on earth, had been stolen by the Philistines, and then stolen back from the Philistines, and then remained under the care of Abinadab for more than 20 years.

So with much reason to celebrate, King David dances through the streets, leading the Ark of the Covenant, to its rightful place in God’s holy city, Jerusalem. For this celebration, a new cart is made, and two sons of Abinadab, Uzzah and Ahio, lead it, along with King David, and more than 30,000 chosen men (and probably even more women and children), and everyone’s singing and dancing and strumming their lyres and harps and banging their tambourines and cymbals, and shaking their castanets. It’s a grand, and musical, parade indeed. Until (and this is left out of our reading today) until the cart hits a rock and it begins to fall, and Uzzah reaches out to steady it and is killed on the spot for touching the Ark.

Now, David is not so sure about God and God’s intentions. He waits three months before he is willing to take the ark back again, and the dancing in the streets with all the peoples’ might continues, until the ark has made its way back to Jerusalem and everyone worships and feasts.

Then, we dance to the gospel. To the celebration which King Herod has put on for himself. His step-daughter, Herodias, also known as Salome, dances. And dances. Apparently with all her might to because Herod is taken, and swears anything, anything, up to half of his kingdom. And so, John the Baptist, this one who proclaimed the coming of the messiah, of Jesus, and who proclaimed the truth by his preaching (which might have included a little bit of dancing), is put to death. And Salome, I imagine probably again dances, this time quite troubling-ly as she presents this morbid platter to her mother.

We talk a lot about bodies and embodiment here at Holy Trinity. We are reminded of the many ways that we experience the holy in and through our bodies. There very fact that our bodies were created in the very image of God, whether that means to look like God, or we are the dream of our Creator. We, our bodies, all of us, are a holy creation, a divine gift.

In his book Any Body There? Worship and Being Human in a Digital Age, Liturgical Theologian and Pastor Craig Mueller explains that much of what we do together as Christians is about the body.[1] We even call ourselves both collectively and individually, the Body of Christ. And we receive the Eucharist, Christ’s body and blood.[2]

At the center of today’s wondrous readings, David, Uzzah stumbling, Salome dancing, John imprisoned. Bodies are important. And yet we still live in a world that continues to value some bodies, whether due to their color, or makeup, or ability, less than others. This past week the world celebrated the rescue of the Thai soccer team from deep within a mountain. While scores of young migrant children remain trapped, imprisoned by the deeply flawed and racist immigration policies of our country. It is these bodies that continue to experience suffering and subjugation of a sinful and broken society, that we are called to care for. These bodies and countless others whose liberation is tied up with our own; with our own being.

And the very body which we claim, the one whom John foretold, Jesus the Christ, we are here because it was his body that was hanged, broken, bleeding, humiliated on a cross, and that was raised. Raised physically, raised bodily for us and for this world.

And today, we celebrate a new life in this body of Christ. Maryn Elizabeth Glawe. She is now joined with us in this life. This dance of life. And in what I continue to understand as one of the most parts of our worship together, she too will be sent out from this place. We are sent. Through the waters of our own baptism.

Sent out. Sent out bodily. Sent out to be the body, to witness to the body, to bear the Body of God’s creative and redeeming word to a world that is so, so deeply in need.

We are sent. We are sent from here. To proclaim, to demand the release of those who are unjustly imprisoned. To celebrate with those who experience newly found liberation. To be the Body of Christ, indeed, for this whole world.

And we continue to dance. We continue to experience life in this body. These holy bodies, and this beautiful body to which we belong. We dance with these bodies, named and imaged by our Creator, beloved by God, liberated by God.

We dance to proclaim liberation and an end to suffering for all. We dance to celebrate God’s lovingkindness.

We dance as we are sent, sent out to proclaim this baptized, resurrected life that we live.

In the name of the +Father, and the +Son, and the +Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Mueller, Craig. Any Body There? Worship and Being Human in a Digital Age. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2017.

[2] Ibid., 30.