Do You Believe in Dancing?
I’ve had some very interesting conversations with people over the years concerning church attendance, and what our church believes. I’ve had people ask me if certain groups of people… people of color, people of minority status, people of various orientations… would be welcomed in our church. And when they didn’t like my answer, they never came back. I have answered many a question, on many a subject. I’ve always tried to be as truthful as possible with each answer... reminding people that this is God’s house, not mine. We’re not stopping people at the door, or posing a litmus test before anyone can enter to worship. All are welcomed here, as all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, and all stand in need of repentance, forgiveness and salvation. Even me!
But (by far) one of the strangest questions I received, sometime ago, was from a young woman who asked me if we (if our church) believed in dancing.
I tried hard not to laugh, because she was being 100% serious. Our church may be concerned about a lot of things, and may take stances on certain issues, but dancing certainly not one of those things.
Of course, I took the young woman’s question seriously because, I knew exactly where she was coming from. I’ve been in those churches that “don’t believe in dancing.” In fact it was part of my own family history…
Much of my own family came from a branch of Christianity that was heavily influenced by what’s called the “holiness movement.” And many times those churches are better at telling people what they don’t believe, rather than what they actually do believe. They have all kind of rules concerning smoking, card playing, drinking alcohol… things like going to the theater, or the picture show. Even dancing.
Of course, the rule oriented religion’s efforts were well intended. The holiness movement began with rules against too much jewelry, and too much alcohol, too much involvement with “worldly things”…
It was a reaction, albeit an over reaction, to materialism that was invading, and overtaking the church. Which was and is a legitimate concern for you and for me as people of faith. The “church of today” bends over backwards trying to accommodate the world instead of proclaiming the truth of the Gospel and the reality of the redeeming love of Christ.
The problem is that even the so-called “holiness churches” struggle with materialism, alongside everyone else. There’s an old joke says the only difference between a Presbyterian and a non-Presbyterian, is the Presbyterian will speak to you in the liquor store.
So again, I say all that, to say that when the lady asked me the question about dancing… I knew where she was coming from.
Of course, when you think about it... to dance… is to be expressive. To be joyful. To be in touch. To be alive. The Bible itself calls us to dance, as we’ve heard in our scripture for today.
“The Dance” has become a metaphor for important events in life. Every single March, the college basketball season culminates in what’s called “the Dance”. NCAA national championship tournament. But the dance is really a metaphor for life.
So yes, our church thinks dancing is OK… But the bigger question is (at least in my mind), do you and I know how to dance? Do we celebrate, can we express joy openly, are we engaged in a full and meaningful life? Because if we understand the question in those terms, it’s not just a reminder of some of our Puritan and holiness roots… But it’s a very relevant question about what it means to be The Church, and what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
Of course at its best… The church dances! During our Christmas Eve service every year, when we gather together as a church family… worshiping and retelling the story of Jesus birth as we light candles to symbolize the light that God shines into our world… We are dancing.
When you and I gather together, every third Sunday for our covered dish fellowships, in Davis Hall… there’s conversation and laughter around the tables, and we’re genuinely sharing our lives with one another… We are dancing.
When we have our annual Kirkin’ of the Tartans service, celebrating our heritage... and taking time out to remember who and Whose we are, and the accomplishments of the past, and hopes for the future… We are dancing.
Every time we celebrate a baptism... every time we gather around the Lord’s table for communion, every Sunday as we gather together in this place, singing the songs of the Faith… Declaring to the world this we believe… We are dancing.
Every single time Christ blesses us with the opportunity to offer the “Bread of Life” or the “Living Water” to those who hunger and thirst... using our hands, feet and graces to help others... we dance!
Of course, to dance is to be alive... to be filled with the qualities, the attributes, and characteristics that express our nature, as followers fo Christ. Things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Such attributes prove to us, and to others, that we’re alive... and reflect our nature as the Children of God; and followers of Christ.
Of course, a church that’s alive (a church that reflects Christ) is a church that cares... it’s a church that sings... and cries, just as Jesus wept. A church that’s alive prays - for Lord knows our world needs it.
A church that’s alive laughs, because our work should be taken seriously, but fun and faith are not exclusive! They’re actually compatible!
A church that’s alive works. Everyone contributes their giftings and graces!
And Yes! A church that’s alive is a church that dances! We gather to experience and share joy... the joy of community, the joy of forgiveness, the joy of grace... the joy of Christ!
(Reread Psalm 150)
+Psalm 150 New International Version
1 Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.
May we forever strive to be such a church. A church that’s alive. A church that dances!