2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12-19
The other night three generations of the Epperly-Lemmey family went to Mannakeese for dinner. As always, dinner was good –lobster, swordfish, scallops, and fish and chips for the boys. As we finished dinner, the evening’s entertainment came on – a vocalist and guitarist – and they began to play. And, the boys wanted to dance. Since there was a dance floor, Kate and I, and later Ingrid and her Dad, joined us, and what joy we had. The joy of the little boys was contagious, delighting in circle dances and swing dancing, and what joy we had swaying and singing with the music.
In today’s reading, the people are celebrating in the presence of God. God was enthroned on the ark of the covenant, an ornate box upon which the invisible God was said to sit, and they were delighting in God’s presence. David, the great king, was dancing with joy, with all his heart and spirit. He was so happy he almost lost his robe, and so delighted in God that he aroused the fury of one of community’s naysayers, who couldn’t imagine such jubilant celebration by the king.
The reading from Ephesians talks about a lively community, praising God for God’s gifts, grace, and glory. The words of the day are delight, dance, and praise. God is good, God has created a world of wonder and beauty, and as Ephesians proclaims, “God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing.” We have everything we need as individuals and as a community to flourish and faithfully share God’s good news.
Now, praise, delight, and dance don’t always come easy for us. Some of us struggle to get out of bed in the morning, others of us deal with chronic illnesses of body, mind, and spirit; life is a chore and just going about our daily business is difficult, especially if we are dealing with depression, trauma, illness, grief, or anxiety.
Today’s readings do not deny the challenges of life, both internal and external. Paul may have dictated Ephesians from prison, and as we discovered last week, the apostle suffered from a chronic and debilitating illness, he describes as a “thorn in the flesh.” And, yet he counsels praise. David had been on the run and had suffered military and personal setbacks and yet he dances for joy.
Life is difficult, as Scott Peck notes in the first line of The Road Less Traveled, but the challenges of life exist in the context of a world of wonder and beauty; a world that calls us to praise and gratitude even in the most challenging situations. We are awesomely made, as Psalm 139 asserts, and the heavens and earth that surround us shout out the glory of God.
Yet, often we are completely oblivious to the beauty of the world and the wonder of our daily lives. Do you remember Thornton Wilder’s play, “Our Town”? Now deceased and haunting the village graveyard, Emily begs to come back to Grover’s Corner to relive one day of her life, her twelfth birthday. She returns quickly to the graveyard, troubled and amazed at her inability and her family’s inability to experience life in its wonder. “Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it – every moment?” The stage manager responds, “No. Saints and poets maybe…they do some.”
This is a wonderful world, and even our ability to complain about it is grounded in the amazing and intricate network of cells, firing synapses, neurons, and synchronicity between our experience and the world around us, as we hurtle in space at an unimaginable speed, on a small planet in an average solar system among 125 billion galaxies each with billions of solar systems like our own.
With beauty all around us we walk, say the Navajo singers. And, Buddhist monk Thich Naht Hanh proclaims, “the miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.”
And David dances, while Paul shouts praise God for God’s lavish grace and spiritual abundance.
There is an ethic to dance and praise and it is the ethic of appreciation, thanksgiving, and wonder. It is the ethic of “radical amazement” at our world in all its bittersweet, yet joyful complexity and beauty. It is the ethic that Dag Hammarskjold counseled,
For all that has been – thanks!
For all that shall be – yes!
Take nothing for granted in your one wild and precious life – this moment is unique and your life is a singularity on this swiftly moving planet.
Difficult as it may be, living each day, with the affirmation “this is the day that God has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it,” will transform your life and change the way you respond to the daily challenges of life. Such joyful living isn’t accidental. It is born of the interplay of God’s grace, our attentiveness to God’s lavish care, and our willingness to embody practices of delight, simple practices that become the lenses through which we view life and relate to one another. Simple practices like –
- Pausing to notice the world around you
- Saying “thank you” for every blessing and every gift from god and the people in your life
- Looking for beauty and goodness in the obvious but also unexpected
- Seeing the big picture and rejoicing in the giftedness of life and your own bounty
- Opening to god-sightings everywhere and in everyone
And, this leads to an ethic of delight and praise, for gratitude
leads to action – recognizing the amazing grace of God, we commit ourselves to doing beautiful things for our Creator by loving the creatures. Amazed by an osprey flying or a whale breaching, we commit ourselves to being God’s partners in protecting the environment and the non-human world. Astounded by our own unique lives, we see the beauty of all God’s children and insure that each child has an opportunity to live out God’s dream for her or him. Delighted by grace, we speak for the lost, vulnerable, and forgotten and we celebrate love in all its amazing diversity.
David danced before the ark of the covenant… and even if we move slowly or need a walker or cane, our spirits can dance; we can delight in the wonder of God, give thanks for beauty, and bring God’s graceful loving kindness to every moment of our lives.