Rev. Barbara Kershner is an Andover-Newton alumna and retired pastor living in the Berkshires, occasionally serving as substitute church musician or in pastoral duties.
Scripture: 2 Samuel 6: 1-5, 12b-19 (NRSV)
David Brings the Ark to Jerusalem
David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. David and all the people with him set out and went from Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim. They carried the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart with the ark of God; and Ahio went in front of the ark. David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.
So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.
As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.
They brought in the ark of the Lord, and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt-offerings and offerings of well-being before the Lord. When David had finished offering the burnt-offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts, and distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people went back to their homes.
Reflection: Can We Dance?
One of my favorite hymns is ‘Lord of the Dance’ with its toe-tapping Shaker tune and its lyrics by British poet, Sydney Carter, who places Jesus’ method and message into the metaphor of dance. Since the beginning of time people have danced together, shared time in a common rhythm. Through the beat and patterned steps, the social group was entrained to a common purpose with hearts that beat as one. Community, religion, and dance are ancient partners.
Even within the Judeo-Christian tradition, religious dancing has as long history. King David and 30,000 soldiers danced before the Lord. What a sight and sound that must have been. Thousands of years later the story inspired Duke Ellington, in his Concert of Sacred Music. He composed ‘David Danced Before the Lord’ for choir, orchestra, and a tap dancer (you can view this amazing piece on YouTube). Much earlier in Biblical history in Exodus 15, Miriam and her troupe of women went out to dance before the Lord and celebrate victory. Along with singing, dancing is also a form of worship and thanksgiving. The psalmist declares: “‘Singers and dancers alike say ‘all our springs are in you.’” (psalm 87:7) Several other psalms mention dancing as a means of praise and worship.
But for many mainline Protestant churches, dancing is not common. Maybe…if there are children involved… perhaps we can occasionally accept a bit of dance. While, secretly the organist gets to dance every Sunday while seated on the bench, heel and toe gliding over the pedal board! What makes so many of us anxious about dancing? The gospel lesson paired with this story of David dancing before the Lord is the description of a dance for King Herod. That dance led to John the Baptist’s head on a platter. We know that dancing can be dangerous, empowering, misleading. But everything on this earth has the potential for harm. What is vital is the intention behind the dance.
Dance, as a gentle sway, can put a restless baby back to sleep. Dance can tell a story or celebrate a victory. Dance, as a stately procession, can show honor and respect. Dance can be a physical expression of our love for the Lord our God. We show that love with all our strength along with our heart and soul and mind.
Dance is a way to build community and identity. We know a community by its dance whether it is hula or hip-hop; popping, polka or folk; contra or country line. Dance communicates community! So what about a community that does not dance? That refuses to follow in the dance? Can you reflect on how you personally feel about dancing? Have you ever prayed and praised through dance?
Dancing can be a way of re-imagining our discipleship, both as individuals and as a community. The Jesus who invites us to be disciples says: ‘follow me.’ We say yes to following in steps of service and sacrifice. Can we follow Jesus in community building through celebration and dance, through sorrow, and rest? Can our diligence become a dance where Jesus takes the lead in joyful steps?
Source of life, pulse of the universe, move us together, toward peace, gratefulness, and compassion. Step by step lead us to encircle the world and all creation with love and care. Amen
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org
Prayers of Intercession:
- For those grieving for more than 602,000 dead due to the Covid-19 disease
- For the victims and their families of the 319 mass shootings already carried out in 2021
- For those who suffered or those grieving after much of the nation experienced record heat last week
- For the family and friends of Rev. John B. Wilcox, former pastor at Federated Church of Christ in Brooklyn, CT, who died on June 26
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For dancing, be it with friends, family, strangers, or just by yourself
This Week in History:
July 5, 1996 (25 years ago) Dolly the Sheep, the first mammal to have been successfully cloned from an adult cell, was born in Scotland. Dolly's birth was not announced publicly until 1997. The response was full of controversy. Many supporters claimed this was a step toward future potential medical treatments. Opponents questioned the safety and ethics of cloning, especially when applied to the possibility of human cloning. Dolly the Sheep was euthanized in 2003 after several medical problems which led to more questions about the safety of cloning. To date, no laws have prohibited human cloning in the U.S., though FDA regulations are said to cover this area of research and therefore prohibit the practice by default without approval, something unlikely to happen through the FDA. Many other countries have banned all forms of human cloning. The UN called on its member nations to ban human cloning in 2005, a declaration ratified by the U.S.. Despite several claims of human cloning through the years around the world, there is no solid evidence of successful human cloning to date.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”