Thursday, July 12, 2018

Dancing With All Our Might

There are a few special moments in life when joy spills out of us in uncontrollable ways. I laugh uncontrollably whenever I am on a roller coaster. I remember smiling until my face hurt when each of my children was born. I danced around the room when the Cubs won the World Series. Just as trouble or sorrow brings uncontrollable tears, moments of deep gladness cause us to celebrate in ways beyond our control.

When David and his company went down to get the ark and bring it into the house of the Lord, the king was said to have "danced before the Lord with all his might." I would like to see that. I want to see King David so full of joy that he danced before the procession with every ounce of energy he had. Not just a cautious, polite dancing, but full-on, jumping, twisting, hooting, hollering, arms-waiving dancing. That's joy.

The ark was a complicated symbol of history and triumph and God's presence among God's people. It had been carried out in battle by the army. It had been captured by the Philistines and then returned. Saul had ordered it carried with his army, but then it was tucked away for safekeeping. In Sunday's reading from 2 Samuel 6, David goes down to Abinadab's house to get it and bring it back to the house of the Lord. This was a time when David's reign over all Israel was being established and consolidated. The ark needed to be brought back to a place of central authority. It was an old symbol of God's dwelling among God's people, and David understood that his reign was animated by God's very presence in his life and amidst his people. So, as they brought the ark back to the city, he danced, making a joyful, holy spectacle of himself.

When might we dance like that?

At every General Convention, we reach a point when the House of Deputies realizes that it has more business to do than it has time to do it. Last night, as we gathered for an unusual evening session, we began to acknowledge that fact. People groaned when procedural motions were made. Lines of people to end debate formed before debate even started. The big-ticket items have mostly been dealt with, and now we have to push through the little things. All day today and tomorrow, we will be in legislative session, considering one resolution after another. It's tempting to think that we will dance when we've finished the mind-numbing work ahead of us, but I hope we'll find other reasons to dance.

There's a difference between dancing and dancing with all our might. David danced with all his might because he knew that God was with him and his people as they entered a new chapter of their national life. We had a small moment that got close to that when we welcomed Cuba back into the Episcopal Church. Apparently, we kicked them out back in the '60s when the revolution happened, leaving them to their own devices, and welcoming them back was an opportunity to acknowledge the wrong we had done and seek to restore the relationship. There wasn't any dancing, but there was clapping and singing and shouting for joy. That's a moment that matters. That's a moment when the church sees God coming home. What are the other moments?

Even though the debate was long and the mood was antsy, the amended resolution last night calling for a task force to study the church's response to deaf and disabled individuals felt like that. Even though the amendment had errors in it and seemed to fail to take into account the procedural requirements for establishing a task force, we knew it mattered. The tearful and impassioned debate helped us see what really mattered. We didn't dance when it passed, but maybe we should have. What else?

At this point in General Convention, it is easy to get worn down by the work. It's easy to get hardened to the process. It's easy to get frustrated at lengthy debate. But where is God at work? Were is God coming home? What are the issues still to come before us that give the church an opportunity to dance because we see in those issues signs that God is coming again to dwell with God's people? I'll dance when it's all over, but I hope to dance in the middle of it, too.

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