Summary: Funeral sermon for Vera Byars, court information specialist and amateur dancer. Ballroom, minuet/ballet, tap -- whatever style she used, it all witnessed to a life of joy. This is not any longer a time to mourn.
I agree with the Scripture, where it says that, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” I agree with that, because we know that some things are fine, in their place, but they are not appropriate in other places. There is a time and a season for everything, which also means that some things are just not appropriate at certain times.
You do not shout, “Fire” in a crowded auditorium, for example. There is a time to alert people of danger, but you do not create more danger by blurting something out without considering the circumstances. You do not shout, “Fire” in a crowded room.
You do not, or will not, if the City Council has its way, use your cell phone while you are driving. There is a time and a place to make those urgent calls, but not while you are driving down the street where I am driving! It’s dangerous and it will soon be illegal, and I for one say, “Hallelujah”. There is a time for everything, but cell phones and driving don’t mix.
You do not, I hope, do what some of the people in this church do – wander in and out of this room, at leisure, even when the Bible is being read or prayer is being offered. I keep on saying that we ought to respect the word of God enough not to distract others from listening, and we ought to value fellowship with God enough not to disturb others while they are praying. But my wife tells me that just this last Sunday, during prayer, there was a tap on her shoulder. Someone outside wanted to speak to her. Couldn’t that have waited another couple of minutes? You all tell our church folks, won’t you, that there is a time and a season for everything, but prayer time is prayer time and not meet-people-in-the-hall time!
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. And there are also moments which are not appropriate for certain things. Would you think that dancing might be one of those things which is not always appropriate? Would you suspect that it might not always be the right time to dance?
Well, the preacher of Ecclesiastes says, in one of his lines, “There is time to mourn, and a time to dance.” A time to mourn, and a time to dance. Which of these is it time for now? In this hour, which is the appropriate thing – to mourn, or to dance?
I did not know Vera Byars. She was not a member of our church, nor had I met her. But she was a neighbor to several of our church members, and I have listened to their witness and to the witness of her sisters. I have heard many things about her. You have spoken about her gracious, calm, and patient ways. You have described her as an exceptionally giving person. You have written that she had a zest for life and an inner joy. All of these things are wonderful. But the one thing that has stuck in my mind most vividly is this from one of her sisters: “Vera loved to dance. Vera was a fabulous dancer. She could dance almost any kind of dance. Even when she was very small, she tried to dance. Vera was a dancer.”
Let me work with that for a few minutes. Let’s test whether this is a time to mourn or a time to dance. “Vera could dance almost any kind of dance”. What might that say to us today?
Could Vera dance ballroom-style? Could she encounter people, up close and personal, with the kind of intensity that ballroom-style dancing involves?
You know, when I was a teenager, my parents decided that I needed some social graces, and they enrolled me in a ballroom dancing class. I frankly do not remember ever having agreed to that, but back in the 50’s you did not question your parents’ judgment. So I went. But I hated just about every minute of it. I hated it because I was clumsy, as most 14-year-olds are; I despised it because I couldn’t get it – the teacher played a record and asked me if the rhythm was waltz time or foxtrot time, and I swear I could not hear any beat whatsoever – but most of all I abhorred ballroom dancing because I was shy around them. You know, them. Girls. That I was actually expected to hold a girl’s hand and put my arm around her waist – that was really painful. I hated it, but I managed it, because there was in this same class a distant cousin, and she felt the same way. So we just made beelines for one another at every dance and protected one another from having to get close to anybody else!