2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19
by: Rev. Ken Sauer, Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN
If you missed last Sunday evening’s cookout here at the church…
…you missed a very good time!
We had some awesome fellowship and great food.
What a blessing it is to be part of such a loving and joy-filled community of faith!
And the music after dinner was fantastic.
We moved into the sanctuary and celebrated as Andrew, Butch and Doug led us in worshiping God with such enthusiasm and talent!
I was having such a good time.
Have you ever seen the movie, The Apostle, starring Robert Duvall?
In it, Duvall plays the part of a very flawed, but God-loving and infectious Pentecostal preacher.
And the church which he pastored loved to sing…
…but not only sing…
…they loved to dance before the Lord!!!
One of the songs in the movie was I’ll Fly Away.
I love that song.
I can get lost in that song.
As Andrew, Butch, Doug and the rest of us were singing I’ll Fly Away this past Sunday evening, I got thinking about that movie, The Apostle.
And I got tempted to jump on the back of the pews and start dancing like the folks in that movie.
I would imagine many of you had the same feeling and excitement.
When I told Andrew about this later, he kind of looked at me like, “Well, what’s wrong with that? Why didn’t you do it?”
And what is wrong with that?
Why didn’t I do it?
Well, I wasn’t brought up in the Pentecostal tradition for one thing…so it would have been maybe a bit unnatural for me…
…but I was also self-concious…
…I thought I might freak everyone out.
And there certainly is a biblical grounding in not doing things which will freak people out.
We don’t want to turn others off or scare them away.
In 1 Corinthians Chapter 14 Paul is giving the congregation instructions about speaking in tongues, and he says to them that if everyone is just speaking in tongues all over the place—out of control—“will they not say that you are out of your mind?”
Then he continues with, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.”
But there is a time to dance!!!
There is a time to get totally lost in our love for God.
And when we do this, the troubles of this life…
…those things which bring us down and lay heavily on our hearts aren’t so heavy any longer.
In Matthew Chapter 11 Jesus calls out to you and to me: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
We live in a weary and burdened world, do we not?
People are tired and people are depressed.
The economic hardships of the past couple of years have caused many to feel as if the weight of the world lays on their shoulders.
I think there is an unusually high level of stress and hopelessness throughout our communities, our country and our world.
And one might think that this would cause many to return or, for the first time, come to church to find rest and peace…
…but it doesn’t seem to be working that way.
All across our Holston Conference, church attendance has gone down as the recession and jobless rates have gone up.
Why is that?
Are people too depressed and heavy laden to get out of bed on Sunday mornings?
Do some folks believe that they will not find the answer to their problems within a community of faith?
Someone was telling me recently that one trade which has not been suffering can be found in drugs and alcohol.
Many of us want relief from the anguish of life…
…but so often, we are looking in the wrong places!!!
And when we do this, we miss out…
…we miss out on true joy, true peace…
…and true freedom!!!
One of the main reasons that the early church thrived as it did was because people saw, in Christians, something that they wanted for themselves.
“Look how they love one another,” they would say.
“They are happy people despite the storms of life.”
That is what attracts folks to Christ…
…it isn’t so much about programs, entertainment and the building.
It is about a relationship with the God of love, the God of peace, the God Who is gentle and humble in heart!
It’s about a relationship which transcends all that life throws our way!
As Paul triumphantly declares, “when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Our strength, our confidence, all our hopes are to rest on the fact that God is with us at all times, and God loves us more than we can imagine!
That is why we worship God.
And I can lose myself in that, how about you?
In our Scripture lesson for this morning, we find a very flawed but God loving man, David, losing himself in the Lord in a major way!
He was worshipping God—he was dancing before God, along with a congregation of thirty thousand, and it became infectious indeed!!!
Soon, the entire nation of Israel “were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums, and cymbals.”
Why was this?
It was because they knew that God was with them.
God had not and would not abandon them—no matter what was happening in their personal lives.
Have you ever gone through an extremely difficult time?
Perhaps a loved one has died…
…maybe a child has been terribly rebellious and it has caused you great anxiety and pain…
…maybe you have had difficulty in your marriage…
…perhaps you have lost your job, or been ill.
And when you make it through that difficult period, you realize, with great comfort and great joy that Jesus was with you and sustained you through it all!
I can’t imagine going through the especially hard times without faith in and a personal relationship with Christ.
But many people do…
…many people do.
That is one of many reasons that we are called to tell the world about the love of God which is only found in Christ Jesus our Lord!!!
And the best and most effective way to witness to the world is to lose ourselves in Christ…all day, every day!!!
This is when we shine!
This is when, not only our lives are exciting and rich, but this is when we glorify God and bring others to God.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was brought to true and real faith through such a witness.
Wesley had been a priest in the Church of England for some time before he was able to fully lose himself in Christ.
Following a failed mission trip to America, Wesley was returning to England by ship when a horrible storm arose and threatened to tear the boat to shreds.
Wesley was scared to death—as were the rest of the passengers…
…except for a small band of Christians who were just as happy and content as one could be.
As the storm threatened to end their lives, this group of Christians were happily singing hymns and praising God in reckless abandon.
It was at that time that Wesley came to the definite conclusion that he was lacking something in his life.
He didn’t have the faith that they possessed.
He didn’t have the peace which transcends all understanding.
And he wanted it.
A little later, after returning home, God gave Wesley the gift which he sought.
Wesley wrote a bout it in his journal, “In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Romans.
About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed.
I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
Out of this experience God used Wesley to work one of the greatest Christian revivals the world has ever seen!
It is only when we lose our fear, lose our worry, lay down our burdens at the foot of the Cross that we are able to truly lose ourselves in Christ and thus be light shining in the darkness for all the world to see!!!
And oh, does the world not need the light of Christ at this time—like never before?
This church is surrounded by homes, in which live families, children, men and women…
…people just like you and I who are living life in fear and pain.
They feel helpless and lost like sheep without a shepherd.
How can we reach out to them?
How can we let them know that there is a Way to have Life and have it to the full?
We are told in our Scripture lesson for this morning that “David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.”
David had so fully lost himself in worshipping the Lord that he didn’t realize that his linen ephod, the small ceremonial apron that he was wearing was leaving him fully exposed to everyone.
And it’s for this reason that we are told that Michal, as she watched the worshippers from a window, “And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord…despised [David] in her heart.”
“David returned home to bless his household, [but] Michal….came out to meet him and said, ‘How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!’
David said to Michal… ‘I will celebrate before the Lord, I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes…”
Are we willing to risk the chance that some may judge us as being vulgar and undignified as we celebrate—by our lives and actions—before the Lord?
How far are we willing to go in our dance before God?
Are we willing to invite and welcome persons of other races into our homes and our congregation?
Are we willing to fellowship with persons whom others may see as not being fit to enter the Kingdom of God?
Are we willing to knock on the doors surrounding this community, and invite others to come?
Are we willing to lose our personal prejudices or comfort zones in order to not only dance before God—but all the world for the sake of Christ?
If so, East Ridge United Methodist Church has such a great future ahead, only God can comprehend the impact we will have on the lives of this community!
True worship is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
True worship is to let the power of the living God live in you!!!
Remember the movie Jurassic Park?
One of the best parts of that movie was when the funky, bohemian scientist said: “Your them park idea won’t work! The life force is too great—too powerful—too explosive! It will find a way to burst out of the boundaries—out of the bindings you’ve constructed for it!”
That’s what happens when we worship God with our lives!!!!
God’s explosive new life bursts forth from us toward others.
This, I think, is why the people of Israel loved David.
Because his worship was pure, it changed him from the inside out.
As he loved God, he also loved other people—his neighbor as himself!!!
Saint Francis said, “Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words.”
If our lives are a dance before the Lord, then our lives will preach the gospel…
…Our lives will embody our love for God and for our neighbor!!!
On Sunday, August 2nd at 7 p.m. we will embark on a new worship service.
This is a way to reach out to our community, to bring glory to God, and to learn to love and grow closer to God and our fellow human beings!
Remember, that now—more than ever—people are finding it difficult to get themselves out of bed on Sunday mornings.
What an opportunity we have to reach those folks for Christ!!!
But it is going to take all of us to do this.
All of us must lose ourselves in our dance before the Lord!!!
We must be willing to give up a
t-v show in order to be a part of taking this community back for Christ…
…we must be willing to change whatever we usually do during that hour of the evening due to our love for God and our love for our neighbors!!!
Tonight at 5:30 p.m. in the Youth room we will have a planning and brain-storming session about how God would have us dance before this community.
I pray everyone will come, and we will have to move the meeting to the sanctuary!!!
There is nothing but potential and excitement when we are dancing before the Lord with all our might!!!
God can and will do amazing things, signs and wonders and miracles before our very eyes through our faith and works for Him!
And this is the congregation which can and will make this happen!
Do we dare lose ourselves in God?
Do we dare allow God to throw aside the grave clothes of this community—to roll away the stone covering the tomb—and bring Resurrection—new life and hope and meaning to a people whom God so loves and died to save?
It’s time to dance!!!