Let’s Dance

Sunday, October 20, 2019
Intern Teleen Saunders

2 Samuel 5:1-5; 6:1-5

Grace and peace to you my friends on this beautiful celebratory morning.  I can only imagine that this text makes some Lutheran’s nervous, after all, we almost danced.  In church.  What’s next?  Random shouts of alleluia?  Snake handling?  A three-hour sermon?  Don’t tempt me.  I’m feeling the spirit today!  And for anyone who wants to criticize David’s dancing and celebration, check out the end of chapter six where David’s wife called her husband’s behavior “vulgar”.  Let me just warn you that her days did not end well.

So why all the celebration?  What’s going on here?   Well, come back with me about a thousand years before the birth of Christ.  This is a time of transition for the people of God.  A time where leadership moves from judges to kings. Although judges were powerful and held some important roles in ancient times they did not rule the whole country like a king could.  Judges were temporary and acted more like disjointed chieftains.[1]   As time wore on the judges began losing their influence as people started to “do what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25).[2]

This disjointed nation-state brought threats from outside as well.  The biggest of these threats came from the Philistines – skilled warriors who had advanced weapons[3],[4] and a giant named Goliath.  So, the people yearned for a mighty king, a powerful king who could unite the kingdom, defeat their enemies, and solve all their problems.  But alas, this was not to be.   The first king of Israel, Saul was a fickle and taciturn ruler who failed to put his trust in God.  As our story picks up, we find that Saul falls on his sward in utter defeat at the hands of the Philistines.  The enemy has taken Israel’s king and by association Israel’s hope and Israel’s very identity.  For in a world where there is no word for “religion”, the loss of this war means the loss of their God too.  The Philistines have taken the ark of God as their most prized possession – a symbol of triumph, a symbol of life.

So aside from what you may have learned from Indiana Jones, what is the ark of God?  Well, it’s not a statue or graven image.  Quite simply, it’s Torah, the early writings, the very word of God![5]  But in the minds of these Israelites, it is God!  And David is the hero who returns the ark back to the people.  So in our story today, a celebration erupts with dancing before the LORD, with songs and harps and cymbals.   Because the power of God is back in their midst!

For the people of Israel this means that they will be blessed with an identity, with hope, and with a promise.  This is a big deal. As a character, David is mentioned over eleven-hundred times, the longest single personal narrative second only to Jesus.[6]  Here, for the first time, Israel is a unified kingdom and the people get a savior in the form of a strong monarch!  So, what does it mean to live in the presence of God?  What does it mean when God is in our midst?

First of all, it means that we gather around the word of God, the prized ark.  For Augustana this morning, it was a literal gathering where we physically brought the word of God into the midst of the people into the midst of this holy house.  David had no temple.  But he knew the power of God’s word.  He knew the power of creating a holy place where people come together to confess their sins, seek reconciliation, and praise the one true God.  Jerusalem became David’s royal city.  The place where God made a promise to David saying, “Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16). We gather today not in literal fear of God’s power where we cower before the altar, but in reverence of God’s power where we gather in amazement at what the Lord can do. And when we as Christians gather around the word, we become what Martin Luther calls the priesthood of all believers meaning that God speaks to us all.  There is no holy hierarchy.  We still support seminaries and synods, but there is no special access to God, nor is there any need for an intermediary saint to pray on our behalf.  The strength comes from the gathering itself and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.  From our good times to our bad times we have strength in community.  When we gather around the word we are all blessed.  This leads into the second point.

To live in the presence of God means to receive a blessing.  When David becomes king, he gathers the elders, makes a covenant before the Lord, and THEN is anointed.  David is showing authentic leadership that points back to God and gives God praise.  In today’s reading, the Lord says to David, “You will shepherd my people Israel, you will become their ruler” (5:2).  This NIV translation only partially reveals the type of leader David is to become.  God uses the words, tireh “shepherd” and nagid which is translated as “ruler” or softer yet, “leader”.  These words describe the kind of relationship God has with David.  When David is anointed in the presence of the ark, it is clear that God will reign supreme.  God creates but David will lead as a shepherd leads his flock.  This blessing is an invitation to care for God’s people.  It is not the installation of a dictator.  Now to be thoroughly clear, David was not perfect.  He certainly had his flaws, but here, God is establishing a new kind of monarchy for Israel.  One that is blessed in the traditions and compassion of God’s word.

This blessing for us means living as faithful stewards of God’s benevolence.  (Yes, the clever stewardship drive tie-in.)  Because as people of God, we too are called to be servants.  We make a commitment to live according to God’s commands as a blessing to others as we too have been blessed.

Finally, when God is in our midst, we dance!  This is unabashed worship!  It doesn’t matter if you dance with your whole body like a winner on The Price is Right or if you keep your joy contained to the twinkle of your eye.  It’s good to worship because God is good.  So dance in prayer, dance at communion, dance with our music, and dance in the word of God because God is here.   Perhaps American dancer and choreographer Martha Graham put it best.  She said, “Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance. Great dancers are great because of their passion.”[7]  God is in our midst.  Let’s dance.


[1] https://wordandworld.luthersem.edu/content/pdfs/37-3_Joshua_And_Judges/37-3_Park.pdf

[2] https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-differences-role-between-judges-and-kings-in-the-Bible

[3] https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/king-saul/

[4] https://www.gci.org/articles/weapons-and-warfare-in-ancient-israel/

[5] http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=4213

[6] http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=4213

[7] http://www.planetofsuccess.com/blog/2017/dance-quotes/

Past Sermons