July 11, 2021
A few years ago, I got the opportunity to visit Washington, DC for a preaching conference. If you’ve never been, it’s quite the city, with huge sidewalks that make walking everywhere super easy (which is helpful because the traffic is awful), and stately buildings that make it look like someone transplanted it from Europe. It’s a genuinely beautiful city, with parks and gardens everywhere, and a super easy-to-navigate subway system. But even more than those features, the thing that sticks out about DC is the number of monuments, memorials, and museums.
Our nation’s capital, like any capital around the world, is like a great big depository for all the important things about ourselves. The Smithsonian Museum covers everything from archaeology to music; the monuments valorize huge figures from our past; the memorials remind us of all the people who shaped our country in big and small ways. And we’ve put all those things there, because DC, as the capital, exists to give us a shared place to name what’s important to us all.
We just learned last week about how David made Jerusalem the capital of his new kingdom, and like any capital, he wanted it to be a place of shared importance for everyone in his kingdom. Nothing would capture that shared importance quite like the Ark of the Covenant. This gilded box contained the original tablets of the Law brought down from Sinai by Moses, and acted as the symbolic throne of God. If anything was going to unite Israel behind a shared heritage, it was this artifact.
But since the days of Samuel, the Ark had been gathering dust in various moveable sites around Israel—most recently at this place mentioned in the text, Baale-judah. At one time, it was the center of Israelite religious life. It was the center of their worship space. It symbolized God’s own presence among the people, and the tablets of the Law inside were a reminder of just what kind of shared heritage the people had. It was the perfect way for David to bring the people together. So he brought the Ark up to Jerusalem, and marked it with a parade!
It was a huge parade, too. Thirty thousand people turned out! It was like the Macy’s Day Parade, and the Rose Bowl Parade, and the El Paso Day Parade all rolled into one! The people shouted and sang and played all different kinds of instruments, and they danced. Boy did they dance! The Bible can’t think of a better way to phrase it than to say they danced “with all their might.” And this parade wasn’t just a walk through the streets; it was a worship service too. David offered burnt offerings on the way. And he made it into a food truck parade too when he had food handed out to everyone who attended. They were celebrating the presence of God, after all! There was joy to be had, and they showed it.
I think, sometimes, showing joy isn’t the first thing we think of when we think of worship. Exuberant displays of emotion don’t quite fit in our worship style. But what if they did? During seminary, I was assigned to a church as a field site where I would learn the ropes of leading a church in worship. And I remember distinctly that there were two little boys who attended—they were probably four or five years old, always wearing bowties to church—who always made me smile at communion. See, they sat pretty far in the back, but when it came time for communion, they ran down the aisle to get their blessing, giggling the whole way.
Do we sometimes get too caught up in our headspace to experience God in our heart-space? What would happen to our faith if we took the time to dance, to laugh, to experience the joy of God’s presence the way that David and the people did when they brought the Ark to Jerusalem? How would our worship change if we let ourselves feel the emotion of knowing the God of grace and love, the creator who has called each of us by name, is present with us in worship every Sunday?
Maybe we would “dance with all our might,” like David did! David was so filled with the Spirit, so caught up in the joy of knowing that God was with him as he brought the Ark into his capital, that he danced like no one was watching. He leapt and spun and did whatever else his body told him to do to express just how joyful he was. And yes, there were those who judged him as being impious, ridiculous, and maybe even inappropriate, but David was only concerned with showing God just how much he was moved by the fact that God’s own presence was with him.
How are you moved by God’s presence? For me, it’s always the music. Maybe for you, it’s hearing the scriptures. Or maybe it’s communion. Maybe it’s even outside of worship, when you see God’s creation. Or when you experience the love of neighbors helping each other. But however you are move by God, how do you show it? What in your body is calling out to express the joy of God’s presence? What voice, what dance move, what stroke of a brush or word on a page puts the joy you feel from God’s grace and presence out into the world? I want to invite you to find that thing, and share it with the world—whatever it looks like.
Because emotions exist to tell us what’s important to us. They point out to us what makes us care, what makes us motivated, what makes us feel whole or at peace or important. God blessed us with emotions, and God calls on us not to hide them. David was exuberant with joy as he paraded the Ark through the streets of Jerusalem, and God called it worship! How much more joy do we feel knowing that God-with-us doesn’t need a box to be with us? Let that joy well up, and express the emotions that God has given you.
And when you do, when you share the joy God gives you by your dancing, by your singing, by your instruments, your painting, your poetry, your running-leaping-smiling, others will see it too. They’ll see the way that God fills you with hope and joy and peace. They’ll see the way that God’s presence makes you happy, and they’ll want to know where it’s coming from. Because plenty of people are very, very serious in the world—and we long for freedom from that oppressive seriousness. So show the world your joy in God. Show them how God has made you glad, how you rejoice in it, and now you can dance like no one is watching.
Thanks be to God. Amen.