I delivered this sermon yesterday to my new church, Matton’s Grove UMC. The scripture from which I wrote was Ephesians 1:3-14. I think it went well, and I hope it was appropriate for the beginning of a new relationship between pastor and church.
I am a dancer. This past year, I didn’t get to dance much. As you know, I couldn’t walk for some of it, and the rest of the time that I was able to walk, it was painful to do so.
But this past week we were out at Gold Hill, listening to the dueling bluegrass on three separate porches, and I remembered that I could go dancing again. So on Tuesday, I went to dance.
And I did dance.
Now, just in case I’ve got some Baptists hiding in these pews, the lectionary reading from this week that we didn’t read is from 2 Samuel 6: it’s the story of David DANCING.
He was celebrating the entry of the Ark of the Covenant reentering the worship space.
2 Samuel 6:5 says: “David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.” (NRSV)
So I can dance. I wasn’t “booty dancing,” or “club dancing.” No, I was Contra Dancing. It’s based on English Country dancing, and you dance in sets, and there’s a caller like in square dancing, and it’s to bluegrass, or mountain music.
There is a community of Contra dancers across North Carolina. I have been at dances in Charlotte, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Winston Salem, and I have seen some of the same faces in each of these different places. They get together and celebrate this dance together.
I love this kind of dance. It is one of the most beautiful things that I have ever seen.
Everyone is following the caller, and if someone makes a wrong step, or goes the wrong direction, folks smile and gently guide you to the next place where you can join in the dance again.
You don’t dance with the same person the whole night, there are different leaders, and followers. Everyone learns something new each time the band starts up again.
I tried leading one time, when I usually follow, and the other leads helped me when I was slightly out of step. And those around me had grace for me to continue to learn when I had stepped out of my comfort zone.
It’s a pretty powerful experience. I think I’m still riding the high of being in a group of people all enjoying the same thing.
Now. You might be able to guess where I am going next with this.
I know y’all don’t know me very well yet, but just in case, I’ll let you guess…
Any takers? Can you guess where I am going with this beautiful picture of a group coming together to do something they love, and being a part of a people that cannot do what they want unless they are all working towards a common goal?
This is my vision of the Church.
The Church is called to be a people who come together regularly and celebrate being together, with a common mission. We all are called to have the same goals, that of loving God, and loving our neighbors. We are called to follow Jesus, make disciples, and transform the world.
And, like the dance, we have leaders, and followers. We have people who are new to the dance, and people who have been doing it for so long that they could probably do it in their sleep.
We have people who have been following for a long while, but maybe we need some of them to step out of their comfort zones, and try their hand at leadership.
They may make a mis-step or two, but if we have grace for them and everyone around us, then they will be able to lead us in a dance that grows ever more beautiful.
This kind of church is a blessing to God.
As we join in the dance, we grow into our adoption as children of God.
The words Paul writes to the Ephesians at the beginning of this letter are words of Hope.
They are words of hope to a church in love with God.
We are Chosen.
We are adopted into the Grace of the love of God.
We are redeemed.
We are able to know the mystery of the Will of God through Christ.
We are family. And there is something special about this family.
See, the family that Paul is describing, the family that is the part of the adoption into God, is the family that celebrates being together. We celebrate being part of the foretaste of the kingdom.
We celebrate loving God and loving those around us. And not just those who showed up here this Sunday, but ALL those around us.
All the members of God’s Kingdom. Even those who don’t yet know that they have been invited.
It continues to be a mystery. But, instead of being afraid of the mystery, and allowing our fear to get in the way of our mission, we are invited to embrace the mystery.
Yes, sometimes the mystery is awkward, it is scary, it is something that we don’t understand in the slightest.
The mystery is something that we have to rest in. and we rest in it, knowing that we will never understand it completely. Not in this life anyway.
Something about this mystery sends blessings back to God.
Through Christ, we come to know God. Through the love of Christ, we become holy and blameless. We are adopted into the family of God.
We’re all family. Even when we don’t know each other very well. We are family.
As you continue to get to know me, I pray that we will become more like the family of God. A family that God will be proud of.
Together we will worship, laugh, cry, dance, praise, rejoice, mourn, wonder, celebrate, build, grow, and transform into stronger disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Have you heard the quote that goes something like: do what excites you, because the world needs more people who come alive? Or the one that goes: Be the change you want to see in the world. [attributed to ghandi]
These secular sayings strike a chord in us, because in them we hear our call of longing to move alongside the will of God.
One final image as we close.
On Tuesday night, when we took a break from dancing in the lines, the band played a couple of slow waltzes.
Couples danced to the slow and even One two three, One two three, One two three.
And there was one young woman, dancing the waltz, an even One two three, One two three. But she was dancing alone. Still keeping to the beat of all the other dancers, weaving in and out, dancing among and through the couples circling the room.
She moved with grace.
Her hands, her feet, moving along to the music, making sinuous motions and careful steps. It was a thing of beauty. We were all listening to the same music, but she was the music.
She was part of the dance.
Part of why it was such a beautiful moment, is because she was dancing as if no one was watching her. The dancing space has a mirror along one wall, and she didn’t even glance at that more than a couple times. She was dancing as if no one was watching. She was dancing in such a way that made me want to join her.
I pray that we become the church, the love of God, in such a way that those who see us, will see past us, to the beauty of the Love of God. Our hearts, our feet, our hands will overflow with the Grace of God.
People who see us will feel the music in their hearts.
Beauty, grace, and Love.
The Love of God, the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Spirit who plays this music in our hearts.
Come Church, and Dance with me.