Scripture: 2 Samuel 6:14-16a
Jill A. Kirchner-Rose, MDIV, DMIN
October 16, 2016
Since I am still fairly new as the pastor of this congregation, I had to laugh when I heard the story of another new pastor. Another new pastor moved into this certain town and went out one Saturday to visit his parishioners.
All went well until he came to one house. It was obvious that someone was home, but no one came to the door even after he had knocked several times.
Finally, he took out his card and wrote on the back: Revelation 3:20 and stuck it in the door.
The next day, as he was counting the offering he found his card in the collection plate. Below his message was the notation Genesis 3:10.
Revelation 3:20 reads: “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in, and will dine with you, and you with me.”
Genesis 3:10 reads: “And I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked.”
In our scripture passage this morning we meet another person who is practically naked, scantily clad – and he is anything but afraid. In fact, King David is, what I call, undignified and unashamed. King David wears only an ephod, which is a small piece of linen tied around the waist covering only the front side. And though we don’t hear much about men dancing in the Bible, David freely leaped and danced before the presence of God. Envision the president running out of the Oval Office and cart wheeling down Pennsylvania Avenue in his Fruit of the Looms. And you kind of have an image of the frivolity of King David. Why is King David dancing with wild abandon? The Ark of the Covenant has been returned to Jerusalem.
It is important to understand the importance of the ark of the covenant. As you remember, God gave Moses the 10 commandments. And God told Moses to create an ark for those 10 commandments. It would be called the “Ark of the Covenant”. In the ark of the Covenant was the 10 commandments, a golden pot of honey (which was the daily bread which the Israelites ate during the wilderness journey), and Aaron’s rod which had budded. This represented God’s precepts, provision and power.
The Ark of the Covenant was the most potent image of God during the Exodus. It was symbolic of God’s home on earth.
The Ark of the Covenant was 3 feet 9 inches tall and 2 feet, 3 inches wide. It was made out of acacia wood, covered with gold and fitted with rings through which carrying rods could be placed. Only the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe, was allowed to carry the Ark of the Covenant. The priests carried the ark with acacia poles on their shoulders. The ark was not to be lifted or touched with human hands. It was considered that sacred, that holy.
The Ark played a most significant role in the life of the Israelites. After wandering for 40 years in the wilderness, the Israelites were about to cross over the Jordan River into the Promise Land. The Ark carried by the Levites led the way. The river grew dry as soon as the Levite priests placed their big toe into the Jordan River. The river remained dry as the priests stood in the center of it with the ark and the people passed by safely to the other side. As a reminder of the presence of God through the Ark of the Covenant, 12 stones were taken from the Jordan River at the place where the priests had stood.
In the battle of Jericho, the Ark was carried around the city once a day for seven days, with seven priests sounding seven trumpets of rams’ horns. On the seventh day, the priests sounding the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the Ark compassed the city seven times, and with a great shout, Jericho’s walls fell down and the people took the city.
Years later, the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant. They believed that if they could capture the Ark, then the Israelites would be powerless. But the Philistines returned the Ark 7 months later because of the many afflictions and misfortunes they endured in their country while retaining the Ark. “Here,” the Philistines pleaded, “Take it back!” and they returned it with an offering too.
When the Ark of the Covenant was reclaimed and carried into Jerusalem, David went into a frenzy of worship and celebration because he believed the power of God was back in the Israelites presence. Imagine somersaults, high kicks, spinning, jumping.
Later in the service, we will see King David dance. He will dance to the song “Undignified” which is a song based on today’s scripture passage. The words say, “I will dance, I will sing, to be mad for my King. Nothing, Lord, is hindering the passion in my soul. And I will become even more undignified than this. Some may say its foolishness, but I will become even more undignified than this.” (Yes, I know the words are a bit patriarchal, but remember David lived in a patriarchal society so he would have understood God to be his King, his Lord.) King David was undignified and he was unashamed . Nothing was going to hinder the passion in his soul. David wasn’t going to let anyone quench his spirit. David wasn’t going to let anybody put his fire out. David wasn’t going to let anyone jail his joy, pick at his praise, or hijack his hope. He danced in the presence of God.
After the dance, King David threw a party! To every man and woman in Israel, he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates, and a cake of raisins. He was celebrating the presence of God.
David knew how to express the huge, wild, boundless energy in his soul. David was an artist, after all. He played the harp for King Saul when Saul suffered from depression. Moreover, many of the psalms in the Bible are attributed to David – and whether David really wrote the psalms or whether they were written in the tradition of David, the psalms are filled with passion. The Psalmist affirms tears and grief, giddiness and thanksgiving. The Psalms are not well-structured intellectual essays to be ready by the elite from ivory towers. The Psalms are raw prayers – we dance the Psalms, sing the Psalms, cry the Psalms, feel the Psalms. Yes, David was an artist – a musician, a poet, and today, a dancer. Artists, like King David, bless us with the gift of letting go, the gift of being vulnerable, the gift of untamed passion.
In some ways, it reminds me of my two year old daughter, Daniella. When I walk through the front door after work, Daniella squeals with delight. She jumps up and down and claps for me. She sometimes even dances with wild abandon.
And do you think I just stand there and miss out on the fun? No, I sweep Daniella up in my arms and we twirl around and around and around. I don’t ever want to miss the chance to dance with Daniella. It’s the best feeling in the world!
Which makes me wonder if David might have had a dancing partner, too? The Ark of the Covenant had returned and David was going to celebrate. I imagine that God joined in the celebration, too.
Unfortunately, we don’t know where the Ark of the Covenant is today, but the good news is we do know that God cannot be kept in a box. The presence of God is here. Therefore, I propose that we follow in the steps of King David. May the church lose its shyness, find its tongue and tell the world what God has done! In the words of Undignifed, “We will dance; we will sing, to be mad for our King. Nothing, Lord, is hindering the passion in our soul!”