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Wednesday, July 08, 2009
Lectionary Scriptures: II Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 or Amos 7:7-15, Psalm 24:1-10 or Psalm 85:8-13, Ephesians 1:3-14, Mark 6:14-29 The reading from II Samuel has David dancing because the ark of the covenant—here called “the ark of God”—is being returned to the temple where it belongs. The ark was believed to have contained the very presence of God. We all probably have some problems with this sort of “God in a box” image, although it’s not uncommon for human beings to try to put God in a box. For now, let’s just note that there’s a big parade going on and David is at the head of the parade, “leaping and dancing before the Lord.” (II Samuel 6:16) It’s a picture of enthusiastic worship. What if Pastor Rick danced his way into the sanctuary some Sunday? Or, think of the massive celebrations of the life of Michael Jackson, which deserve further anaylsis but won’t get it here. I grew up in a tradition where dancing was not allowed in any form or place—so I never learned to dance. I’ve since experienced various forms of liturgical dance, tasteful interpretive performances before the congregation during worship. The dancing in this passage from II Samuel, however, appears to be spontaneous and unrestrained, an example of the exuberance one might expect on any given Sunday. There are always those who oppose exuberance. In this case it is Michal, David’s wife (and daughter of Saul), who, looking on, sees David dancing his heart out, and she despises him in her heart. (II Samuel 6:16) What is her reason? Is she embarrassed because David seems to be making a fool of himself? Is she jealous, glimpsing the women in the procession admiring, perhaps drooling over, David? Does she just wish that David might demonstrate that much exuberance in his love for her? Whatever the specifics for Michal, there are always those who sit on the sidelines passing judgment and missing the action. What happens at the end is remarkable! David distributes food “among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins.” (II Samuel 6:19) What if worship were an exuberant dance (literally or figuratively) followed by a distribution of food for all in need? In the Amos passage, we might consider the significance of the “plumb line,” a measuring device to check whether a wall is straight or not. It is announced that God is going to hold a plumb line against his people to see if they measure up. How do we tell whether a nation is living up to God’s vision? Amos is a “herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees,” (Amos 7:14) an ordinary person whom God has chosen for a task, like the ordinary people God usually chooses. Perhaps the folk of Kairos-Milwaukie United Church of Christ are, believe it or not, among the ordinary people God wants to use to make a difference in the Portland area. The second of the Psalms, Psalm 85, contains some wonderful images, images that perhaps give content to that plumb line in Amos. God speaks “peace to his people (vs. 8). “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.” Would that all were that intimate with righteousness and peace, associating them with a kiss. “Faithfulness will spring up from the ground and righteousness will look down from the sky.” The Gospel lesson contains the story of Herodias, Herod’s daughter, demanding Herod bring her John the Baptist’s head on a platter. The story, however, is a flashback. The question is the identity of Jesus. Herod remembers what he did to John the Baptist and fears that John has come back to haunt him. The story might cause us to reflect on the things, the actions, that come back to haunt us. We have a hard time moving on because we relive them when confronted by new, and perhaps similar, circumstances. Or—we might simply stick with the question of who Jesus is to us, given our history and experience. Or—we might consider why John the Baptist was in prison in the first place. He had confronted Herod—spoken the truth to power—who married his brother’s wife. There is always a cost to speaking the truth to power, but it is something God’s prophets, even ordinary people like Amos and us, have been called to do. Finally, the reading from Ephesians could lead us into a discussion of adoption. There is a whole tradition of speaking of us as adopted children of God. In our human families, there has sometimes been jealousy and conflict between “natural” and “adopted” children, adopted children sometimes thinking they are valued and loved less. Usually they are reminded of the powerful fact that they were singled out, chosen, to receive the love their parents wanted to give. Whatever the theological language used, it is a fact that we have somehow come into existence in this cosmos, the cosmos has “chosen” to accomplish the purposes of love through us. We have been given existence. It is a gift—every single ordinary life—to be used to further the work of love and peace and justice. Can we fulfill our purpose with exuberance, leaping and dancing as righteousness and peace embrace and kiss?

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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