After-the Dance

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					After the Dance
A meditation by Cathy C. Hoop Based on 2 Samuel 6: 1 – 5, 12b – 19 and Mark 6: 14 – 29 July 12, 2009 Second Presbyterian Church 1977. An autumn night in Memphis, Tennessee. The weather still warm enough for the boys’ school to have their dance outside in the courtyard. I was a shy and awkward freshman, when Stuart, a boy I hardly knew, called me up and asked me out. I hung up the phone and panicked – not over whether or not Stuart liked me, but over what to wear. I have a vague memory of a trendy jumpsuit with bell bottoms. The fear of what to wear paled in comparison to the fear of walking out on the dance floor. “I don’t know how to dance!” I protested. But, when the dance is “the bump” that argument doesn’t hold up for long. I had two choices: plant myself against the wall and look foolish (and ruin Stuart’s evening) or go out onto the dance floor and look foolish. Stuart reassured me, coaxed me away from the wall. I probably looked absolutely ridiculous, but we all looked ridiculous together. There were other dances. Most of my outfits were as equally terrible as that infamous jumpsuit. I quickly learned that it was after the dancing ended, that you were compelled to do some soul searching. You puzzled over why you kissed that boy. You had to admit that a relationship was OVER. You saw clearly who your friends were. After the dance you asked yourself why you had kept your shoes on…was he really worth the blisters? After the dance, that’s when you when you really had to face the music. Today we have been invited to a different kind of dance; a victory parade. But while the music plays on in the streets, there is another story taking place inside. This is a raw story. A story that may reveal more about human nature than about God’s nature. This is David’s story, but it is Michal’s story, too. And her story is what happens after the dance. There is much music to be faced. When we enter into this story, David is king of Israel. The enemies have been defeated. Jerusalem regained. And David is a clever man. He is well aware that he needs to unite those people who were loyal to King Saul as well as garnering the trust of those whose primary allegiance is to Yahweh. Michal, Saul’s daughter, had originally been David’s wife, but Saul had given her to another. David negotiates for her return, thus reuniting their two families. He also brings the Ark of the Covenant, that precious symbol of the very presence of God, which had been neglected for twenty years, back into the public eye. David gathers 30,000 men, not for a war, but for a parade. They enter the city gates with singing and music and David himself is dancing, whirling with ecstasy before the ark. David has brought everything together: he has made a home for

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God in the holy city. He has established Jerusalem as the political capital, and he has reunited his family with Saul’s. He pauses in the dancing to offer sacrifices to the Lord. David himself blesses the people, and serves the meal. David is doing more than kingly things, he is doing priestly things, too. But he isn’t acting regal or pretentious. Their king isn’t sitting on a throne, detached and distant. Their king is dancing and singing. Adorned with joy, and evidently very little else. Scholars do not seem to agree exactly on what an ephod was or how much of the body it actually covered. The adrenaline is coursing through David’s veins. David has it all… But then he moves from the public arena to the private. He goes home to offer a blessing to his family. Here, after the dance, David discovers that the atmosphere is anything but exuberant. We’ve already gotten a glimpse of things to come. In verse 16, we read, “As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.” Michal is not referred to as David’s wife, but the daughter of Saul. She doesn’t see her “husband,” but rather she sees “King David.” She knows she is only there for political reasons. We need to pick up a little more of this story. David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ maids, as any vulgar fellow might shamelessly uncover himself!” David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me in place of your father and all his household, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord, that I have danced before the Lord. I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in my own eyes; but by the maids of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.” And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death. 2 Samuel 6: 20 – 23 After the dance, Michal has nothing but sarcasm to offer David, a man she once loved. Early in her marriage, Michal had foiled her father’s plot to murder David by using the old pillows in the bed trick, enabling him to make an escape. That sacrificial love that Michal once held for David, is gone. Also gone, are her brothers and father, all lost in the war. In David’s whirling dance, she didn’t see holy worship. She saw a man who was thrilled to hold so much power. Michal’s harsh words welled up in her from the midst of her grief. She had not only lost father and brothers, but husbands as well. David, who had since wed other women, had reclaimed Michal as his own, not for love, but as a political maneuver. She must wonder if he ever really loved her. And when David does come to reclaim her, he shows no regard for her. He has her taken 2

from her husband, Paltiel, who weeps as she is led away. No wonder her words are so cruel. When David steps across the threshold, he discovers that he is no longer a hero. David should have walked around the block a few times before rushing through the door ready to call out, “honey, I’m home! I’ve had the BEST day!” She comes out to meet him and her words slap him in the face. “Vulgar” she calls him. “Disgusting.” And David reacts as most of us would when we are attacked. He lashes back at her, even rubbing his success in her face: God has appointed me to take your father’s place. David holds everything; the world at his feet. Michal has nothing. As Michal watched from the window, could she feel anything but rejection by this God, a God who seems to have left her so terribly alone? How could David have been so blind to her suffering? Long after the music died away, would David comprehend why she could not share his joy? But not in this moment. For Michal seems to have struck a nerve. Perhaps his dancing wasn’t just for God. Perhaps he was using the Holy Ark in much the same way as he was using Michal…for his own political purposes…Perhaps he was enjoying showing off in his little linen ephod in front of the servant girls. Perhaps his motives were mixed…like most of ours. Could Michal could have been a brilliant partner for David, someone who would have held up a mirror for him from time to time. If anyone was familiar with the risks and dangers associated with power, it was Saul’s daughter. And Michal had known David from the time he had been a beloved member of her father’s house. Could his life have been different if he had listened to her voice? But Michal is silenced with this story. David brings her a curse instead of a blessing; she will not bear children. And she is not heard from again. I had always thought of this story of David as somewhat comical, mostly inspiring. How amazing that the king would make a fool of himself, not caring what others thought, only searching for a way to communicate a joy that was beyond words! I still believe that David’s heart belonged to God. It’s just that David, unlike most of us, had his baser actions recorded for posterity… Where is God in all of this? Could God both delight in David’s dancing and be troubled by David’s treatment of Michal? When the public and private moments intersect, does one negate the validity of the other? Can we find a way to reclaim David’s dancing? The good news is we don’t have to redeem anything. That is God’s work, not ours. God, who knows us better than we know ourselves, is fully aware of all the mixed motives within us. There is something ridiculously symbolic about the fact that David was practically naked as he danced before God. 3

I do believe that God longs for our public and private “dancing” to find synchronization. The steps have been laid out before us…in the stories of God’s people, and even more powerfully, in the story of Christ’s life. Maybe David’s definition of worship was simply too narrow. Maybe David, so caught up in the moment, forgot the truth that he had grown up knowing: all of life is worship. The public celebration. The private conversations. All of these steps are woven together into the worship we bring to God. Isn’t that what Christ demonstrated when he broke all the Sabbath rules? In the midst of the dance God opens our eyes to this truth: our most profound worship is revealed in the ways that we treat one another. Individually. Corporately. Locally. Globally. Not feeling so confident about your dance moves? No one does. Like David, we will stumble from time to time. We will step on each others’ toes. Just remember three steps: do justice, love kindness, walk humbly. Three simple dance steps are all God asks us to learn. And God is there coaxing us out onto the dance floor. Don’t leave God standing there. We are all going to look foolish, whether we dance or not. So we might as well dance. Amen.

Go from this place empowered to dance, Carrying the knowledge that the God who created you, invites you in, Christ himself will dance beside you, And the Spirit will celebrate what a glorious fool you are! Amen.

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