Who Are We Leaving Out of the Dance?
2 Samuel 6:12-23
12 It was told King David, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; 13 and when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. 14 David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.
16 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.
17 They brought in the ark of the Lord, and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and offerings of well-being before the Lord. 18 When David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts, 19 and distributed 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. Then all the people went back to their homes.
20 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!” 21 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. 22 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.” 23 And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.
Three weeks ago, our youth were in a park in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania serving grilled hamburgers hot dogs, potato salad, and watermelon to about 300 people. It was people from all over the neighborhood gathered that night for a community cookout, and our youth were helping to host. It was a little bit hot, a little bit humid, and some work for our youth and adult leaders. But overall it was a beautiful evening. Kids were throwing footballs and Frisbees around. People who had just met each other the day before were sitting down and sharing stories. The sun was slowly setting and the trees were swaying in the wind.
And then my favorite part of the night happened. One of the YouthWorks staff members named CJ hooked up his phone to a huge speaker and started playing music. By this time, almost everyone had food, so I went through and grabbed two hot dogs, one for each hand. And right after I had just covered my hot dogs in ketchup and mustard, I looked over and saw something amazing. CJ was playing the song “Cupid Shuffle,” and as soon as it started, about ten people, both from the neighborhood and hosting the cookout, started forming lines and dancing together.
If you don’t know the “Cupid Shuffle” it is probably one of the easiest songs to dance to. The lyrics even tell you what to do as the singer sings “To the right/to the right/to the right the right the right…To the left, to the left to the left the left the left…Now kick, now kick now kick now kick, now walk it by yourself, now walk it by yourself.”
I am not a great dancer, but I love dances like these. So with both hot dogs in my hands I run over and start dancing along with them, probably looking pretty odd and foolish (to the right: chomp. to the right: chomp. To the left: chomp. To the left: chomp). And then pretty soon, those first 10 people dancing grew to 20 and then 40 and then close to half of the people in the park , kids and seniors, locals and visitors, new friends and old, were moving to the right and left, dancing and turning and singing together. It was beautiful. And so much fun.
I also believe it was a holy moment. It was a moment where all of us let go of worrying how we are seen, what others think of us, what labels the world puts upon us, and just joined in the dance. It was a moment where we could see how unique and beautiful and wondrous each one of us is.
I believe there is something holy about dance and movement and celebration. It connects us with who God made us to be: people who are wild, creative, joyful, and crazy. People who come together in community. People who praise God not just with our lips and mouths, but with all that we are, with our whole bodies in celebration and praise.
One of my greatest gifts as pastor here at Stone House is that every other week during the year I get to lead preschool chapel. And doing the dancing and singing to Pharoah Pharoah, Zacchaeus,, He’s Got the World in His Hands, and If I were butterfly, is so joyful. Whenever I get to doing those songs with those kids, all my worries, all my stress washes away. There’s a great peace and joy and connection with God when I get to join in those dances.
And so when I read this passage about David dancing, my first reaction is to rejoice with David. Here is a king, a ruler of a country, a general and leader of armies, who has put all those titles and labels aside to jump and dance and clap and play a trumpet before the Lord. The Ark of the Covenant, God’s great promise to be with us and guide us, and love us, is coming into David’s city for the first time ever. And he can’t hold back. He makes a fool of himself. But he doesn’t care. Because this is who God made him to be. He knows God’s love and joy. And he will be undignified in his praise,
This story starts off with a beautiful scene of joining in God’s dance, of joining in praise and worship and life and celebration of all that God has given us. As Presbyterians and people of faith today, we could learn a lot from this story, and maybe be challenged to be undignified ourselves. To be silly and make a fool for God.
But there is another character in this story as well. David’s wife- Michal. And her story is far more complicated, and even more challenging to us today.
This is actually the passage I preached for my very first sermon ever. And when I preached that sermon, I though that Michal was just someone who was uptight and worried bout appearances. She gets angry when she sees David dancing. She doesn’t like his reckless celebration. She rebukes him for it. And I thought it was all because she was in the wrong. I thought that she just cared more about appearances than joy. I thought she was simply uptight or judgmental. And so my first sermon was all about how we need to be more like David and less like Michal.
But since that first sermon, I read more of Michal’s story. And I’ve realized that Michal is angry in this story not because of David’s joy and dancing, but because she has been left out of that joy and dancing.
For many of us, the most joyful day of our lives is the day of our wedding. It is the day we dance the most, maybe to the Cupid Shuffle. Michal had two wedding days. The first was to David. It was a political marriage. She was the daughter of the then king Saul. David was Saul’s rival. It was a marriage to maybe bring peace, one of Saul’s attempts to control David. It didn’t work. Saul quickly felt threatened again and chased his son –in-law away. David fled and left Michal. Michal loved him and protected him, but David went on to marry Abigail and other wives.
And then Michal married again. This time to a man named Paltiel, son of Laish. Paltiel was a man who greatly loved Michal, not as a political game piece, but as a wife and family. At the same time, David seems to have forgotten all about her.
And then Saul dies, and David tries to get all of Israel under his control. This is where he remembers Michal again. When the general of Saul’s side, Abner, comes to make truce, the one demand David makes is that Michal be returned to him. Not out of love or relationship. But because this is a political maneuver. It is David’s way of showing his rightful spot to the throne. He is married to one of Saul’s heirs, so he should be the heir.
Michal is brought to David, with her husband Paltiel behind her all the way. And finally as Paltiel is crying, weeping at the loss of the woman he loves, he is cast away. Michal is forever separated from the husband who truly loved her. She becomes David’s wife again, not because he missed her, but so he can gain power and become king over all of Israel.
And that is where we find Michal in this passage. Not just a prude who disproves of dancing. But someone who has had joy and love and dancing taken away from her. Someone who has been used for power, instead of chosen for love.
Michal isn’t dancing because she has been left out by David’s actions. And so while David is able to join the in the dance of God’s people, Michal knows nothing but heartache and bitterness and pain.
This passage is a challenging one. It challenges us first to dance and sing and celebrate and be a fool for Christ. But it is also reminds us to look out for the Michal’s of the world. Look out for those who have been kept out of the dance. Look out for those who have been hurt, attacked, mistreated, unwelcomed.
The church is meant to be a place of great welcome, where we can be our ridiculous selves and grow in God’s love. But too often we have been a place that has kept people out – people of different skin colors, people of different class and backgrounds, people with different sexual orientations, people with different gender identities. And in doing so, we have born false witness. We have turned the true God of dance and joy and song into a God of prejudice, fear, and hurt.
God has given us incredible gifts. Gifts of breath. Gifts of spirit. Gifts of movement. Gifts of community. Those gifts are meant to grow and spread within the church. We are meant to dance and sing and show joy to the world. We are meant to do the Cha Cha Slide and have cookouts, and come across color and background and gender to a know our God of healing and grace. And we are meant to notice those who have been left out. Go over, sit with them, hear their stories, and then say, “God has invited us to this great dance. Come. Join us. It won’t be complete until you are with us.” And maybe one day, all of us, the Davids and Michals of the world, will find healing, with find reconciliation, will find joy, and will one day dance together again. Amen.