Sunday, January 3, 2016

“Dancing in the Light” (John 1:1-18)

I am not much of a dancer . . . never have been.  No, I have been pretty much a wallflower my whole life when it came to dancing.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term “wallflower” . . . a “wallflower” is “a person who has no one to dance with or who feels shy, awkward, or excluded at a party.”  Growing up as a kid . . . through those formative years of junior and senior high school . . . I was a wallflower.  For most of my life I have stood on the dark periphery of the dance floor scared to death that someone would ask me to dance revealing my awkward and ungraceful movement more reminiscent of someone slipping on ice than actual dancing.  I can remember that the thing I dreaded the most when my daughter got married was the father/daughter dance . . . I did not dread the final tab for the wedding . . . I did not dread whether or not my son-in-law would be a good husband or not.  Nope, it was having to go out on the dance . . . all alone with my daughter . . . and having to dance in front of all those family and friends.

When it comes to dancing . . . well, let’s just say that I prefer to stand on the edge of the darkness—just outside of the glaring light of the dance floor . . . and bid my luck that no one will ask me to dance.

As much as I hate to dance—or am scared to dance, I have to admit that one of the coolest metaphors about faith . . . our intimate relationship with God . . . has to do with dancing.  That God calls us to come and dance . . . to dance with God.  I have always liked that metaphor, especially when one of my favorite songs is Sydney Carter’s Lord of the Dance.  This wonderful song came out in the early 1960s as a non-traditional worship song in the Catholic Church in hopes that it would appeal to a younger audience.  Its melody is set to the Shaker tune ‘Tis a Gift to Be Simple.  Whatever the case, the song is about the call of God to come dancing:

I danced in the morning when the world was young
I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun
I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth
Dance, dance, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the dance, said he
And I lead you all, wherever you may be
And I lead you all in the dance, said he

Each verse tells how God, through Jesus, danced . . . tells the story of Jesus’ life and ministry.  It tells how he dances for the scribes and Pharisees—but they wouldn’t dance, so instead he dances with the disciples . . . tells about how he danced on the Sabbath curing the lame, but this offended the holy people resulting in him being crucified . . . tells how he danced in his death, but death could not defeat him—could not stop his dance:

They cut me down and I leapt up high
I am the life that will never, never die
I’ll live in you if you’ll live in me
I am the Lord of the dance said he

And through the whole song, God—through Jesus, continues to offer the invitation to come and dance:

Dance, dance, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the dance, said he
And I lead you all, wherever you may be
And I lead you all in the dance, said he

Isn’t that a wonderful metaphor for faith . . . for describing that intimate relationship between us and God . . . a dance?

In the Gospel of John the writer expresses a new genesis . . . a new beginning . . . to a world that was filled with darkness and fear for the children of God.  The people were in the dark.  The writer offers to the people an invitation to step out of the darkness into the light . . . the light of the holy and cosmic dance floor . . . to dance . . . to dance with God.  That invitation comes in the form of Jesus—the Lord of the Dance.

Light is an appropriate image in this case.  Whenever life seems to get difficult and hard . . . whenever it seems daunting and scary . . . whenever it becomes violent and unjust . . . we said that it is the dark side of life that we are entering.  And, true, as humans that is a natural reaction whenever we are scared or anxious or in a crisis . . . our vision goes from panoramic to microscopic . . . the darkness sets in.  It is only through light that we can see . . . that we can see that we are loved . . . that we are desired . . . that we are not alone.  That God is with us, always with us.

That is what the writer of the Gospel of John is telling us.

Into the darkness of the world God has shined a light . . . has offered an invitation . . . an invitation to step out of the darkness and into the dance of life . . . to come into an intimate relationship with the One who loves us.  That invitation is extended to us through Jesus . . . God comes down . . . to show us the way.  In his words and in his actions throughout his life, Jesus shows us the way the way to live in relationship with God and with one another . . . shows us the way to dance the “dance of life.” 

In other words, we can’t be wallflowers any more . . . we are called to dance . . . to dance in the light which is the loving and intimate relationship with the God who loves us.

Well, I have been a lifetime wallflower . . . a person who fears dancing (which, by the way, is officially called “chorophobia”) . . . and, I am a little leery of that invitation to dance.  Leery because it means that I have to let loose and trust the one who is asking me to dance . . . trust that he or she is not going to laugh at my attempts at bogeying and dancing . . . trust that I am not going to embarrass myself or my dance partner . . . trust that he or she is going to be patient, kind, and graceful in showing me the steps . . . trust that I can let go and allow another to take the lead.  It has been a lifetime of struggle to just let go and to step out of the darkness into the light and to dance.  And, I think, that it is the same for most of us.

As I stated earlier, I have always been a wallflower when it came to dancing . . . been scared to step out there and let my inner Fred Astaire cut the rug; but, with age . . . and with grandchildren . . . that is changing.  With age I am learning that it really does not matter what other people think of my dancing . . . all that matters is that I am dancing . . . dancing with the partner who loves me for me—lousy dancer and all.  With grandchildren I am learning that they really do not care how I look when I dance . . . no, they just want to be held, swayed, and moved . . . embraced in a silly dance with someone who loves them.  As I step out onto the dance floor more and more, I find myself surrounded by laughter . . . laughter of joy . . . mine and that of those who love me.

Count God among those sharing in the laughter.

So, here is the deal . . . God wants to dance . . . wants to dance with each of us.  God wants us to step out of the darkness of being a wallflower and to hop out onto the dance floor of light and life.  God is even willing to show us how that dance is danced.  Through Jesus God shows us the way . . . makes the invitation . . . and calls us to dance in the light.  And this is our chance to step out of the darkness of being a wallflower and taking our rightful place in the family of God . . . this is our chance to step into the light of God’s grace and love so that we can shine.
Do you hear the invitation?

Dance, dance, wherever you may be
I am the lord of the dance, said he
And I lead you all, wherever you may be
And I lead you all in the dance, said he

In the Gospel of John the writer begins with the invitation from God: Shall we dance?  Shall we dance in the light of grace and love?  Shall we dance?  Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment