Sunday Homily - July 11, 2021 - Joy in God
King David at Prayer
If you have ever been to a youth church camp during the summer,
or, better yet, if you have been a youth leader during those camps,
you are guaranteed to have an emotional rollercoaster of experiences
Kids who are taken out of their normal context,
away from parents and parent figures,
put into a different context with a bunch of other kids their age,
and then released to do all kinds of activities together
brings a fair share of emotional highs and lows.
Some miss their parents for a bit,
until lifted up by the fun of running with new friends.
Others are so glad to finally get away from their houses,
only to become homesick for their family, their home, and perhaps their own bed.
If you go to Camp Mitchell, our Episcopal Church Camp on Petit Jean Mountain,
kids will play silly outdoor team games together,
learning how to work with each other,
and, in quite literal ways,
carry each other across the obstacle courses.
But, despite the loud, raucous noises of kids playing funny games,
chanting team songs for red team, green team, blue team, or others,
there is in fact one place where the emotional and spiritual intensity
can be palpably felt:
when the kids assemble for worship.
A whole different kind of emotional atmosphere is created
when kids know they are about to interact with God.
I can't explain it
other than to just tell you of some of those experiences.
I've seen even the wildest kids become the most serene and tuned-in people
when we enter into the place where we are about to celebrate the liturgy.
I've seen kids who actually are moved to tears
when they confess their sins corporately together
and hear their assurance of forgiveness in the Absolution.
I've seen kids reconcile with their often-absent parents
after receiving the Sacrament of Unction,
the anointing with Holy Oil for healing of body, mind, and soul.
I've seen kids eyes light up with an unexplainable light
when they receive the Holy Communion
and recognize Jesus
in his active giving of Himself to them.
And I've seen kids who break out of their shells,
who dance and sing,
sometimes wildly enough that,
as a former Youth coordinator myself,
I would be tempted to say, "Eh, that's a bit much, dude."
But it is in seeing genuine expressions and reactions
to really experiencing God
that I have to pause myself
and remember that they are really encountering Jesus.
A happy dance for Jesus,
a joyful shout to God,
a good cry,
a real movement of the heart in response to the Holy Spirit:
these things are the things that God will not despise.
And often when we encounter Jesus,
it is cause for a genuine reaction of love,
no matter how undignified it might be!
in our reading this morning from the book of the prophet Samuel,
is a wonderful example
of a genuine act of love and worship
that most certainly was beneath the dignity of the King of Israel.
What would cause King David
to "dance before the Lord with all his might"
along with the people of Israel?
Earlier in the book of Samuel,
the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord Most High
was captured by the rival kingdom of the Philistines.
Now, just a reminder,
in the time of the tabernacle worship in Israel,
the Ark of the Covenant was THE place
where the Glory of the Lord rested above
when God comes to speak to Israel.
It was kept in the Holy of Holies,
the innermost court of the Tabernacle,
the Tent of Meeting,
and it contained 3 particularly important miraculous items inside:
it contained the stone tablets of the Covenant given to Moses,
the staff of Aaron that bloomed (a sign of the priesthood of Aaron)
and a jar of Manna, the bread given by God to the Israelites in the wilderness.
In other words,
it was THE sign of God's presence among the people of Israel.
And it had been captured by a rival army.
The significance of this fact
needs to be emphasized:
this was a dire sign.
As God's very presence,
or, at least the sign of God's presence,
was absent from Israel.
So, when David was given the opportunity to bring the Ark back to the people,
it was a cause for a huge celebration!
David could finally take off his armor for battle,
because he no longer needs to fight.
Instead is wearing only a simple linen ephod,
which is the equivalent of gym shorts,
which makes sense after fighting in bronze armor
for weeks on end!
The Ark of the Covenant of God was coming home!
And it required a big worship service!
Not only did all of Israel dance before the Lord,
but David couldn't help himself!
He danced with all his might
the joy and love of God overcoming his kingly dignity,
joining in with the common people
and joining the celebration as they walk all the way to Jerusalem.
But, the ecstatic worship of a genuine heart moved toward God
can also be misunderstood
or even despised.
the daughter of Saul,
sees David dancing wildly
and all she sees is a man putting on a show.
A King who is acting in a particularly undignified fashion
and assumes that instead of genuine love being given to God,
that he is just using it as an excuse to act wild.
The interaction between Michal and David that we didn't hear in today's reading
happens just a few verses later.
The Scriptures say this:
"When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”
(remember, David was only wearing his gym shorts!)
David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” (2 Samuel 6:20-22)
King David's love for God
and his ecstatic joy before God
serves as a lesson to us about not being afraid
When we see those who are genuinely moved by joy before God,
even if that reaction is "not proper"
we should give pause before we assume their intentions.
But even more importantly,
when YOU are genuinely moved with joy before God,
YOU don't need to feel embarrassed when your heart is so filled
that you just can't stand it.
This is one of the things that kids get
that we as adults need to constantly re-learn,
or maybe perhaps learn for the first time:
that genuine joy before God sometimes involves reactions
that we sometimes stuffy adults consider "undignified."
When moved by the love of God,
would we choose instead to be like King David,
and become "even more undignified than this"
when God does something for you?
Because, friends, joy in God is an essential part of our sharing of the Gospel!
When people actually see and witness someone who genuinely is moved by joy,
they are far more likely to be curious!
Christians should be a joy-filled people
because of what Jesus has done for us.
Maybe we could stand to be a tad bit more "undignified" sometimes
if it means genuinely sharing the Good News of God in Christ.
So go and spread that joy, friends,
wherever you may go.
And if someone should ask you what on earth you are up to,
tell them of the joy in what God has done for you.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.