This was my message when I led chapel at the COB General Offices during my internship with Messenger, Summer 2007. It's not really analytical, but I had to post something.
“Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.” - Psalm 150:3-5
“Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance.” - Dave Barry, Fourteen things that took me 50 years to learn, item six.
Dancing is a subject of some humor in the Church of the Brethren. I’m dubious about the accuracy of this – and part of me is afraid to ask – but rumor has it that back in the day, Bridgewater College used a 100 point system for disciplinary procedures: policy violations would earn you points, and once you reached 100 you were kicked out. Sources say that getting caught engaging in “premarital relations” was worth 99 points: getting caught dancing was an even hundred.
But Brethren jokes aside, Dave Barry – and the author of Psalm 150 – have an important message for us. God didn’t give us such beauty and creativity and passion and intensity so we could stay seated and keep our talents – or just our enthusiasm – to ourselves. Church is not a middle school dance where the boys and the girls clump together on opposite sides of the room and look awkwardly at each other. Church is a party where we can all dance our hearts out and never worry about looking stupid.
Temptations to treat our faith coolly follow us all our lives. Youth are pressured to be “too cool” to talk about Jesus. Adults who have been raised in the church can be just too used to our faith to get excited about it. And we all know what it’s like to be too busy to be excited about anything except the end of the day. The English department office at my high school has a clock permanently fixed on 5:00 with a sign underneath that reads, “It’s 5 PM somewhere.”
Brothers and sisters, life is better than that! God is too good not to praise. Our work here as Christians is too important not to give it our all. When we hold back due to our fear – of failure, of incompetence, of being overwhelmed, of putting ourselves out there, of looking stupid, of getting turned down by Ashley Brandau when we ask her to dance – we are robbing the world of our gifts and ourselves of the joy of living.
Look around. We're doing amazing things. We're feeding the hungry. We're clothing the naked. We're visiting the sick and imprisoned. We're reaching out our hands to Jesus and no, it’s not enough and it never will be, but it’s something. And that is something to celebrate. God is good, and God is doing good work, and that is all the reason we need to praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, with the harp and lyre, with tambourine and strings and flute and cymbals and yes, even dancing.
Now, go to any dance with me and you’ll find me standing quietly in the corner, explaining to anyone who tries to drag me out onto the floor that I’m Brethren and dancing is sinful. But when it comes to our passion for life, our love for Jesus Christ and our commitment to a better world, we have too much to offer to keep it to ourselves. Like Ken Medema's song from NYC 2006 says, “There’s lots of room out on the dancing floor. There’s no delaying anymore.”