This sermon is for 9 a.m. at The Stand UMC worship on August 25, based on the scripture from 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12-21.
Have you ever bought something because you had to have it, recognizing that everyone else (or at least those you admired) had one? (No, this won’t be about buyer’s remorse!) I remember buying a big, white cowboy hat on a school field trip. I don’t remember where we went, but I remember that walking around with that hat on, I felt good. I also remember shedding a few tears in my bedroom when it blew off my head and ended up permanently muddied!
Looking back, the pictures make me cringe. To my adult self, I looked ridiculous. But as a kid, I was proud of my purchase and how I looked. It didn’t matter to me that my parents rolled their eyes when they saw it, or that the other kids mocked me for wanting to look like the Lone Ranger long before Johnny Depp got involved. I was comfortable, and it made me feel good, so I didn’t care.
Funny how twenty years and several thousand miles can change all that. I sometimes wonder what it would look like to go back and tell my fourteen-year-old self what I know now. But why tarnish the youthful exuberance? Why crash the party too early?
Now, I understand what it’s like to have one’s joy stripped away, to worry about things that I didn’t worry about before. I know what it’s like to be mocked, to be laughed at, to struggle with the expectations of others.
It’s not a new story, is it?
In our reading today, David is trying to find something to bring his people together. He’s won plenty of wars as the new king of Israel, and God has obviously placed his blessing on David’s rule. But the young man who was anointed as the last, forgotten son of Jesse no longer has the joy of being chosen first in his heart. He’s dealing with political pressure, and social anxiety.
And in the midst of it all, David realizes that he can go and bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, to his city, and he can make sure everyone knows that God is with him. Something happens when he encounters the ark, when he begins to bring it back with him. There’s a change that occurs, a holy moment when David goes from needing the ark to prove himself, to realizing that God is with him.
All around him, the people begin to celebrate with all their might before God, with every kind of instrument they had. I sometimes wonder what it would look like if I worshipped God with all my might, if I celebrated communion like it was the fourth quarter of a close football game, if my passion for Jesus’ death on the cross would sound more like the hoarse chanting of the Richmond Spiders’ fight song.
For David, this is a game-changing moment. He has recaptured what it meant to be chosen by God, to be the anointed one, to be blessed by the presence of God’s love and power. David gets “it,” and it causes him to be free again to be that bold teenager who stood before the giant Goliath and shouted that no one could overcome the one true God. David was reminded that God was still there, even in the midst of the boring church council, I mean, city council meetings, in the midst of the negotiations about running the city, in the quiet of peace time when conflict arises from the inside.
David was having a mountaintop experience, escorting the ark of the covenant, the place where he understood God to reside, into the city he had built. But not everyone gets to the mountaintop at the same time or the same place or the same way, and David’s wife was not up there with him.
It says that Michal watched from the window as he entered. Notice, she didn’t go out to greet him, she didn’t participate, she wasn’t as excited as he was. But when she saw him leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him.
Last week, we looked at David and Goliath, and we saw that Goliath despised David. He resented that David was foolish enough to come and stand against him, that David wasn’t intimidated by his size and bullying. Despise is such a strong word, but here it is again. That word is used eighty-one times in the Bible, but here, it cuts deeper than Goliath’s reaction because it is David’s wife who thinks of him that way.
To despise is to reject, to feel a repugnance for. To despise is to see the other as less than oneself, to have such contempt for that their existence is trivial, repulsive, resented.
Michal despised David while he leapt and danced before God. She didn’t separate out the behavior from the situation, she didn’t take David out of context. She knew why he was doing it and she thought less of him anyway. And after David was done celebrating, Michal couldn’t wait to tell him what she thought.
David came home on that high, expecting to “bless his household,” and Michal derisively mocks his position, not as her husband but as the king. She re-situates David before the slaves, rather than before God. She demeans what he did, as we’re inclined to do when we want to bring someone down. She makes it be about David’s position, rather than about David’s relationship with God.
And David refocuses it back on God, and God’s anointing. David is so locked in, so rejuvenated by his experience of the presence of God that he takes it a step further.
“Oh yeah? I will become even less than this. Even more undignified, even more humiliated than this.”
David could’ve succumbed to the pressure, first of the social norms and then to his wife’s critique. But he kept “the main thing the main thing.” David’s joy was completed by his experience of worshipping God, even when not all of those around him could understand or appreciate his decision.
David chose to dance rather than sitting on the sidelines. He chose to participate actively in recognizing the power and majesty of God rather than going the own route. For all of his problems and struggles, David stayed focused on what God wanted, that is, real worship, instead of the worship of what others thought was important.
I am sure that David was unhappy. It’s hard to be happy when your spouse is openly, deeply rejecting you, isn’t it? But David knew joy. He understood that happiness, the praise of others, comfort, and security were all passing moments, but that the joy of knowing God and living in God’s glory was forever.
Do you know that? Do you understand the joy of being enveloped in the glory of God and God’s plan for your life? Are you able to push aside the doubters, the “haters,” those who despise, and climb to the mountaintop to embrace God, to engage in the dance with the most holy God?
It’s hard sometimes when the world crushes in to recognize the music in the background, to see the handiwork of God’s glory in the shadows of tragedy, hardship, anxiety, and pain. But in the midst of all of that, the symphony of God’s glory plays on promising that there is something better, something lasting, if we can hear the music.
I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger,
May you never take one single breath for granted,
GOD forbid love ever leave you empty handed,
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.
These words from Lee Ann Womack resonate as I consider the battle of young Ren McCormack and the dancing of David. I hope that I will have what it takes to do the right thing, to embrace the glory of God even when others tell me that it’s not worth it, or that there’s nothing to believe in. I hope that I’ll have the strength to speak up for truth, to be ridiculed for following Jesus, to go where God leads and worry less about what others think.
I pray the words of the song will lift you to the mountaintop, and help you listen for the music.
And regardless of what life sends you, I pray this week that you will dance.