Way back last December, on the first Sunday of Advent, I gave a sermon about hope. I’m sure you remember it.
In that sermon, I quoted a line from Ghostbusters. It was just a little throwaway reference. It was just a little Easter Egg.
I said, “dogs and cats… living together… mass hysteria!”
And when I said that—in that tiny moment when I raised my voice little bit and said, “mass hysteria!”—someone, some kid, shouted, “Yay!”
Because sometimes, you just gotta shout.
I grew up in the First Congregational United Church of Christ, in Platteville, Wisconsin. I grew up as a Congregationalist. I grew up in the North. I grew up in the British and German-influenced, mostly white, culture of the hills and forests and towns of the unglaciated driftless region of Southwestern Wisconsin.
And that means, among other things, that I was taught to sit still and stay quiet in church.
That was how we showed respect for the sacred, and for the pastor, and for the choir, and for the guest speakers, and for anyone else… by sitting still and staying quiet. If we were supposed to move, someone would tell us to move. If we were supposed to make noise, someone would tell us to make noise.
And sitting still and staying quiet wasn’t just for church. It was for school and on the bus and in the car and at concerts and in meetings and all sorts of other places.
There were times and places to move and make noise. There were times and places—more times and places—to sit still and stay quiet. And if I moved or made noise when I wasn’t supposed to, someone told me to sit still and stay quiet. Not in a mean way, just as a reminder.
Sit still. Stay quiet. Be good.
In today’s reading, we meet David. You know the story.
Once upon a time, God ruled the people of Israel, speaking through prophets and raising up judges when the people needed them. But the people wanted to be like other nations. They wanted a king, who they could see and hear, to rule over them. So God chose Saul, the first king of Israel.
Then Saul disobeyed God, and God chose David to replace him. So David increased, and Saul decreased. And when Saul died, David became the second king of Israel. All of the elders of Israel came to him, and they made a covenant, and he ruled over Israel.
Now, the Israelites had an important thing: the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was a great big box covered in gold. And the tablets that the covenant—the covenant between the Israelites and God—was written on were in the Ark. Where the Ark went, God went. Where the Ark rested, God rested. It was a sacred thing.
And it was in the city of Balle-judah. And David wanted to move it to Jerusalem. So David gathered all of the chosen men of Israel—thirty-thousand men—to move the Ark. And as they moved it, they danced. They danced before the Ark, before this sacred thing, before the Lord, with all of their might.
They danced with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.
Because sometimes, you just gotta dance.
There are churches were people do not sit still. There are churches were people do not stay quiet.
There are churches where people clap (sometimes even on two and four).
There are churches where people dance (sometimes even in the aisles and the pews).
There are churches where people shout Amen and Hallelujah and Praise the Lord (sometimes even Yay! when the pastor mentions mass hysteria).
There are churches where people rise to the rafters and fall to the floor.
There are churches where that is how they show respect for the sacred, and for the pastor, and for the choir, and for the guest speakers, and for anyone else. And not just churches, but parades and family gatherings and concerts and meetings and all sorts of other places.
And I know, I’m still someone who sits still and stays quiet. And I know, we are a church that tends to sit still and stays quiet. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s no need to throw around phrases like the frozen chosen.
Sometimes, you just gotta sit. Sometimes, you just gotta reflect. Sometimes, you just gotta zone out.
But I also know that there is something beautiful about David dancing before the Ark, before this sacred thing, before the Lord. There is something beautiful in being so caught up in a moment of joy that it builds up inside of us and just… erupts.
(And not just joy, but anger and frustration and sadness and all of those other emotions. Sometimes, you just gotta let it out. Safely. Sensibly. But still.)
It is true that there’s nothing wrong with sitting still and saying quiet. It’s also true that we—not just the people in this sanctuary this morning or the members of this church or the people in our social circles, but everybody—we don’t have enough joy.
It feels like we live in a world where people have gotten good at anger and outrage and frustration and cynicism. But where we’ve gotten lazy about joy.
And when I say joy, I don’t just mean happiness. I don’t just mean the things that bring a little smile to our faces. I mean joy. The kind of joy that makes us look around and get a big smile and say, “I just gotta shout! I just gotta dance! I just gotta run! I just gotta clap! I just gotta laugh! I just gotta show it!”
And that’s too bad. Because we have so much to be joyful about.
I don’t know why David danced. But I have to believe that it was something like this:
David was walking with the Ark of the Covenant. The ancestors of the people around him had once been slaves in Egypt. And God has raised up a prophet to go to Pharaoh and lead the people out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, out of their oppression. And then God had made a covenant with them; God had chosen them as a people. And the very words of that covenant were right there in that Ark. And God had given them a land to live in and work in and rest in.
And here he was—a shepherd and a soldier who had been through war—and now he was the king.
How could he keep from dancing, with what God had done for him? How could he keep from singing, with what God had done for his people? How could he keep from being so full of joy that it just… erupted?
And I know I’ve said it before, but…
There was a time when we were slaves to sin. There was a time when the world around us was dismal; shadows flickering in black and white. And God saw that the world was broken. And God put aside glory and became one of us. And showed us how to live and how to love and how to be human.
God gave us a new life. And no matter how far we’ve strayed or how off track we’ve gotten—no matter who we have been or where we have been on life’s journey—God keeps giving to us… and loving us… and saying, “I’m not done with you yet.”
How can we keep from dancing, with all that God has done for us? How can we keep from singing, with all that God has done for us?
How can we keep from shouting, “Yay!”? How can we keep from raising the strain of triumphant gladness? How can we keep from being so full of joy that it just… erupts?
For we have such good news!
There are times and places to sit still and stay quiet. Sometimes, Sunday morning is a good time to sit still. Sometimes, the church is a good place to stay quiet.
But sometimes… sometimes, Sunday morning is the time when you just have to shout, “Praise the Lord!” Sometimes, the church is a place where you just have to dance with joy.
And one of the beautiful things about the church is that it can be the community for all of those things. One of the wonderful things about our God is that she can hold all of those things. There is room for golden silence and there is space for jubilant celebration.
So, if you just gotta sit still and stay quiet… sit still and stay quiet and praise God!
And if you just gotta shout and sing… shout and sing and praise God!