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Offered Up, In Ecstasy

Katie Omberg
Sun, Jul 12

Text: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19

What must it have been like to be there! To be in Jerusalem when the Ark came to town, surrounded by song and by dancing. Let me place this story in the longer narrative of King David. This story comes right after David conquers Jerusalem from the Jebusites, a community of the Canaanites, and he is now processing into town with the Ark of the Lord, which had basically been in storage for 20 years. We hear about who all was involved in the recovery, with this huge army of 30,000, the sons of Abinadab, and what happens after it’s recovered: the sacrifices, the dancing, the blessing and the feasting. The part that stood out to me in this story was the festival-like procession around the ark.

Where do you see yourself in this story? There are many parts: the wildly dancing David, the musical crowd, the people holding the ark (one of the more solemn jobs)- or Michal, watching her husband disapprovingly from the window?

Sometimes we're unable to join the dance. Sometimes it seems impossible to actually get yourself out there, put yourself out there, and lose control. What happens if you lose control? What are the repercussions? What will they say about me? Am I doing it right? I think these questions are some of the reasons why we're so hesitant to let go of the reins, even for a minute. I think it's hard to lose control, because when you do that, you also lose control about the way that people see you and the way you see yourself. When David dances in this story, he is in the present moment, simple and pure. He doesn't think about what people think of him; he doesn't necessarily even think about what will happen the next day or what happened the day before, he thinks only about what he's doing right now. Beyond that, I would even say that he's not necessarily thinking about it. This ability, to live in the present moment, reflects back the sermon that Karin preached the other Sunday, about Jesus’ called to the disciples to take nothing for the journey of discipleship. This way of living, while it might be more aspirational than executable, is one that I hope we can incorporate into our own lives. But when and where?

I see this story as one where David lets go of control. There are certain places where we think of people letting go of it all today. Shows, dance parties, karaoke and the like. The places where we lose control tend to be the places that our mothers warned us about and the places that they worry we’ll end up. I bet you can think of a few right now.

There are times I can think of when I have felt this wild abandon that David must have felt. It’s a wonderful and unique feeling, and to be perfectly honest, I feel it most often at shows and at gay dance clubs. It feels unlike anything else. Those times when you're on the dance floor, letting loose, looking at the people around you also letting loose, and you know that we are all in this together, and nothing in this moment can break the bond of strangers, the bond everyone on the dance has when the four to the floor baseline matches your heartbeat, when you think this is what I was made to do in this very moment.

Is this the feeling that David had in front of the ark? Is this the feeling the house of Israel had, processing into Jerusalem, surrounded by musicians and other dancers, surrounding the ark that holds the tablets inscribed on by the very hand of God? If I can have this feeling dancing in a club, surrounded by strangers, who's to say that this is not the feeling of those in David’s Court?

One thing I love about the gay club, and that whole scene, is that it's a break in the time-space continuum between me and everyone else out dancing across the world- at every circuit party and lady’s night- and also across the generations of queer people in sweaty, dilapidated, mob-run, neon-colored bars, from Jacque’s to Stonewall, and beyond. And what would happen if I looked at my experience in the club, and not only looked across my community, but I also looked back to 3000 years ago, to when King David processed into his city with the ark of the Lord?

What if we framed our own ability to lose control--our own ability to give up control—and put it in the same conversation as David processing in front of the ark.
So why do I bring this here today? Am I saying that we need to start dancing, in the procession up to the front of the church at the beginning of service? That we need to live a bohemian life of throwing caution to the wind? No. I think instead that we need to apply this capacity to loosen the reins within the context of our own community. If we swallow our pride and our type A ways, where will the Spirit of God break into our lives?
We, as a church community, can let go of control, in a way that is true to ourselves, true to our identity, and true to our mission. When we abandon control, we hope to do so with faith and understanding that God will meet us there. What, I wonder, would it look like if we enacted the spaces, the sacred mystical spaces, where control is abandoned, and watched how God showed up?

The Ark that David danced in front of was understood to be a place underneath the cherubim, underneath the place where the very name of the LORD of hosts dwelt. If we understand that God is within us- that we are always accompanied by some divine spark or light, that God is everywhere- do we not also understand, any time we experience this ecstasy, that it is the ecstasy of our dancing in front of the very ark itself? What could it mean for our communities, for our clubs, for the mosh pits, for the EDM show, if we understood our ecstasy, if we understood our capability and capacity to release control, to say “Jesus take the wheel?” What could happen if we saw that experience as dancing before the very Lord God theirself? .

We live in a culture where control is the desired effect. There’s a reason why the places where control is released are seen as unwholesome, threatening or even scary. We look to have control of our lives, of our world, of our health, of our relationships. Control is seen as the grip that we have on our reality- not only the grip we have on it but the way that we can mold it in our hand. What if we understand that the call of a Christian is to be counter-cultural? The call to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's, the call to go against the grain, in search of bringing about the kingdom of God? Does this mean that the call of the Christian is to go to the club? That the call of the Christian is to lose control? I'm not sure. Maybe it's the call to live most truly as ourselves, to find that part of our selves where we truly come to life, that part of ourselves where we are in touch with the divine and with each other.

In this text, David’s God is calling out to us to live a life that is life-giving to our selves, to our friends, to our families, to our communities, to our nation and the world. And maybe it is that God calls us to find our true selves in the club. Maybe God calls us to loosen the reins at church, singing hymns that cause tears to stream down our faces. Wherever that place might be, that place which puts you most in touch with the house of Israel as they dance in front of the ark of the Lord, I urge you to find it, and engage with it. Don’t deny or dismiss this place; see it instead as a place where you have special access to the Holy Spirit.

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