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The Gift of Joy

Posted on 30 Jul 2023

July 30, 2023

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 16, 20-22

Psalm 98:4-9

Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman


Disdain.  As she looked down on him figuratively and literally, she felt nothing but disdain in her heart.  How could he dance around like that?!  He looked so foolish, completely and utterly childish as he leapt and jumped and moved to the rhythm of the music and sometimes to the rhythm in his own head.

He seemed to have completely forgotten the seriousness of his role as king.  He was setting a poor role model for God’s people.  Escorting the ark of the covenant, God’s earthly presence with God’s people, accompanying the ark should have been a solemn affair, done with gravitas – because faith is serious business.

Yet, here he was dancing, moving all about – as if he were not king, as if no one was watching, as if he was filled with joy.

And he was.  He was filled with joy, filled to overflowing with joy, because how can you feel any other way when you are close to God?  How can your heart be silent, how can your body be still when you are in God’s presence, when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, when you know the good news of God’s love?  There is no other response but joy.

So he moved with the Spirit.  He danced and leapt, jumped and jived, using his whole heart and mind and body to worship and adore the Lord.  And he led his people to do the same.  He showed them that a relationship with God is seriously joyful.  He showed them that a relationship with God brings delight to our lives.  He invited them – with all their might, to praise God and rejoice in God’s presence.

And she disdained him for it.  She judged him.  She not only criticized him in her mind.  She criticized him to his face.  She tried to shame him with her words, calling him vulgar, telling him how foolish he had looked, how he had demeaned himself and devalued the office of king.  As people too often do, she used her whole self to shame him out of his joy, to emotionally force him back into her idea of what a king and person of faith should look and act like.


Over and over again, scripture tells us to respond to God’s presence, to respond to God’s blessings with joy.  ‘This is the day that God has made, we shall rejoice and be glad in it.’  “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth” (Psalm 98:4).  All the earth!  The Psalmist goes on to say that just as the seas and the floods and the hills are constantly in motion, constantly making sounds to praise God, so too, should we constantly be moving, singing, shouting, all to praise God.

And not half heartedly moving.  Joyfully moving, enthusiastically singing, praising God with all our might because that’s the appropriate response when you know God’s presence in your life.  Joy.  Joy is the right response to God’s presence with us.  Joy is the right response to God’s love.  Joy is the right response to God’s care and protection.  Joy is how we should feel and how we should act in response to God.

Last week, a member of the prayer team sent out a video to the rest of the ministry.  The video was titled “Every worship team needs a praise skater”, and it shows a man roller-skating (slash) dancing while the worship band sings “Sing Hallelujah to our God, Glory Hallelujah to our God, every praise, every praise to God”

It was wonderful, simply wonderful, and we had a good laugh over text about who among us might start the roller skating worship ministry, but seriously, there was a time when this church community danced.  Danced in worship.  I know this because I know someone who was a part of that sacred dance group when she was a child.

Sacred dance.  It’s a real thing, and when it is done with joy, with enthusiasm, with the whole hearted desire to praise God, it is beautiful.  It is inspiring.  It is faith-filled.

Dancing in worship.  Dancing as worship.  That is really out of the box for our Christian tradition.  For too many centuries, we have listened to Michal and kept our hands firmly by our sides.  No clapping or snapping along with the music.  No swaying from side to side.  And for goodness sakes, no waving our hands overhead!

No, no, no, praise of God is serious.  Praise of God is silent.  Praise of God is motionless.

Says who?  Not the writers of the psalms who tell us all the earth should rejoice in God and move with God’s spirit, that even the trees clap their hands in response to God.  Not Paul who wrote ‘rejoice in the Lord always’.  Not David, one of God’s most faithful servants, who danced with abandoned, moving with joy and exuberance as God’s spirit called him.

And most especially God.  God didn’t make us to be still.  God didn’t make us to be silent.  God didn’t make us to be dour – to be serious sometimes, to be quiet sometimes, but never sour pussed and stone faced.

Michal had it wrong.  Joy isn’t undignified.  Joy isn’t disrespectful.  Joy may be child-like, but it isn’t foolish.  Joy is a gift of the Spirit, a gift of the Holy Spirit, a gift that lives in each of our hearts, a gift that each and every day is bursting to be set free to move and dance and create more joy.

Look at children, look at people who have refused to listen to the Michals of the world, their faces glow with joy.  Their bodies move with joy.  Their voices are raised in joy.  This is how God created the whole world to be – the oceans and the lakes, the trees and the flowers, the creatures of the sea, air, and land.  God created all of us to be filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, to be moved by the joy of the Holy Spirit, to live fully in the joy of the Holy Spirit.

David, not always perfect yet always faithful David, David rejoices in his relationship with God.  David gives thanks for his relationship with God and not in that “proper” repressed way we can sometimes fall into.  David praises God with every fiber of his being.  He kicks up his feet.  He twirls.  He raises his hands over his head – yes, over his head.  He moves to the rhythm, to the joy of the Holy Spirit, and even when Michal tries to shame him, to repress his joy and stick him back into her mold, even then David holds on to his joy.

Even then David holds on to his joyful relationship with God.  Even then David rejoices in looking silly as long as his joyful dancing gives glory to God.  As long as our joyful dancing gives glory to God.

The Creator of the universe, our God most high, created you in joy.  Created you to be filled with joy.  Created you to respond with joy.  Created you to take God’s hand and to move with the Spirit, to dance with the Spirit, to sing and shout with the Spirit, to be set free from everything but God’s love, free to exuberantly share God’s joy with all the world.