The new pastor was being formally commissioned with beautifully prepared worship that included lessons on pastoral care as well as instructions to the congregation about their response to their shepherd. The most beautiful part of the service was a dance! As a song played, a woman gracefully danced to the altar where a candle contained in a glass bowl was burning. She took the candle and danced throughout the sanctuary, passing the fire over the heads of the people, finally coming bringing that candle’s fire to rest over the head of the new pastor. Her presentation told us about the importance of receiving God’s Holy Spirit, allowing Him to move among us. The dance left me deeply stirred, an unforgettable experience.
Occasionally I dance – alone and unseen! You would not want to witness this as you might conclude that I was in need of medical attention! The ability to move with grace is not one of God’s gifts to me, but sometimes, when a particularly joyful song is playing, I get up and move. It is an attempt to express the emotions I am feeling but my movement is uncoordinated, more flailing than dancing, really.
The instructor at a dance class that Bev and I enrolled in a long time ago explained that dance involves training and skill, to be sure, but it also involves ‘feeling’ as much as thinking. When I attempt to dance, be it as an expression of my joy, or with my wife back when I took those lessons, a couple of things get complicated. I become self-conscious. And, I try to break down each movement into tiny parts, becoming mechanical, rather than responding to the music. That dance teacher explained that enjoy a dance, I’d have to give up control and come under the influence of the music as well as becoming more responsive to the movement of my partner.
Christian, walking ‘in the Spirit’ parallels learning to dance!
The Bible says, (Galatians 5:25) “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” He invites us to a dance with Him in this life. Some of just will not let go and let Him lead. We wrestle with the music, finding the rhythm for a while, then reasserting our control. Others surrender to Him and move gracefully through life, dancing beautifully through disappointment, financial challenges, ill health, job loss, storms, traffic jams, and temptation. Yes, those who dance with the Spirit live “grace-fully.”
Simon Peter was called by Jesus to become a disciple. For three years, he mostly got it wrong. Talk about bad timing. Oh, he tried mightily but, too often, things turned out badly.
The low point was the night of Jesus’ arrest and trial. When warned of impending failure by the Lord, Peter insisted that even if the other disciples failed, “I never will!” “Ah,” Jesus said sadly, “but you will, Peter. Before the rooster announces the dawn, you will deny me three times.” A few hours later as Jesus was being arrested, Peter pulled out his sword and made an attempt at defending his Friend, succeeding only in cutting off a man’s ear, which Jesus promptly healed, as He told Peter, “Put that thing away!” And, later that same night, in the grip of panic in the courtyard of the high priest’s house, Peter was cursing and swearing while emphatically declaring, “I tell you, I never knew him!”
Fifty days later, at Pentecost, we meet a transformed man in Acts, a man dancing with the Spirit! Peter gives leadership to the emerging group of followers of Jesus, explains the Scripture, preaches on the street, and courageously faces the enemies of the Jesus movement. With grace and beauty he moves through those early chapters of Acts, the story of the first Christians.
How does the Bible account for the difference? Acts 4:8 sums it up, saying “Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, … “ The life and music of the Spirit filled him up and he began to dance gracefully under the Spirit’s influence, moving to the rhythms of Heaven. When he came to the end of himself, when he was crushed beyond hope by his failure, God came with the outpouring of His Spirit. From that day, Peter danced. Yes, he made mistakes now and again, but he was a man of grace and power, who spread the message of Jesus and life across the world!
This Monday morning, let me encourage you to relax into God’s Presence. Don’t try so hard to make yourself ‘keep step with the Spirit.‘ Let Him lead. Lay aside your preconceptions about what you must do, who you must be like, how you will get through this week, or whatever gets you wrapped up in yourself. Listen to the music of the Spirit. Give yourself over to His lead. And, you’ll learn to dance!
Here is a word from the Word for this Monday morning. Hear the promise. God will speak, He will lead, perhaps through times of hardship, but always present. So, let’s celebrate His love.
“Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Will you let Him lead you in the dance of life?) “And you will sing as on the night you celebrate a holy festival; your hearts will rejoice as when people go up with flutes to the mountain of the LORD, to the Rock of Israel.” (Isaiah 30:18-21, 29, NIV)
I want the joy of the Lord to come down
I want the joy of the Lord to fall now
I want the joy of the Lord in my life
I want the joy of the Lord to lift me
I want the joy of the Lord to change me
I want the joy of the Lord in my life
It’s time I started dancing
Over all these graves
It’s time I gave You oh my Lord
The highest praise
It’s time to lift my voice
Oh and beg for this blessing to fall
- © 2002 River Oaks Music Company (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) CCLI License # 810055