Season After Pentecost (Proper 10[15]) – The Old Testament Passage: One worship style amongst several

David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. David and all the people with him set out and went from Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim. They carried the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart with the ark of God; and Ahio went in front of the ark. David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the LORD with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.” (II Samuel 6:1 – 5)

Everybody, or nearly everybody, loves a parade. It used to be that praising the Lord was a time of joy and celebration. Or at least King David made it seem so. I can understand the joy of bringing the Ark of the Lord into the city that David had built for his kingship. It seems though that worship services are not the same sort of celebratory parade that they used to be. When I was young the church service seemed to be sort of dull and long. I remember taking naps on my mother’s lap because it seemed as if church lasted so long. I think I would have enjoyed King David’s style of worship service more.

As I grew older my mother would not let me nap but made me stay awake and sit still. I was allowed to draw and play with small inconspicuous toys. But the time still dragged on. This was before the coming of children’s church, beloved reader, or at least children’s story that provided an interval and reprieve to the long church services of my childhood. In one church that I attended I helped plan and conduct children’s church. And I must tell you that the expectation was that even in the scaled down version presented for children, there was not much “entertained” planned. When I led the children’s church, remembering my own experience, I tried to interject more “play” and informality. Not quite King David-style but less formalized than what I grew up with.

However, this scripture excerpt only tells part of the story of the Ark’s journey. The missing verses from this passage – verses 6 to 12a tell the tale a less joyous and celebratory interval. Uzzah, one of the men helping to transport the Ark reached out to steady it and was zapped & killed because he deigned to touch the Ark. So David temporarily stored the Ark elsewhere. It is in verse 12b that he has been assured that the Ark was not a danger and that it was safe to bring it into the city.

“So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. David danced before the LORD with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod.” (Verses 12b – 14)

I imagine this second journey was doubly joyous; the Ark was finally coming to the city of David, and this time no one got hurt! Or at least not physical hurt. It did set the stage for a coming drama however.

“So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.” (Verses 15 – 16)

Michal was not only Saul’s daughter but David’s wife as well. And apparently it made her sick to see her husband cavorting around. Biblical commentators tell me that Saul was not religious (as David was) and conducted himself in a dignified and austere manner when out in public. David dancing around was contemptible to Michal; there were sure to be repercussions.

“They brought in the ark of the LORD, and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and offerings of well-being before the LORD. When David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts, and distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people went back to their homes.” (Verses 17 – 19)

One of the things the church of my childhood did do well was pot-lucks. What we may have missed out in jubilant worship services we made up for in joyous fellowship afterwards. No dancing, but lots of good food and joyous fellowship. One of the reasons for this, I think, is that the church of my childhood stayed very close to the more conservative Anabaptist worship style. It was in the Roman Catholic church where much movement and chanting could be found. There would have been pomp and ceremony – not a parade, but much pizzazz. That was not our style. But neither would there have been fellowship afterwards. And the Anabaptist tradition was to emphasis fellowship and the coming together of mutual support. Food was an important factor in the early Christian church were the sharing of resources was emphasized. In the church of my childhood any visitor was welcomed to stay and share in the potluck. Church members always brought enough to share, and if one had little to contribute nothing was said. In fact those who had little to bring often were sent home with leftovers. Support of one another was paramount.

It is my hope, beloved reader, that your worship experience is the best of both styles – a worship service that is filled with joy and celebration. And fellowship afterwards that feeds both your spirit and your body. And last but not least, that you find full acceptance in your circle of faith. Selah!

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