NUMC Nameoki United Methodist Church 1900 Pontoon Rd.
Granite City IL 62040-2339
618-877-1936

Sermon: The Dance

Date: July 20, 2014

Preacher: Rev'd Mike Rayson, OSL

Church: Nameoki United Methodist


Paul stood up in the middle of the council on Mars Hill and said, “People of Athens, I see that you are very religious in every way. As I was walking through town and carefully observing your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: ‘To an unknown God.’ What you worship as unknown, I now proclaim to you. God, who made the world and everything in it, is Lord of heaven and earth. He doesn’t live in temples made with human hands. Nor is God served by human hands, as though he needed something, since he is the one who gives life, breath, and everything else. From one person God created every human nation to live on the whole earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands. God made the nations so they would seek him, perhaps even reach out to him and find him. In fact, God isn’t far away from any of us. In God we live, move, and exist. As some of your own poets said, ‘We are his offspring.’


“Therefore, as God’s offspring, we have no need to imagine that the divine being is like a gold, silver, or stone image made by human skill and thought. God overlooks ignorance of these things in times past, but now directs everyone everywhere to change their hearts and lives. This is because God has set a day when he intends to judge the world justly by a man he has appointed. God has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:22-31 (CEB)

 

Almost all of you in varying degrees lives life online.  Now you might not have a computer, but I guarantee you that something someplace about your life involves a computer server somewhere, interconnected with other computers and servers around the country and around the world.


From the very youngest to the oldest among us… we live life in the 21st century connected.  Your check card is connected, your social security number is connected… medicare is connected… everything is connected in some way, online.

Being connected in such a way brings with it both joys and challenges.  


In years gone by, it would take you quite some time to find things out on your own.  You’d consult with the Encyclopedia Britannica, or go to the local library for information.  If you had a financial query you went to the bank… if you had a religious question you went to the pastor… if you had a medical problem, you went to see the doctor.


But these days… we find out answers to many of our questions online – but the answers are not always helpful.  I believe it was Abraham Lincoln that once said, “you can trust everything you read on the internet”.


WebMD is a popular website for information online about your health.  And from what I hear, it infuriates doctors – because people now come to see them with predetermined diagnosis, because… well… they consulted the internet.


Basically, you plug in your symptoms and it tells you what is supposedly wrong with you.  So here’s what I did yesterday.


1.    Problem with my legs, specifically the left ankle

2.    Selected “joint pain”

3.    Selected “dull and achy”

4.    Then I selected the pain level as “moderate”

5.    The next selection was “made worse by weight bearing”

6.    Followed by “feels better with ice”

7.    Then “history of injury to area”

8.    And finally, “joint pain onset sudden”


All of these symptoms are true of my left ankle.


According to these selections, WebMD says I may have any number of the following conditions.


Sprained ankle… gout… bursitis… psoriatic arthritis… rheumatoid arthritis… broken ankle… lupus… lyme disease… pseudogout… rheumatic fever… sporotrichosis – which is some kind of fungus growth...  CREST syndrome… Henoch-Schonlein Purpura – which sounds rather Pentecostal to me…  shingles… Crohns disease… ulcerative colitis… and finally “sarcoidosis”.

I don’t know if you’ve ever watch any medical based tv drama, but almost invariably someone asks during the show… “it could be sarcoidosis”!!!!


So in short… I’m a complete and absolute medical mess.


But in actuality… I broke my ankle on a flight 2 years ago.  Coming back from Australia somewhere above Hawaii when I woke up, I felt ill, got up to go to the bathroom and passed out – and whilst falling in between the seats, I got my ankle caught up under the seat and snapped it through.


But strangely enough, WebMD failed to mention “allergic to airline seats”.


Or take YouTube – the internet site that is full of videos of, cats, cats playing the piano, cats in space, more cats, and absolute religious nutcases.


I saw a video this week where some guy apparently uncovered that when the bible says “and I saw satan fall like lightning from heaven”, the Hebrew word for lightning is “baraq” and the Hebrew word for from heaven is “bama”.  Good gravy batman… Barack Obama is the antichrist.


 (http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/o/obama-antichrist-video.htm#.U8wQYPldWSo)

 


And if you believe any of that, I have some wonderful ocean front property in the great state of Illinois to sell you.  And let me tell you, the person that posted that on my facebook wall is no longer a “facebook friend”.


How did we ever go from “being connected to each other is important”, and it is… to “we need to know all the information about everything anywhere at all times”?


When Paul found himself in Athens, he discovered an altar – a monument if you will – dedicated to “the God nobody knows”.  The Athenians – with their pantheon of God’s – had dedicated a religious shrine to some unknown deity for fear of leaving somebody out.


They took their religion seriously, the Athenians.  They needed to make sure every t was crossed and every i was dotted just in case.  And in the crossing of their t’s and the dotting of their i’s they had missed the whole entire point.


Just like the Pharisees in Jerusalem, the Athenian gentiles had their rules and regulations – and, like we talked about the Galatians last week, they spent far too much time on making sure all the rules got kept properly that they missed the point of life and living.


So along comes Paul… and seizing upon the opportunity to share with the Greeks the good news of Jesus, begins to tell them about this unknown God…


Yet what Paul describes doesn’t sound like a God.


A God – at least in Athens – was one who was to be feared and obeyed – less Zeus throw a bolt of lightning at you.


Paul says… The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn’t live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn’t take care of himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don’t make him. Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He’s not remote; he’s near. We live and move in him, can’t get away from him!  (Acts 17:24-28, The Message)


What does it mean to actually find God?


Is it possible that we sometimes think we have discovered God and we know all there is to know about God, but later we realize that we never really knew who God was in the first place?


I tend to read a lot of blogs on the internet.  A blog is like somebody’s thoughts and ideas that are shared with whomever logs on to read.  Now, sometimes blogs are as crazy as Barack Obama being the actual revealed in scripture anti-christ… but sometimes, as you read someone who has been touched by grace, the clanging noise of the internet becomes a hallelujah chorus.


Kimberly Suchta is a blogger.  And I don’t know anything much more about her than that – except that she is a stay at home mom and married to a pastor of a church.  I don’t know what state she is in, what kind of car she drives, how many kids she has…

 

I just know that when I read her blog this week – titled “Three Immodestly Dressed Women Walk Into a Church”, the hum of grace struck up a chord of wonder.


Read this blog: http://www.kimberleysuchta.com/2014/07/14/three-immodestly-dressed-women-walk-into-a-church/

 


I think Kimberley Suchta is onto something here.  Many Christians believe that they are saved by Jesus in order to be good Christians.  And by hook or by crook, we’ll hold that standard out against anyone who dares to cross us.  


But Jesus didn’t come that we might be good Christians.  Jesus didn’t come that we might be nice people.  


Jesus didn’t die to make sure that women in church wore the right kinds of clothing, or teenagers gave the right kind of respect, or children were always quiet and never heard from.  Jesus never came so that men would always wear a black suit and carry a big bible.


Jesus came that we might have… life, and life more abundantly.

Or as Paul said to the Greeks in Athens… He doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He’s not remote; he’s near. We live and move in him, can’t get away from him!


He’s not remote… he’s near.  We live and move in him, can’t get away from him.


I’ll live in you, come live in me,

I am the Lord of the dance said he.

Dance, dance, wherever you may be,

I am the Lord of the dance said he,

And I’ll lead you all wherever you may be,

And I’ll lead you all in the dance said he.

(Sydney Carter, © 1963)


The way we act toward each other sometimes, would turn anyone with half a brain away from the Lord of the dance, not invite them into mystery and energy of the dance.


You must wear the right clothes.  You must say the right words.  You must act like we act.  You must be miserable and sour and unhappy all of the time, because gosh darnit you can’t be a good Christian unless you’re telling someone else what they need to change, and who they need to be in order to be accepted by God.


This isn’t Christianity… it’s churchianity.  Jesus invites us to dance… not to remain on the sidelines glaring disapprovingly at those who dance.


The Trinitarian nature of God is just like a dance… in which we live and move and have our being.  The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are so perfectly in relationship with each other, it’s like they exist as a dance that never ever ends.  And you and I are created not to be spectators, but to be in it.  A part of it.  We are called to be a part of the connection… but this isn’t like an online connection which is all about information information information… it’s a connection that doesn’t need all the relevant information in order to make an informed decision… it is relationship relationship relationship.  Think back to whenever you may have danced with your partner… you don’t need to know everything about your significant other in triplicate and detail before you can simply … dance.


Dance, dance, wherever you may be,

I am the Lord of the dance said he,

And I’ll lead you all wherever you may be,

And I’ll lead you all in the dance said he.

(Sydney Carter, © 1963)


I don’t care what you wear to church… and I don’t care to be honest what you think about the pastor wearing jeans on Sunday.  I DO care about whether or not you are dancing.  Not watching and observing, but allowing yourself to be swept up in the dance…


For in the dance we discover the marvelous grace of God at work… pouring over us, filling us up, spilling over in abundance.  As we are drawn into the very relationship of God – the dance of God – only then will we, can we, discover what it truly means to live as a God-creature – not groping in the dark but living in the light, where we actually find him.  Where we live and move in God, and can’t get away from God.


It’s a dangerous dance to step into… because this doesn’t sound much like the God we might have known before… the unknown God of Athens even… there’s no hellfire or brimstone or you’re going to hell because of the clothes you wear or the company you seek or the partner you have…


There’s just the dance… and the question… are you dancing?  Do you want to dance?


Dance, dance, wherever you may be,

I am the Lord of the dance said he,

And I’ll lead you all wherever you may be,

And I’ll lead you all in the dance said he.

(Sydney Carter, © 1963)