16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
*Hymn - Spirit of the Living God, UMH #393
One of my favorite things to do with Michael in the evening - especially to release all that pent up energy in order to get ready for our bedtime routine - is to have a dance party. The music really doesn’t matter -- we’ve waltzed to Chopin, grooved to Uptown Funk, swayed to Billy Joel, bounced around to Phillip Phillips - you get the idea. We haven’t met a piece of music that Michael hasn’t liked to move to.The sheer look of joy and delight on his face makes any of my awkward dance moves totally worth it.
On the one hand, we’re hoping that these spontaneous groove sessions will wear him out so that he finds his bedtime routine more soothing and relaxing. Yet I also think about all the things that Michael is learning as we dance together in the kitchen -- he’s learning how to move - what it feels like to move back and forth. He’s learning about rhythm - the feeling of a steady beat and what it’s like to move along with it. He’s learning what makes him happy -- we were at a wedding last night and he had the biggest grin on his face when he was bouncing along with the music. He’s also learning about how to pay attention to another person - that what I do in the dance affects what he does in the dance and vice versa -- that we’re both hearing the same music and stepping to the same beat (well, perhaps not stepping yet….I’m not ready for him to be walking). We’re connected in this dance, he and I.
We’ve all heard, too, that relationships are a dance, right? It’s all about finding rhythm with another person -- finding ways to be in synch with each other, how to resolve conflict when we step on one another’s toes, learning that movement of give and take. We step - and then our partner or our friend or a family member takes a step in response -- and hopefully we get in a good groove where we’re responding in ways where we’re creating the dance together. We don’t know which way the other person will chose to step - whether they will stop the dance, turn around, jump left rather than twist to the right - but we trust that we’ll be able to move together - that we’re making something together -- and that we’re plugged in to the same rhythm.
In fact, some of the early Christians understood God through the metaphor of dance. There’s this wonderful Greek word called perichoresis to describe the way that the persons of the Trinity related to each other. Perichoresis comes from the prefix “peri” - referring to “around” - and choreuein, meaning “to dance” - and some of these early theologians believed that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit “dance around” each other, and in this dance we all find our place.
Contemporary author and theologian Len Sweet puts it this way: “The choreia or dance of God is the choreography of the cosmos, the interrelationship of Creator, creation, and life itself, the holy creativity of the All in All.” he continues, “The dancing metaphor of the holy Trinity is envisioned and embodied as a circle dance...The dance of the triune divine is moving, active, eternally both transcendent and immanent, and flowing together in a joyful and harmonious, rhythmic and resonant celebration of life.”
God’s own being is dance -- and we, being made in God’s image -- well, we are just made for the dance, aren’t we? Dancing with God, with one another, and with all of creation. The dance is one that binds us together and knits us into a community where we’re inviting others to dance along with us.
Matt Harding is an American video game designer and world traveler. His passion is to dance badly with other people all around the world. His story is pretty remarkable and can be found on his website - www.wherethehellismatt.com -- in his early twenties he moved to Australia and decided to quit his job and wander around Southeast Asia until his money ran out. He made a website called “Where the Hell is Matt” to update his family and friends on his whereabouts.
Matt had this awkward dance. And one day he was in Hanoi a few months into his trip with his friend Brad, and Brad said, “Hey, go do your stupid dance over there, and I’ll record it.” Matt thought it looked pretty funny, so he started doing his little dance and filming it wherever he traveled to.
It got uploaded to YouTube and shared and he was “that guy who dances on the internet” - and a company wanted to sponsor his next dancing video - wherever he wanted. So he went and was mostly dancing in front of iconic landmarks...until he went to Rwanda. There aren’t really any iconic landmarks in Rwanda - so he went to a small village and started dancing there - and the kids in the village immediately went over to him and started dancing with him. And he realized in that moment that he had been doing this trip all wrong. He went back to the company and asked them if they could do the whole trip over. They agreed -- and this was the result:
[video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlfKdbWwruY]
I’ve seen this video several times over the past few years, and to be honest, every single time I watch it, I tear up. To me, it’s this beautiful representation of the magic and beauty that erupts when people come together around a cause -- even if that cause is dancing badly with one another.
Matt has his own move -- it’s pretty awkward, and kinda silly -- but one that broke open barriers between people and invited them to dance with their own moves. Everyone dancing together, connected to the same rhythm, the same beat -- it’s infectious! It makes me want to jump up and start dancing along!
The other thing I love about this is the song -- it was adapted from a poem called Stream of Life, written by Rabindranath Tagore who was a Nobel Prize winning Bengalese poet. This is the English translation of the words:
The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day
runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.
It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth
in numberless blades of grass
and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.
It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth
and of death, in ebb and in flow.
I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life.
And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment.
Are you in step with the Spirit? Are you in rhythm with that which keeps the whole world moving? Is that stream of life running through your veins?
When we’re in the dance with God we’re dancing alongside a whole host of brothers and sisters - and the fruits of the Spirit flow. Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. These fruits bind us even more closely together with ties of trust, community, hope, healing, forgiveness -- for those inevitable times when we make a misstep.
But we aren’t called to keep the dance party to ourselves. It isn’t like Dancing with the Stars or America’s Got Talent where only the best are showcased. It is definitely not a spectator sport. No -- it’s a lot more like where the hell is Matt -- each of us with our own unique dance move -- dancing together -- and inviting others to join in the dance with us.
Each of us is called to keep in step with the Spirit - be a part of that holy, divine dance - and dance that dance with others -- bringing them along as part of the dance -- teaching them the rhythm….the beat...the sound of God’s love that echoes throughout creation, that echoes in the words of Scripture, that echoes in the wisdom of the saints and the prophets of our time. For the dance is God’s kingdom - a dance of love, joy, and peace -- a dance that never ends, a dance that is at the heart of the universe itself.
A dance that binds us all together as one.
And so this week, step with the spirit….groove with the Holy Ghost...jump for Joy with Jesus -- dance that divine dance -- and bring others along for the journey. Amen.
Pastor Melissa Yosua-Davis has been serving the Chebeague Island United Methodist Church since July 2015. She currently lives on the island with her husband and two dogs, and soon will expect a new addition to her family. Read here recent sermon excerpts, thoughts on life and faith, and current announcements for the chuch community. She also blogs at Going on to Perfection.