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Preaching 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19

 


David danced with all of his might (6:14). This may be the most memorable image of the ancient text that appears in the lectionary for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost. What sort of dance was this that David embodied with all of his “might”? In what ways are people of faith today called to praise and serve God with all of our passion and energy, with all of our might? These are good homiletical questions for a preacher to consider on this Sunday.

But out on the edges of this central dance floor scene, much more is happening. Consider the range of actions and emotions this Sunday’s 19 verses from 2 Samuel encapsulate if we include (as the lectionary does not) verses 6 through 11:
A rally: 30,000 “chosen men of Israel” (v. 1)
Dancing, tambourines, lyres, harps, castanets, cymbals (v. 4)
Anger: of God and David (vv. 7-8)
A divine outburst: God strikes down Uzzah for taking hold of the ark (v. 7)
Death
Fear
Blessing
Rejoicing
Despising: David’s wife Michal despises David in her heart (v. 16)
Sacrifice and offering
More dancing and leaping
Feasting

Yes, this story is alive with action and a wide range of human emotions, and any one element provides the preacher on this Sunday a possible homiletical entry point.

At the center of all of the action in this story (and the place to where a sermon on this Sunday might journey from any of the above entry points) is the ark of God. What a powerful and intimidating reality the ancient writer describes the ark to be. The ark is powerful enough that to touch it without God’s permission results in instant death. Uzzah, the ark cart driver, learns this in devastating fashion in those verses the lectionary leaves out (vv. 6-11). When Uzzah grabs hold of the ark to steady it, God strikes him down. The storyteller reports that God’s outburst and Uzzah’s death anger David, but what motivates David going forward is fear. David so fears the power of the ark he decides not to take it into his own house. He instead takes it to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite (David’s motives for this decision are unclear in the story but the possibilities are both intriguing and troubling). Obed-edom’s whole household is then blessed by God. Yes, the ark is powerful, and its power is unpredictable.

A striking element of this text is that it reminds us of the complexities of faith and the ambiguities of our stories of faith. The ark symbolizes the power of God’s presence in people’s lives. Throughout much of the Old Testament, God resides in the ark, and the ark (as in this story) generates both life and death, both lament and rejoicing, sometimes without logical explanation.
The human characters in this story are also complex. David has been chosen and blessed by God, but he is a complicated man whose motives are not always pure and whose political shenanigans are well documented throughout 1 and 2 Samuel. Then, what of Michal, the wife who in this story is described as despising David? What complex realities shaped her life as one who is married to the King of Israel but who cannot bear children?

Given the complexities of this text and questions whose answers are left to the listener’s imagination, the preacher has an opportunity to explore on this Sunday similar complexities, ambiguities, and uncertainties in contemporary lives of faith. This story in 2 Samuel invites listeners to consider again the multilayered reality of human life and living, and the risks and joys of how we claim God’s presence and enter into God’s presence. Something is at stake when we decide to make our life journeys with God. People’s lives can be and are at stake in how we understand who God is and how we live out what we understand and believe. People’s lives can be and are at stake in our world because of political, economic, and religious realities. Who we decide to be and what we decide to do as people of faith matters.

The story in 2 Samuel invites listeners to consider something else alongside these serious, life-and-death, realities of faith. This story abounds with extravagance. In that extravagance can be found another homiletical theme for this Sunday. Thirty thousand people gather to bring the ark to its new home, and they dance as they go. This is the context of David’s extravagant dance (v.  5), and the story ends with a feast lavish enough to feed “the whole multitude of Israel” (v.19).

How can all of this, the fear, anger, and extravagance, exist together in this one biblical story? That is perhaps a fruitful question for the one who will preach on this Seventh Sunday after Pentecost. The preacher for this Sunday has an opportunity to remind worshippers that God’s presence, while mysterious, extravagant, and beyond what we can understand or imagine, goes with us as we dance through this world. How we live out what we know and understand about God’s presence, what we embody with all of our might, matters.

Jill Crainshaw
 

                   

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See Tom Steagald's Preaching Journal! Tom is the Pastor at Lafayette Street United Methodist Church in Shelby, NC, and adjunct professor at Hood Theological Seminary (AME, Zion) in Salisbury, NC. Tom has just published Shadows, Darkness and Dawn: A Lenten Journey with Jesus (Upper Room). Previous titles include Praying for Dear Life and Every Disciple's Journey, both from NavPress. He is a frequent contributor to Feasting on the Word, The Abingdon Preaching Annual, and other preaching resources. Tom's journal will detail each week's work to "discover" the sermon to be preached at Lafayette Street. Follow FestHomiletics on Twitter 

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