Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Lord of the Dance

[This was shared at a funeral today.]

A few lines from the book of the Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah:
Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. [Jeremiah 31:13]
Juanita loved to dance. Whether jitterbugging in the early days with her husband or by herself with a straw hat and a cane, I’m told, she loved to dance.

In the Bible, dancing is, so far as I know, always associated with joy, with worshiping and praising God. Jeremiah’s message I just read was written to God’s people, the Hebrews, whose land had been overrun by a foreign empire and most of whom were living as slaves working in exile. Through Jeremiah, God tells His people that God had heard their cries of regret for past sins and their desire to live with God at the center of their lives again.

God would let them have their land back and on that day, God said, they would rejoice.

They would praise God.

They would dance.

We live in a fallen, imperfect world. We age and because of it, even people who were sterling athletes no longer run. Dancers no longer dance. And families and friends are left to grieve the loss of loved ones. At least, that’s how it is in this world.

But we can have hope!

God has taken pity on all of His children. God has overcome the power of sin and death over our lives. God did that through Jesus Christ.

Jesus made no bones about telling those who were interested that He was not just a carpenter from Nazareth, a man who spent almost His entire life in a town much smaller than Laurelville, but also God.

And Jesus—true man and true God—took all of our burdens—all our sin, all our aging, all our death, all our separation from God, the life-giver—and bore their weight on the cross. He died alone and rejected for us. Jesus lived and died the same life that you and I live and die.

But then, as more than five-hundred people saw, on the Sunday after His death, Jesus rose from the dead. Death could not contain the God-man Jesus. Suffering couldn't destroy Jesus. Sin couldn’t rob him of life.

An old Christian folk song calls the God we know in Jesus, The Lord of the Dance. Listen to some of its words:
I danced in the morning when the world was begun
I danced in the Moon & the Stars & the Sun
I came down from Heaven & I danced on Earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth…
Then, later on, these lines:
I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black
It's hard to dance with the devil on your back
They buried my body & they thought I'd gone
But I am the Dance & I still go on!

They cut me down and I leapt up high
I am the Life that'll never, never die!
I'll live in you if you'll live in Me -
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
Jesus told one of the sisters of his dead friend, Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

Another time, Jesus told an old teacher of religious law, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son [that’s Jesus], so that everyone who believes in Him [that means, to trustingly give our whole lives to Jesus] may not perish but may have eternal life.”

It is hard to dance when the devil, when sin, when aging, when strokes, when loss, and when the burdens of life, are on your back. But when we renounce sin’s power over our lives and trustingly place ourselves in the hands of the God we see in Jesus Christ, we’re set free. We know that Jesus can be with us now. And we know that He will be with His followers, freed from the sin and death and limitations of this world, in eternity too. Jesus tells all who follow Him, “In my Father's house there are many dwelling places…I go to prepare a place for you…”

As those of you who knew and loved Juanita best take her earthly remains to the cemetery, I feel certain that she would want me to tell you that your dance need not end at the grave. The God Who promised to restore His people to their homeland and give them reason to dance can give you reason to dance, to rejoice, to praise God. And the God Who died on a cross and rose from death can give you freedom from sin and death and give you life with Him forever. The Bible says, “Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord shall be saved.”

In its chorus, that old folk song summarizes God’s promises to all who believe in Him with these words:
Dance then, 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!
May God comfort you and may you allow God to lead you in the dance that lasts forever. May Jesus Christ be your guide and your Lord now and always. Amen

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