FORWARD TO NORMAL (Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19)
It’s over. The time of transition is over. David and Israel are emerging from the long time of Saul’s kingship when Saul was trying to be like any other king, and Israel was trying to be like any other kingdom.
We see this with Michal, daughter of Saul, looking out at David behaving most unkingly, and despising him for it, as he dances before the Lord, dances with wild abandon so that his linen ephod or kilt flies up exposing what should not be exposed.
Michal disapproves. This is most unkingly. Church should be solemn. And so the Lord curses her with barrenness, and blesses David’s kingdom with new life.
It’s over. The time of transition is over. The ark of God has been housed far away from Jerusalem, because people did not trust the power of it. In fact, on the journey here, in a part that is left out of today’s lesson, Uzzah steadies the ark of God when it shakes a little bit on the cart – and fire comes out and burns Uzzah to a crisp. This is not a God you trust to be safe and sound, to do your bidding if you say all the right prayers. No, this is a God who executes his own will, whom you try to keep up with.
This is something the people of Israel have learned in their time of transition, that God is not a domesticated, safe, peaceful God who’s just there for them, for us. No, he demands that we be there for him.
And yet they want this nondomesticated, unsafe, nonpeaceful God at the heart of things, so they take him into Jerusalem where David has erected a tent for him. And there the wild God will dwell, with all his wild people dancing like crazy people before him.
So the transition is over – in Israel’s understanding of God, and their understanding of themselves and of their worship and their relationship with God enacted in that worship, and in the personality of their king – that he is a worshipping king who puts worship first and government second and, in that worship, is wild, where his inmost self is expressed before God with joy, rather than hidden behind solemn liturgies that lead no one anywhere.
The time of transition is over.
At some point, in six months or maybe more your time of transition will be over. And you will emerge from your time of transition with your definition of God changed, and your definition of yourself as a church changed. And hopefully you will be led by a rector who worships God with the same wild abandon that David did, the same personal intensity and relationship that David had, out of which flowed the wild worship that his people saw, that led them into the same wild worship and perhaps the same personal intensity.
Private relationship with God comes first. Private trust of God comes first, then public display of this relationship in total vulnerability. And the people see that vulnerability and follow it from the depths of their hearts, and all the church is changed.
And then, in the last act of David’s entry into Jerusalem – God’s entry into Jerusalem – and the transition from Saul, the former king, David shares all this food with the house of Israel.
Out of worship comes sharing and ministry. For Jesus in his parables shared food not just with the wedding guests who all knew they were invited, but with all the people on the highways and byways of life who did not; not just the friend but the stranger; not just the disciples but the 5,000.
So Jesus shows the same wild abandon in distributing food and the goodness of God’s grace, as David shows in worship. But it all starts in worship.
This is why we share food in ministry. Food is the natural outgrowth of worship. After worship it is natural to go out in mission. After Eucharist, where we share the body and blood of Christ made present in bread and wine, it is natural to share the food of Christ made present in peanut butter sandwiches or stew, or macaroni and cheese – and to share it with the same wild abandon, the same personal intensity and love which we brought to worship earlier that day.
This is why last week I trained as Lay Eucharistic Visitors: Sally Wortmann, Clint Allen, Kirby Zummo, Tom Hubbard and David McDonald. They will be able to take, in the absence of a priest, the sacrament to those who are sick and shut in, and you should speak to them of anyone whom you know has become sick and cannot come to church, or speak to Meri Maisonet and she will relay the message. And the Lay Eucharistic Visitor will bring the intensity of their personal faith, publicly expressed, to that hospital room or living room or bedroom, where they will share the food of God, the food of the Church with a fellow parishioner so both can share the strength of God and both go forth from there to bring his wild blessings to others.
This is a transmission of strength and blessing that goes nowhere if we keep it to ourselves. And even if you are not a Lay Eucharistic Visitor you can go forward from here as a friend, who loves your neighbor as yourself, with the wild abandon that knows that there is plenty of love where that comes from, because it comes not from us, but from God.
This ministry of food is a special ministry of the Episcopal Church. It reminds me of my uncle and aunt’s Methodist Church in London, Ohio, where they didn’t have coffee hour on Sunday. Not every church does. So after church the good Methodists who wanted to, would go down the front steps and cross the street to the Episcopal Church, which had coffee hour, and share it – because food is important, and celebration is important, and hospitality is important.
And so in addition to coffee hour we share “a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins” with all the people in their need, in soup kitchens and feeding programs and community dinners and potluck suppers – because the ministry of food, in our Eucharistically centered church, is a natural extension of that Eucharist.
This is why we want to have a mini capital campaign to renew the kitchen, so that at this ‘second altar’ we can entertain more guests, from the highways and byways of Cornwall, and not just keep the good stuff to ourselves.
So we move forward with joy into God’s world, the joy of the new normal, the joy which, as someone once said, “is the most infallible sign of the presence of God,” the joy which we share with wild abandon starting with our relationship with God, continuing with our public worship of God, and finishing with our mission of God to all his other people. Amen