For this fourth and final post on the theme of DANCE I’ve found a story that overlaps with my chosen theme for December: CHILD.
The story is taken from the opening chapter of Gertrud Mueller Nelson‘s book, To Dance with God (1986).
Some years ago, I spent an afternoon caught up in a piece of sewing I was doing. The waste basket near my sewing machine was filled with scraps of fabric cut away from my project. This basket of discards was a fascination to my daughter Annika, who, at the time, was not yet four years old. She rooted through the scraps searching out the long bright strips, collected them to herself, and went off. When I took a moment to check on her, I tracked her whereabouts to the back garden where I found her sitting in the grass with a long pole. She was affixing the scraps to the top of the pole with great sticky wads of tape. “I’m making a banner for a procession,” she said. “I need a procession so that God will come down and dance with us.” With that she solemnly lifted her banner to flutter in the wind and slowly began to dance.
My three year old was not a particularly precocious toddler. I think, rather, that she was doing what three year olds do when left to their natural and intuitive religious sense and I was simply fortunate to hear and see what she was about. Mothers are often anthropologists of sorts and their children the exotic primitives that also happen to be under foot. This little primitive allowed me to witness a holy moment and I learned all over again how strong and real is that sense of wonder that children have – how innate and easy their way with the sacred. Here, religion was child’s play. And of course I had to wonder what happens in our development that as adults we became a serious folk, uneasy in our relationship with God, out of touch with the mysteries we knew in childhood, restless, empty, searching to regain a sense of awe and a way to “dance with God.”
Call to worship
The people of God were made for worship:
To sing and to praise, to laugh and to dance.
The people of God were made for God’s presence:
For pleasure and praise, for joy and for song.
Come, holy people, God’s chosen disciples:
Gather for worship, come from all places!
We have come to God’s temple, gathered together,
We have come to praise God and enjoy him forever.
~ from jesusscribbles
‘Tree art’, Rotterdam (Photo: Irene Bom)
I cannot dance, O Lord, unless you lead me. If it is your will, I can leap for joy. But you must show me how to dance and sing by dancing and singing yourself! With you I can leap towards love, and from love I will leap to truth, and from truth I will leap to joy, and then I shall leap beyond all human senses. There I will remain and dance for evermore.
~ by Mechtild of Magdeburg (1210-1280)
from 2000 Years of Prayer compiled by Michael Counsell, p. 123
Mechtild of Magdeburg wrote this prayer while she served in the Béguinage at Magdeburg in Germany, as part of a community of lay women who combined a life of corporate prayer with service in the wider community.
One of the churches in our Presbytery, the English Reformed Church in Amsterdam, is located on the site of a Béguinage established in Amsterdam in the 14th century.
Although no Béguines live in the Begijnhof today (according the wikipedia the last Béguine died in 1971 at the age of 84), still the courtyard offers a place of retreat in the midst of a busy city. Somehow it’s hard to imagine the Béguines of old leaping and dancing there, but why not?
From the blog
2017: Advent Joy #1
Poster for a Corona-proof cultural route through the heart of Rotterdam
“Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing.” (Exodus 15:20)
britannica.com describes dance as
the movement of the body in a rhythmic way, usually to music and within a given space, for the purpose of expressing an idea or emotion, releasing energy, or simply taking delight in the movement itself.
There is some overlap between dance and prayer, as our bodies help us express our love for God, our delight in knowing Him and our emotional and bodily needs.
Exodus 15 records the use of dance as a community response to God’s saving acts on Israel’s behalf. But there’s no reason why we can’t use “dance” in our personal prayer time too, to enrich it.
Here are some ideas:
- Adopt the embodied version of St Patrick’s breastplate. A friend of mine was keen to learn it – not just for the spiritual benefits, but also to exercise her weakened left arm. And when I visit her now, we make a point to pray this prayer together before I leave.
- Dance prayerfully to a favourite hymn or spiritual song.
- Interpret a passage of Scripture as a series of steps and gestures, to make the words come alive in a fresh way for you.
Dance Is Like Thought: Helen Keller Visits Martha Graham’s Studio (including a video)
… and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. (Isaiah 55:12)
In the beginning ……
The dance began to swirl and ponder.
In the beginning, all was dark.
And the dance cast forth bright light.
In the beginning, the earth burst forth with wondrous things,
creatures of all sorts, mountains and hills,
vast seas and rivers, valleys and desert areas.
And the Lord of the Dance saw that it was good
and blessed it all.
In our beginning, God blessed us.
And the dance went on,
through our lives, into all that we have done.
Sometimes the dance was slow and plodding;
at other times it was sprightly and fast.
Yet in the midst of it all,
the Lord of the Dance is with us.
This dance, called Life, is everywhere —
in the light and in the dark.
It is in places of hope and in places of deepest sorrow and tragedy.
How shall we dance our dance for God?
We shall live lives of hope and peace,
bringing the good news of Jesus Christ
and all that he taught to us,
so that others may join the dance.
Praise be to the Lord of the Dance,
the Lord of Creation, the Lord of Life!
~ written by Nancy C. Townley, and posted on the Ministry Matters website. http://www.ministrymatters.com/
From the blog
On Writing Prayer-Poems
Call of the wild ones