April 20, 2019

The Easter Dance

On Easter morning, I will offer the short, sweet, three-point sermon that I’ve offered before:

We gather today to celebrate Easter, the Feast of the Resurrection.

And I want to say three things about the Feast of the Resurrection that we celebrate this day:
1) The Resurrection is a mystery that cannot be described in words.
2) The Resurrection can’t just be celebrated by our intellects and in our heads. It requires our whole selves.
3) The Resurrection is best celebrated with others.
So, rather than give any more words in response to the Gospel and the Feast of the Day, we will dance.

At that point, the feelings in the congregation are a blend of excitement, anxiety, curiosity and relief (for many are only occasional church visitors, and not particularly revved for a sermon). Then I call on a good sport of the congregation to help me show folks how the dance goes.

It’s a simple, kind of corny dance that was crafted by a member of the congregation who himself was a noted dancer and caller. We dance to a folk tune called Sasha. It starts with a shout: “Alleluia, alleluia, Christ is risen!”, then a “patty cake” with a partner, followed by a swirl with linked arms. Those who are able then roam while the music plays, until the music calls for us to find a new partner and begin the pattern again. Others stay where they are, and a new partner comes to them there. (A brief YouTube video from an earlier Advocate Easter can be found here.) The pattern repeats 6 times.

Every year, the shy and the skeptical initially stand to the side, while those who are bolder and more comfortable with movement, step right up. But by the third or fourth time around, pretty much everyone has joined in, young and old, shy and bold. And we laugh and we flub up, doing the “patty cake” when we are supposed to be swirling, or shouting the Alleluia, when we are meant to be roaming. And we laugh some more, because we are making fools out of ourselves, and it is fun.

We say that liturgy expresses what we believe and forms what we become. If the sermon on Easter Day is a dance, I wonder what part of the Easter message we are embodying beyond the three points I offered at the start. Certainly we make known that faith lived in the light of the Resurrection is joyful, and that church can be fun. But we also make known that it is okay to mess up, that the community is there to carry you through until you get into the groove again.

I sometimes worry that our precision liturgies don’t help us to experience and be formed for this very often, though certainly flawless liturgy can help us better to know and experience our transcendent, awe-inspiring, God. It is good that our church is broad enough to allow for diverse expressions of faith on a given Sunday morning. Even on Easter Day.

Our Easter Dance “sermon” is not the whole Christian narrative, of course. And when the music stops, I call out for folks to come back to church throughout the year to learn the rest of the story. There will be days and seasons ahead when we will grapple with the tough stuff of life and the challenge of faith. There will be liturgies in which we will sit still and put ourselves before God and listen -- a lot. But Easter is a day of joy and celebration. An Alleluia lived.