Proper 17B: Beloved

Grass and Sky (DTF301137)OLD TESTAMENT: Song of Solomon 2: 8-13

Read the Old Testament Lectionary passage

This week we are continuing our theme of wisdom by looking at one of the Wisdom Writings. The writing known as the Song of Solomon, or the Hebrew title the Song of Songs, is not the usual fare for Scripture. Essentially, it is a love song between lovers full of what can be characterized as erotic imagery and many are surprised that it is included in the Bible at all. In fact, the language could almost be considered secular, with no mention of God at all. Its inclusion in the canon produced what could be considered a great debate among rabbis in the first century. Some considered it little more than a drinking song. The matter was settled by Rabbi Akiba, the great teacher and mystic, who said, “The whole world is not worth the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel, for all the Scriptures are holy, but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies.” (Mishnah Yadayim 3: 5)

Because while modern scholars often view the writing as a celebration of sexual love between a man and a woman, both Jewish and Christian theologians of previous centuries claimed that it described the deep and abiding mutual love between God and Israel or Christ and the Church. Mystics illustrate the power of the book to shape our understanding of our life with God—a deep yearning that knows only the language of intimate communion.

This week’s passage is the only text from the writing that is in the Lectionary. It describes a love marked by fidelity and mutuality. The lovers are faithful to each other. They have eyes for no one else. The love is one that is mutual and equal. (In fact, the woman speaks more than the man! She is in no way passive or submissive.) Commentator Ellen Davis argues that in a reversal of the punishment of Eve in Genesis 3 (“your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you.”), the woman in the song declares “I am my beloved’s and his desire is for me.” She says that there is an abiding mutuality that repairs the rupture and places the lovers (and love) back in the Garden.

Human love and Divine love are not mutually exclusive. They are not unrelated. Human love, at its best, is a reflection of God’s love. So, before my grandmother becomes offended at the implication that there is a part of the Holy Bible that is part of the tradition of erotica, remember that we are dealing with a God in Christ whose love for us is both shocking to our sensibilities and seeking to shock us out of all the ties to the ways of death, including our own prejudices and our own “proper” ways. We are called not only to love God but to be “in love” with God. Implicit in this poem is a sort of pining absence, a longing so deep that the poet cannot be complete without the One that is loved. I think that’s the way we’re called to be. I mean, think about it, we were created in the image of God, made with a shape and a sense into which only God fits. And we struggle. We struggle to find what fits into that shape. And in the absence, in the longing, we finally find that Presence of God, we finally find that One in whom we are destined to fall in love. Seventeenth century mathematician, Blaise Pascal spoke of it as a “God-shaped vacuum” in every human, a hole that only God could fill. It’s like being in love.

Perhaps it is the language that makes us bristle, that makes us squirm a bit in our pews. Perhaps we are even a bit uncomfortable with a God who is so intimate, so a part of us, that falling in love is all we can do. Perhaps we really haven’t thought through what it means to be created in the image of someone else. It means that we have to let ourselves go, that we have to become who God called us to be, that we have to realize that there is something more, that WE are something more, that we are created in the image of our Beloved, that we are created to fall in love with God. It is about completion; it is about wholeness; it is about being who we were created to be. It is about falling in love with God and falling into God.

Our lectionary does not include the rest of the poem. I want to read the next four verses. Here’s how they go:

O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the covert of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. Catch us the foxes, the little foxes, that ruin the vineyards— for our vineyards are in blossom.”   My beloved is mine and I am his; he pastures his flock among the lilies.  Until the day breathes and the shadows flee, turn, my beloved, be like a gazelle or a young stag on the cleft mountains.

We know that God transforms.  We know that Jesus Christ redeems.   We know the Holy Spirit walks with us each and every day.  Do we know what that means?  Do we understand that that depicts the most intimate relationship imaginable?  It is more than loving God.  It is rather understanding that we are called to fill ourselves with God, to fill that God-shaped hole in our being with the very Spirit, the very One in which we live and move and have our being.  We are  not just called to love and support and figure God out in this endeavor but rather to fall in love with God.

  1. What is your response to this passage?
  2. What is your understanding of the relationship between God and us that is represented here?
  3. What does it mean for you to “fall in love” with God?
  4. Why do we have such a hard time understanding that type of love in terms of our relationship with God?



NEW TESTAMENT: James 1: 17-27

Read the New Testament Lectionary passage

The book of James was once called the “epistle of straw” by Martin Luther. Apparently he did not like it. But the letter offers driving questions concerning the shape of the Christian life. The author is aware that people sometimes limit their understanding of faith to a simple set of claims. For the writer, this is inadequate. Here, the faith that counts is the faith that is active in one’s life, the faith that shapes one’s life and brings one closer to God.

The verses for this week first explore the question, “Who is God?” For the writer, God is identified by what God gives. Every perfect gift comes from God. Every perfect truth is of God. The second question is, “Who are you?” The writer speaks of a lack of connection and correspondence between hearing and doing, between what one should be and what one does. For me, I think the main word here is “be”. We are not just called to listen; we are not just called to do; we are called to “be”.

The passage calls us to look at our lives, to look at ourselves in light of this God of Lights who has shone a light of illumination as to who we are called to be. This is where we see ourselves. This is how God creates us to be. Why do we miss that? This epistle is often seen as a sort of “Christian Wisdom letter”. Faith and works are not opposed to each other, as Luther claimed. They’re not even disconnected. The truly wise will live the way they believe. In the understanding of the writer of James, that is “pure”religion.

As Eugene Peterson puts it, “Wisdom is not primarily knowing the truth, although it certainly includes that; it is skill in living. For what good is a truth if we don’t know how to live it? What good is an intention if we can’t sustain it?” True holiness is not so much an absence of bad things. It is presence of compassion. It is about the way we treat others, the way we treat Creation, the way we live our lives.

You know, the church could do worse than be an “inner beauty” shop–a place where love is shared and truth is told and the beauty of becoming is the work of the community.  For plain old mirrors are incredibly unreliable witnesses and companions–we can get stuck all by ourselves like Narcissus.  Or like the person in James, we can look in the mirror by ourselves and then rush away and forget not just what we look like but who we are.  For when we look into the mirror by ourselves, we don’t see us.  Not the real me or the real you–who are so much deeper and more interesting and real and eternal than what we can see by ourselves in even the clearest light with the finest silvered glass.  To know and to love the real me and the real you–we need each other–to look into the Christ mirror of human being and say when I see you, I see power.  I see compassion, creativity, bravery, humor, loyalty, endurance, forgiveness, wisdom, abundance.  I see potential.  When I look with you in the mirror of Christ, I see the beauty of our belovedness beyond the telling. When is the last time you looked in a mirror?  Do you remember who you saw?  Do you need someone to look with you?  I do. (From “Looking in the Mirror”, by Rev. Martha Sterne, August 30, 2009, available at, accessed 29 August, 2012)

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.

Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.

But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, it no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action.

Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless on their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world. (Eugene Peterson, The Message / Remix”, p. 2206.)



  1. How does this passage speak to you?
  2. Why is it so hard for us to keep “hearing” and “doing” connected?
  3. How do we typically understand truth and what does that say about our faith?
  4. What does this passage say to you about wisdom?
  5. What does this passage say to you about who you are and what you are called to be?

GOSPEL: Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Read the Lectionary Gospel passage

This passage gives us a look at how Jesus dealt with the predominant culture in which he lived. The issue of what is clean and unclean and how such uncleanness is passed on, of course has its roots in the Old Testament. The objection was probably not born out of a concern about hygiene but, rather, “following the rules”. The assumption was that if unclean hands touched liquid, the liquid became unclean. So, then, if the liquid touched the food, it would become impure. If the person ate the food, the person became unclean. To guard against this, there were groups that ritually washed hands before a meal.

This was rather an extreme view, even for this time. The writer of Mark implied that this was only an “outward” observance, rather than a mark of true faith. For the writer, this really made no sense at all. The writer of Mark is encouraging readers to rethink the commandments posed in Scripture through the lens of our hearts, the lens of faith. Discerning what practices actually embody God’s will are more often learned from getting things wrong than from getting things right.

Rules and order and doctrine are not bad things. They help us make sense of it all. But when they themselves become the objects of “worship”, the “sacred cows”, then we cease to be who we are called to be. Reverence belongs to God rather than those things that point toward God.


Reverence stands in awe of something—something that dwarfs the self, that allows human beings to sense the full extent of our limits—so that we can begin to see one another more reverently as well.  An irreverent soul who is unable to feel awe in the presence of things higher than the self is also unable to feel respect in the presence of things as it sees as lower than the self…Reverence requires a certain pace.  It requires a willingness to take detours, even side trips, which are not part of the original plan. (Barbara Brown Taylor in An Altar in the World:  A Geography of Faith, p. 21, 24.)


So, all these rules and dogmas and liturgy and theology that make up our religion are not our faith journey, but they lead us through it. I think an authentic faith is one that weaves the two together. It is not that they are always evenly distributed, but they are always connected in some way. I guess if I were to put it simply in the context of my own Christian faith tradition, I would say that “religion without spirituality” is practicing the religion about Jesus. It sounds good, but it doesn’t have any depth, no engagement. And “spirituality without religion” has a good possibility of becoming the religion about myself. I think they need to come together—both spiritual religion and religious spirituality. Then one will have the opportunity to practice the religion of Jesus. I think that is the way we get out of ourselves and become one with God in a real and authentic way. (But that’s just my take.)

I think that we all have the responsibility to look at both our religion and our spirituality with a critical eye. We need to see what works and what doesn’t. What is it that brings us closer to God? What is it that provides a vehicle for us to be an instrument to bring others closer to God and to experience God in their lives? It is always a struggle; that, too, is a means of grace. Joan Chittister says that “religion is about transcendence, and spirituality is about finding meaning in the mundane.” (Joan Chittister, In Search of Belief, 8) Maybe that’s the point that Jesus was trying to make.


  1. What meaning does this passage hold for you?
  2. Are there things that our own society does that it views as religious ritual that are perhaps unnecessary or exclusive?
  3. What does this say about “God’s will” and how that relates to our faith?
  4. What does this say to us about wisdom?



Some Quotes for Further Reflection:


There is only one Love.  (Teresa of Avila, Spanish mystic and Carmelite nun, 16th century)


The miracles of the church seem to me to rest not so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near to us from afar off, but upon our perceptions being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there about us always. (Willa Sibert Cather, American author, 1873-1947)


Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair. (G.K. Chesterton, English writer, 1874-1936)





Now I love thee alone. Thee alone do I follow. Thee alone do I seek. Thee alone am I ready to serve. For thou alone hast just dominion. Under thy sway I long to be. Amen.

(Saint Augustine, from An African Prayer Book, 137)


Proper 10B: There’s Always Time for Dancing

Dancing-praiseOLD TESTAMENT: 2 Samuel 6: 1-5, 12b-19

Read the Old Testament Passage

In this passage, David moves the neglected ark to his new capital in order to place God back into the center of communal life. However, the same move is a shrewd consolidation of his own political power. David has conquered a city that was not part of any tribe; Jerusalem can literally be termed the “city of David.” Why does he want to move it? His initial motive is not given, but, positioned after the events narrated in chapter five, one can wonder whether David is adding to the luster of his city.  2 Samuel 6 begins with an impressive number of people (30,000 men).  This finalizes the move to kingship.  At this point this becomes a permanent, established dynasty.  The joining together of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms is magnified by the number of people present.  The allegiance to Saul is over and all are united around David.

David, of course, is never perfect but is God’s choice.  And so, he donned an ephod and he danced…they danced with all their might.  They placed the ark, the center of worship where it belonged, made offerings, distributed food, and celebrated.  The ark had been returned after being captured by the Philistines.  It was now the center of the community, the center of shared life.  The ark, the container for the commandments that had accompanied the people as they wandered in the wilderness, was a “visible symbol of God’s awesome and never-ending Presence.”  But under King Saul, the Ark was not in place.  It had been gone for about 30 years.  David brought it back.  And it was something to celebrate!  And the worship showed this—there was dancing with everything they had.  The ark was back.  God was here!  And then they shared a meal together before going to their homes.

You know, you can say what you want about David and about all of his shortcomings, but he knows how to worship!  There was nothing reserved.  This was a pure, unadulterated expression of joy in what God has done and what God is doing.  It’s hard for us to get there, but, when you think about it, isn’t that what worship should be?

Nineteenth century Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard developed an analogy called the “theater of worship”. Now I know that sends all kinds of red flags up for us. After all, we take real exception to anything in worship being deemed a performance. But Kierkegaard takes it a step further. So, think about your answer to three questions. First, when you think about worship, when you think about the place of worship, when you imagine sitting in the sanctuary, where is the stage? Second, who are the actors? And, third, who is the audience? Well, most people will say that the stage is the chancel—the altar, the pulpit, the cross. And most will then answer that the actors in the theater are the ministers, the musicians, the liturgists. So, of course, the audience is the congregation—all of those who came to worship. But, that’s not what Kierkegaard said at all. His answers? The stage is the whole house of worship. If you really think about what worship actually is, it is the whole house of God, so I would contend that the stage is everything beyond these walls too, the whole of Creation. And the actors are the ministers, and the musicians, and the liturgists. They are also the congregation. Every one of us, every child of God, is an actor in this theater of worship. So, then, who is left to be the audience? God…God is the audience. God is the one we worship.

I’ve always loved that. I think it puts it in real perspective. Our worship is not for us. It is not penitence or requirement. It is certainly not therapy or a way to get our lives back on track. The expectation for our worship is not limited to what we get out of it. Worship is the work of all the faithful who gather to praise, honor, and glorify God. It is reflection on what God has done and response to what God is doing. In worship, we somehow, some way, enter the mystery that is God. Worship, whether literally or figuratively, is a dance with the Divine. So, how passionate is our worship? How prepared for worship are we when we come before God? How filled are we with awe for the God of us all? How deep is our joy for what God has done and what God is doing? What expectations do we bring to our worship? Are we hoping to leave feeling good or comforted? Are we expecting to find God? Sure, sometimes we get that. But that’s not what it’s about. Worship is more than sitting in the pew and hoping that God will somehow visit us this day. Worship is transcendence. It is about opening ourselves up to something that is beyond our imaginations and certainly beyond our control. Worship is not the place where God comes to us. That is actually the rest of our life. Rather, worship is the place where we go to God, where we stand in awe of our Creator, of the things that God has done, and begin to move. With fear and trembling, we let our feet move to a different beat, and find ourselves in celebration and praise, dancing with all our might. Angela Monet said that “those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who could not hear the music.” It sort of makes you look at David’s Ephod Dance differently, doesn’t it?


  1. What is your response to this passage?
  2. What does this tell you about worship?
  3. How do most people in our world view worship?
  4. In what ways are we called to dance? What stands in our way?


NEW TESTAMENT: Ephesians 1: 3-14

Read the Epistle Passage

In the Greek, this is one sentence! Perhaps the writer (probably not Paul but rather a student or disciple of Paul) did not have Mrs. Roberts for Freshman English! The blessing speaks of Christ as an expanding sphere of influence or power, intent on filling the whole universe. This gives shape to its understanding of mission. The earth shall be filled with God’s goodness. But this Scripture can also lead to mistakenly understanding the church as an entity that is meant to take over everything – a kind of imperialism. Sometimes the focus appears to be on renewal and positive transformation which will be good for people. Sometimes one has the impression that it is all about subordination and absorption. But the heavenly and spiritual space appears not to be a far away place but a dimension of existence in the here and now as we participate in this life. The goal is relationship and is meant inclusively. It is meant for all.

The benefit appears as redemption, deliverance, and forgiveness of sins. But limiting it to that is really a narrowing of the idea. Here the mystery is about God’s plan to bring oneness. It is all encompassing with Christ filling all things. The author’s focus shifts immediately to ‘you’. He means his Gentile readers. What was once generally applied to those deemed as “chosen”, the religious, the “church”, this sense of being chosen, of being redeemed and forgiven, of being informed about the divine plan for the world, is now being applied to those once excluded. No one has a private claim on the Spirit.

This passage, then, can enable us to see ourselves, our world and our place in it in ways that are part of the whole tradition. We are adopted. We need to realize that there was no concept of “adoption” in the Old Testament. The word “adoption” wasn’t even used in the Old Testament because the Jews didn’t practice it; adoption wasn’t part of their mindset. Nor was the word or concept in the mind of Jesus who was a Jew. Nor is the concept of adoption found in the first four gospels. But for the Apostle Paul, adoption was part of his Roman world and adoption was used at least five times by Paul. You need to understand Roman law to understand adoption. For example, girls weren’t adopted under Roman law. It was part of Roman law that only sons inherited property. The Roman Caesars’ adopted sons frequently in order to give them their grand inheritance, and the focus was on the Caesar who chose a son to be adopted. In adoption, it was the will of the Caesar that was important; not the will of the son. The Romans practiced “patre potentus,” (the patre = father; potentus = potent). Adoption presupposed a potent father. All legal rights were with the father and none with the son. It was the father’s will which controlled everything. The concept of adoption was pleasureful, a source of happiness and joy as the Caesar designated his adopted son to be his designated heir and receive a grand inheritance. It is the pleasureful will of the Caesar that is important; not the will of the adopted person.

So, in similar terms, our adoption, then, is the will of God; it is sacramental. God has adopted us. It is already a part of us.

  1. How does this passage speak to you?
  2. What does this image of “adoption” mean to you?
  3. What does the concept of inclusiveness mean as it relates to adoption?


GOSPEL: Mark 6: 14-29

Read the Gospel Passage

Now you will recall that back in Chapter 1 of The Gospel According to Mark that we read during Advent, we were told that John the Baptizer had been arrested. We then hear no more from or about John until this passage. Now most of this account is told as a flashback, which is actually a sort of rarity for Scripture. Here, the Gospel writer throws the announcement down in front of us: John the Baptist, that odd camel-hair wearing, locust-eating, wilderness-wanderer who preached repentance and change and pointed to the light of Christ was dead, viciously beheaded by the powers that be. And then we hear the account of how and why that came about.

It’s an odd story, almost fable-like. Herod Antipas has had John arrested because he had denounced Herod for putting aside his legitimate wife and marrying the wife of his brother. (Whoever told us that soap operas were a modern invention?) And yet, on some level, Herod found John fascinating, maybe even respected what he had to say and yearned to hear more, although he definitely thought it was disturbing and confusing. But he certainly did not wish him dead. But this was not the case with Herod’s wife. So, in order to accommodate his wife’s wrath, he has John arrested.

And then Herod throws himself a birthday party, a big to-do with lots of good food, good wine, and dancing. And the entertainment for the evening was provided by the young, beautiful, dancing daughter of Herod’s new (and John had contended illegitimate) wife. Well Herod was so pleased with her performance that he promises her anything. The world was hers.

So the young girl runs to her mother just outside the room. Here was Herodias’ chance. Her nemesis John would meet his demise and she would be rid of him. And so the young girl returns to the party and makes the fateful request for John the Baptist’s head on a platter. Herod must have nearly choked. This was not what he wanted! His vengeful wife and this spoiled child had crossed the line. He knows that no matter who John is, he does not deserve death.

But, as the governor he was in what he construed as a tenuous position at best. After all, he had made a promise and had voiced it in front of numerous witnesses. If he didn’t follow through with it, no one would trust him again. So to save face and to secure the balance of power, he complied. After all, he was governor. Some things have to be done for the good of society and for the preservation of the way things are.

Our tendency is to more or less excuse poor, pitiful Herod. After all, he almost couldn’t help it, right? He was married to a spiteful wife with a spoiled daughter. And he had to be under a lot of pressure as governor. After all, things were really not going that well. He had to show people that he was still in control or the whole society would fall apart. We almost feel sorry for him, but, in the end, he still gives the order and takes the easy way out. He still has to take responsibility for what he’s done.

So what does this have to do with us?  Why is this passage even included in the Gospel in the first place?  What exactly are we supposed to glean from a story that is so violent and so gory and seemingly so totally out of time and place?  Commentators have always pointed out the parallels between John’s death and Jesus’ Crucifixion and thought that perhaps this was the writer’s way of foreshadowing what was to come later in the Gospel.  But if that was the only reason that this was included, it would be easy for us to remove ourselves from it altogether.

Perhaps we’re also meant to look on this as a reminder, a call to witness, if you will, of who we are and who Jesus calls us to be.  Because we can say what we want to say about Herod; we can point to his weakness, to his need to appear in control, and to his fear of who John the Baptist really was and what John’s words meant in his life.  The passage tells us that Herod feared John because he was righteous and holy.  In other words, he revered him enough to know that on some level John was right and that John’s words meant that Herod would have to change his life.

But this is not just an historical account about Herod.  I really do think that somewhere in this passage, we are meant to find and look at ourselves and our own lives.  Because we, too, make our own concessions—not to the point, obviously, of ordering someone’s death but in our own way we also bow to convenience and convention.  On some level we all live our lives wanting to be victorious and successful, wanting people to like us, and, like Herod, we sometimes miss the opportunity to do the right thing.  We close our ears and our minds and we leave, hoping the whole messy thing will just go away.  And we miss the opportunity to be who God is calling us to be.

Maybe that is the reason that this horrible story is here in the first place; otherwise, we’d all be tempted to start thinking that this Christian walk involves following some sort of miracle working-healing-rock star-Superman character.  Well, sign us all up for that!  But it’s not about that.  Jesus kept telling everyone not to say anything about all those miracles because following Christ does not mean going where the miracles are; it means becoming Christ-like.  It means becoming holy.

Think about it.  The disciples are riding high on the power of Jesus’ teaching and miracles.  And Jesus sends them out.  In last week’s Gospel passage, Jesus actually told them to expect rejection.  But just in case we missed that part, it is made much more explicit today…This is not easy.  But easy is not what we were promised.

This story of John the Baptist calls us to have the courage to be truth tellers, to tell the truth that is God to everyone around us and to stand up for what is right, to speak out against injustices, and to boldly and with all our might dance to the music that God is playing for us. We have a tendency, though, to play it safe, keep our mouths shut, and work hard to avoid offending anyone or doing anything that might disturb the peace of our carefully-choreographed lives and our cautiously thought-out religion.  And, yes, speaking out may sometimes be uncomfortable; it may not win us any popularity contests; it may even mean that we are in many ways rejected from what we think is a normal way of being.  If we take the Gospel seriously, it means that we may no longer relax in our comfortable cheap seats and look for God to show up on cue but rather that we will have the courage to become holiness.

  1. What meaning does this passage hold for you?
  2. What does it mean for you to “stand up” for your beliefs, for the right thing?
  3. Do you have other ideas as to why this account is included?
  4. What does it mean for you to approach holiness?



Some Quotes for Further Reflection:

To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, and to devote the will to the purpose of God. (William Temple)

The world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love.  (William Sloane Coffin)


Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world’s estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences. (Susan B. Anthony)




Dancing God, passionate leap of creative energy skipping among the stars, waltzing on rivers, birthing a universe.


Dancing God, tumbling from somewhere into Jewish territory, whirling Spirit seeding Mary’s womb with alluring divinity.


Dancing God, uncontainable grandeur, kicking and rolling in Mary’s flesh while untamed cousin echoes the dance in Aunt Elizabeth.


Dancing God, spark of angel’s song, shepherds hurrying like whirling dervishes gasping in awe at a surprising child.


Dancing God, still passionate today, dynamic movement of love wooing our hearts toward oneness and peace in a tear-stained world.


Dance on, Passionate God, we are your dance now. Teach us the tune, show us the steps. It is time to dance.


(Joyce Rupp, in Out of the Ordinary: Prayers, Poems, and Reflections for Every Season, P. 50-51)