Deity Dancing

 

Deity: The essential nature or condition of being a god; divinity.  Used with the: “the Deity.

 

Ethel Waters, 1939Snyder Bible Home   All Sermons   Search Entire Site     http://jacksonsnyder.com/arc/2004/bumsfortruth_files/image001.jpg  

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This message references John Claypool’s The Preaching Event, 1994

Preview these great resources from John Claypool:

Tracks of a Fellow Struggler: Living and Growing Toward Grief

John Claypool Ser.2, V.16  Vision Video / 1998

 

Preview Ethel Waters’ autobiography, His Eye is on the Sparrow

 

ethelsmJohn 3:16-21 (SSBE)  For Yahweh so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.  For Yahweh sent not the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through him.  He that believes on him is not judged: he that believes not on him has been judged already, because he has not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of Yahweh.  And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil.  For every one that does evil hates the light, and comes not to the light, lest his works should be reproved.  But he that does the truth comes to the light, that his works may be made manifest, that they have been worked in Yahweh.

 

John 5:19-20Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own . . .

 

Thomas 22b:When you make the two one, the inside like the outside . . .

 

Psalms 68

 1. Let Elohim arise, let his enemies scatter, let his opponents flee before him.

 2. You disperse them like smoke; as wax melts in the presence of a fire, so the wicked melt at the presence of Elohim.

 3. The upright rejoice in the presence of Elohim, delighted and crying out for joy.

 4. Sing to Elohim, play music to his name, build a road for the Rider of the Clouds, rejoice in Yahweh, dance before him.

 

Gen 12:1-9  Now Yahweh said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. {2} I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. {3} I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” {4} So Abram went, as Yahweh had told him; and Lot went with him.  Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. {5} Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan.  When they had come to the land of Canaan, {6} Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh.  At that time the Canaanites were in the land. {7} Then Yahweh appeared to Abram, and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.  So he built there an altar to Yahweh, who had appeared to him. {8} From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to Yahweh and invoked the name of Yahweh. {9} And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.

 

   {FAST} I was never one for dancing: too ignorant to lead; too clumsy to follow.  Maybe you’re that way, too.  I always avoided having to get out there on the floor.  I never felt comfortable tripping the light fantastic, only tripping.  Do you want to know the secret to beating the call of the dance floor?  Join the band. 

   Did you ever think of our relationship with the Almighty as a clumsy dance?  A dance with Deity?  ¿When are we supposed to move and when is He?  How do we avoid stepping on his toes?  How do we keep from getting squished under his?  And what about those “big dips?”  Maybe we can find out if “we take a little dip” into the philosophical fish tank we call divinity.

 

Pre-eminence

   In our understanding of the dance with deity, there are two extremes.  One extreme is called “divine pre-eminence,” which proposes that God does just about everything in our lives and we do practically nothing.  “Let go and let God” is the motto of those who ascribe to “divine pre-eminence.”   In order to let go and let God, we must completely empty ourselves, renouncing all personal initiatives and desires, allowing the Almighty to take complete charge.  The student of this ideal proclaims that, “In my life, God must be everything, and I must be nothing!  I must decrease; God must increase.”

   Once upon a time an Indian chief converted to this form of religion, but was unable to share his faith in words to his tribe.  So he formed a circle of dried leaves and threw a fat earthworm into the middle.  Then he set the circle of leaves aflame.  His companions watched the Lumbricus terrestris instinctively and frantically trying to escape.  Finding no way out, the worm went limp and gave up, accepting its fate.  But then, at the very last moment, the Indian’s companions watched as their Chief plucked the creature from a fiery destiny.  The Chief held the relieved worm up in the air and witnessed to his friends, {ala Karloff in Unconquered} “This is what it means to be saved.”

   Maybe you can see how “letting go and letting God” might enable us to see ourselves as “worms”: there’s no escaping a hopeless situation except Heaven pluck us out.  This is actually called “worm theology.”  Of course, there are times when we have little alternative but to “let go and let God.”  But in doing so there’s always the danger that when Yahweh doesn’t move as we suppose, we get mad at Him, or ourselves, or somebody.  Or, we are disappointed and lose hope.

 

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Distance

   Another extreme is the notion that God has very little input in the lives of humans at all.  He already gave us everything we need: wisdom, compassion, resources, a brain, a body – all to get the job done on our own.  This individualistic style of faith is best characterized by the untiring social worker and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jane Addams (1860-1935), who challenged, “If not now, when?  If not you, who?”  In other words, “Something’s got to be done, and it has to be done now, and you’ve got to do it, and you’ve got to do it now!!”

   So many understand the Creator this way.  He’s like the Rolex factory – he created the finest wristwatch in the universe, setting it into motion by a big bang and keeping it there by the perfect rhythm of the atom.  Now, from time to time, he looks down at his wrist, checks the time, and listens to his Rolex tick-tick-tick.   (Oh, yeah.  If it ticks, it’s not a Rolex.  The Rolex features the “sweeping second hand.”) 

   Those who believe in tick, tick, tick say things like, “The heavens and the earth belong to us – whatever is to be done must depend solely on our human ingenuity, goodness, and courage.”  The problem remains, if he created the first men and women intelligent and emotional for companionship, then imagine just what kind of blunder he made!  Those who see the Creator as a factory will never be decent companions.

 

Biblical Relationship

   But if we choose to see the Creator biblically, the interaction between the Creator and the created approaches neither of these extremes.  Yahweh is not recorded as the sole actor in the screenplay of salvation history, nor are humans simply biological entities or “cast extras,” abandoned to do as they will.  The relationship between Creator and creature found in the Bible is “covenant”; a mutual agreement; a partnership, a yoke-fellowship, a marriage.  In terms of art we might say a duet or better, a minuet.   

   When two are gathered in his name, something is created that couldn’t have been with only one.   Why?  Because not only is “one the loneliest number you can ever do” but “it takes two to tango.”  Yahweh the Son has often been described as the “Lord of the Dance.”  We’re his partners in a ballet He calls “The New Creation.”   Partnership empowers us to do and be immeasurably more immeasurably better than was possible as a simple biological unit.   When partners stir in perfect rhythm and learn the dance, then they can be one in it.

   Remember Jesus in the garden?  When he prayed for total unity?

John 17:20-21.  I pray not only for these but also for those who through their teaching will come to believe in me.    May they all be one, just as, Father, you are in me and I am in you, so that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.

He did not pray these words with great drops of blood coursing down his brow in a vain hope, but that they might come to pass in every generation of joyful yoke-fellows: that the world might see and desire to know him too and join in the Dance of the Divine Life.  

 

Life Without Father

   OK.  Look at Abram.  At his father’s insistence, Abram “sojourns” from Ur to Haran up north – about 500 miles – no little journey in those days.   His father had controlled Abram’s every move all his life.  But now, father’s dead.   Abram doesn’t know what to do without Daddy, and he’s seventy-five years old!  He wonders if he should go buy an idol – that’s what Daddy would do.  A golden idol!  Only a golden idol could be more powerful than Daddy.  There’re plenty of idols in his brother’s god-shop – of clay, wood, stone, jewels, silver and gold. 

   But Abram’s not buying idols today.  You see, a heavenly voice beckons him now that Daddy’s idols no longer bar the way.   The words that this Voice utters will affect every person who’ll draw breath for the next 4000 years.

  

Abram Had Millions

  The Yahweh of Heaven offers Abram a proposition; to wit:  if Abram will “go forth” as Yahweh’s covenant partner, he’ll receive many wonderful blessings in return: land, a big family, servants, cattle, fame, and, most importantly, the anointing to bless everyone.   Furthermore, Yahweh Almighty and Abram would share a relationship not of slave to master, but one of respect and friendship.  As Abram’s friend, Yahweh promised to personally bless those who blessed Abram and curse those who cursed him and his.  How could Abram go wrong?  All he was required to do was GO FORTH IN THE WAY.

   Abram told his wife, Sarai, all about his new Deity and new Direction in faith.  They gathered up their belongings and relatives, people and cattle, and off they went 500 more miles southwest toward the Negev desert, a hostile and infertile land.  ¿Could such a place ever be called “the promised”?

   Abram had a new role to play: one that heretofore had never been known: that through the obedience of one man, all people forever might be blessed – ALL PEOPLE.  Look around at how you’ve been blessed in your life.  I know some have had it harder than others, but the fact is, whatever blessings you’ve had came about because of Abram’s faithfulness.  ¿Shall we not claim the same covenant today as Abram did yesterday?  Certainly!  We have a posterity that we cherish also.   If we’re to get in line for our posterity’s share of the blessings of Abram, we must be willing to dance when it’s our turn.   And it’s our turn now!

   In a world that seems to have so little future, we can hardly afford to be wallflowers along Destiny’s soft shoulder.  Neither dare we, out of our own self-sufficiency, try to take the lead once we embrace our G*d on the slick dance floor.  After all, dancing is a partnership.  Yahweh will never find the floor so slick with sweat that he will fall.  And, while we’re in his arms, even if we slip, he’ll keep us in step until the orchestra finishes its swan song, “Make the World Go Away and take it off my shoulder.  In that day, Jesus will reign and all who are in Him will truly, truly be ONE.

   Our Heavenly Father hardly seems like the artisan who “creates the world like a clock, winds it up, then goes away until it winds down,” according to Abram’s story.  Hardly!  Yahweh intervenes.  Nor is Abram some poor, slimy worm to be burned up or snatched from the fire; Abram was very rich in the first place.  He didn’t need any handout or an idol.  His father left him millions.  But now he’s called to walk away from the “guaranteed dollar” and lay his dough out for dance tickets – to moon walk into a hot, dry land among strange and foreign hostiles – to become that “wandering Aramaean who sees G-d” in the wastelands of Beersheba!

   Friends, this was the beginning of biblical religion – not with gods doing everything, or humans doing everything.  Biblical religion, in the words of Rev. John Claypool, is “a mystery of creative collaboration when the two become one and yet remain two at the same time.”  Two dancing as one – a unity – a marriage.  This anniversary waltz of covenant faith is the secret of authentic religious experience and creativity.  There is no adequate substitute to this species of unity.

 

Consider Jesus

   That Jesus was a unified partner with Yahweh in the covenant dance is clearly illustrated.  This is why I like to use the sacred names Yahweh and Yahshua instead of the profane names God and Jesus.  Yahweh and Yahshua are their real names, not phonies made up by dishonest translators.  Yahweh means “The Eternal One” and Yahshua means “The Eternal One Saves.”  Their true names prove their true unity in YAH. 

   Further, we see great accord in the Law of Yahweh and the life of Yahshua, who did not do away with the Law of his Namesake, but fulfilled it entirely.   Jesus wasn’t some “limp leaf on a wet log” as some say.  Jesus stirred up righteous trouble wherever he went; and he did it with heavenly help and leave.

   Jesus was a man who  became united with the Almighty through OBEDIENCE, just as Abram had eighteen hundred years before.  Yet though he was unified, he acted with true individuality, courage and creativity in all things.  And let’s not forget, he prayed all night.  Fervent prayer is not sissified; it is MANLY work.  And he performed miracles out of his compassion through Yahweh’s covenant power!  The dance was on!  The two became one, yet remained distinct.  Jesus said it himself:

John 5:19. “Truly the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.

Jesus became the dance, and the dance went on.  The two became one – then the one became many – yet still just one. 

   In another place, he tells the Apostle Thomas how we know our dancing is in step; Jesus says:

Thomas 22: “When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when you make the male and the female one... and when you fashion an eye in the place of eyes, and a hand in place of hands, and a foot in place of feet, and a face in place of faces; THEN will you enter the kingdom.

   Jesus did plenty, but he claimed he could do nothing on his own!  He did what he saw his Father do.  The two-step became the one-step.  Those who witnessed the unity of Jesus and his Father were “astonished” (John 5:20). 

   Wouldn’t it be great to have folks around here see something astonishing?  Wouldn’t it be a change to visibly perceive Yahweh working with us through our situations and troubles and calamities?  Through our triumphs and blessings and godly activities?  Wouldn’t it be a site to see fifty people in here?  A hundred?  Seventy-five in tears, crying over their sins, convicted by the Holy Spirit?  Well, what kind of dance are you going to do about it?  A “round dance” – that is, dance around the harvest?  Or a square dance – with a different partner every few seconds?  When was your last invitation to the dance?

   Why haven’t you brought someone new to church today?  {pause}

   “Not while you’re here, Preacher!” someone may be thinking.  But, you see, whether I’m here or not, One is here who’s greater than any of us.  He needs to be known by your neighbor.  She needs to be a partner with God.  Yes, it’d certainly be a change for us to be partnering up in His will rather than switching partners in the middle of the foxtrot.  Let’s dance with him!  Let’s follow his lead!  Let’s dip deep “darlins”!  OK!

 

From Bethel to Ethel

   Now we’ve considered Jesus, and Abram at Bethel.  Now let’s think about Ethel.  Yes, Ethel.  Ethel Waters, that is – blind, wretched and abandoned on the streets of Chicago as an infant, the victim of psychopathic parents and the wretched social welfare system of the 1920’s.  Ethel Waters went on to be one of America’s best-loved gospel singers in the 40’s through 60’s.  The testimony of her success in overcoming all obstacles to godly living is found in one of her songs, Partners With God. 

It’s wonderful to have God for a partner, He’ll always be by your side;

When the road gets rough and things get tough, He’ll come along just for the ride.

Have faith in him, He’ll guide and protect you, And share each joy and pain;

When the future’s dim invest in him, He’ll keep you out of the rain.

Avoided, shunned, sometimes branded a failure, there’s no open door to be found:

If you’ll only believe that miracles happen, He can regain your lost crown.

You just can’t lose with God as your partner, Faith in him is your only fee;

O why must you delay, begin this very day, Being partners with God.

   Ethel was right, and testifying out of her own deplorable experiences.  She was a “deity dancer.”  And such a partnership is what the Bible prescribes for us; we are emotionally and functionally incomplete without HIM.  Abram was His partner, and later, YAH & SON went into the Gospel business together.  Later still, St. Paul speaks of this “mystery of collaboration” in terms of his own experience:

{as a murderous inquisitor:

1 Corinthians 15:9-10a: For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Assembly of Yahweh. {10} But by the grace of Yahweh IAM what I AM, and his grace toward me has not been in vain.

Sounds a little like “worm theology” so far, but listen to this: Paul insists,

{10b} No!  I worked harder than any of them – - - - though it was not I, but the grace of Yahweh that is with me.

   Paul writes,}

 I worked harder than anyone, though it was not I(1 Corinthians 15:10).  I realize the truth of this statement when I prepare the message – I work hard climbing up to the throne-room, then back down to spend hours in a stuffy office trying to put the words of Heaven to the paper!  Many times I’m astonished by what I read and I ask myself, “Did this really come from me?”  And I have to answer, “Yes! – and No!” 

I AM working, it is true; G*d is working, So are you!

And for every little chore We work hard but He works more.

With this poetic quatrain I conclude my three points.

*

*     *

Invitation

   Our Father and his Beloved Son are inviting you to take part in the dance.  It’s not a complete cast without you – partners are missing!  You’re invited.  There’s no cover charge but faith – and you may freely invite everyone you know.  There’s absolutely no penalty because the holy name Yahweh is on your dance ticket!

   So, where’s the dance, you ask?  Why, you know! 

 

Dance, dance wherever you may be -

I am the Master 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.

Amen.

 

SERMON CHECK-OFF

[  ] Gen 12:1-9  Now Yahweh said to Abram, “Go from your country...”

[  ] John 3:16-21 (SSBE)  “For Yahweh so loved the world ...”

[  ] Divinity, Theology: The study of the nature of God and religious truth.

[  ] Lumbricus terrestris  = the earthworm.

[  ] Jane Addams (1860-1935) “If not now, when?  If not you, who?” 

[  ] The Rolex wristwatch features the “sweeping second hand.”

[  ] “One the loneliest number you can ever do.”

[  ] John 17:20-21.  “I pray not only for these...”

[  ] Covenant: A binding agreement; a compact.

[  ] John Claypool: Religion is “a mystery of creative collaboration when the two become one and yet remain two.”

[  ] John 5:19 “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own...”

[  ] Thomas 22: “When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside...”

[  ] Ethel Waters: “You just can’t lose with God as your partner...”

[  ] 1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles ...

[  ] Jack Snyder:  I AM working, it is true; G*d is working, So are you! ...

[  ] Sydney Carter: “And I’ll lead you all in the dance, said he.”

 

Jackson Snyder,  August 12, 2004