Presence is Really a Present

“How is your summer going?” I often ask families as I catch them this time of year – “GREAT!” most kids answer, with a “Busy!” echoed from the parents.  It is a unique and wonderful time of year, yet it’s remarkable how busy we can get during this “vacation” season. Today’s readings recall ways in which God’s grace and Jesus’ love bring people together. Jesus’ followers are compared to God’s adopted children; David and the Israelites throw a party celebrating God’s faithfulness; the psalmist sings praises to God; and the disciples come together to bury the body of John the baptizer. As the normal and the craziness of life happen – the people of God come together to be present with one another.

In the Old Testament reading from 2 Samuel this week, King David and his entourage bring the Ark of the Covenant out of hidden protection back into the Temple.  The Ark of the Covenant held the 10 Commandments and was believed to BE the presence of God.  No one ever touched it.  It was carried by being placed on long poles.  In fact their are stories of people who did touch it who immediately died.

So David, ecstatic about bringing to Ark back into the Covenant, and filled with so much joy, hope, and passion for God – danced.  Just danced his heart out in the street. There were lots of folks celebrating and playing music. Dance is such a powerful way to move a whole crowd.  I imagine this was quite the party. Yet not everyone was in approval of this particular display. Michal, Saul’s daughter and David’s first wife watched from the widow and “despised David with all her heart.”

Why?  Well… as a princess you can imagine that Michal had quite a few opinions on the right and proper way a King should behave himself.  David wasn’t just leaping and jumping for joy – he was dancing dressed only in a “linen ephod”.  This is really just an undergarment… so yes – David is dancing (like a fool?) in public, in his underwear.

Why would he do such a thing?

I don’t know.  No one can really know – outside of King David.  Yet scholars, preachers, and teachers try their best to look into the context of this time and think through what the first hearers would make of this story.  The story describes a huge trip to bring the Ark of the Covenant home – over 6 months, and 30,000 men.  One of the cartmen died as he touched the Ark and therefore there was a bit of a 3 month break in the journey.  Finally getting the presence of God “home” was a huge accomplishment to these Israelites.

Many focus on the piousness of David – being willing to be indignified in offering praise to his God.  King David is known for having a heart after God. Michal is painted here as an opposite.  Focused on her own position of prestige and honor, Michal is never portrayed as one who particularly interested with righteousness or honoring God.  I wonder who Michal really was – what she liked, what her gifts and passions were, how her life as a princess in Judah taught her to live?   I wonder if she was outside, if she was closer to the ark – would she have thought or felt anything different – experiencing the presence of God herself?

What barriers have you experienced keeping you at a distance from the presence of God?

David sets a beautiful example here – joyously celebrating God in the midst of the people of God.  He was truly present in the moment – allowing himself to simply be with God.  I wonder what ways you are being called this summer to simply be?  To be really present with your family? your loved ones? your neighbors? and like David in our text this week – in what ways are you being called during this summer season to be present in your relationship to God?

Remember friends that presence is a true gift.

Peace – Deacon Erin