I hope you Dance

I hope you Dance

Posted: Thu, 19 May 2022 14:03

I hope you Dance

I suspect most of you are far too young to remember the school disco when we were all eager to dance with a particular partner, sitting anxiously on the side and only ending up in a general melee during the last five minutes. The country singer, Lee Ann Womack had a hit with 'I Hope You Dance'; it tells the tale of wonder and playing your part in the mystery that is life. It talks of hunger, love, majesty, wonder and faith. It is an homage to making choices in life, even if they happen to be the wrong ones-but at least you tried:

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance

(By Tia Sillers / Mark Sanders)

We can all suffer from the 'what if' syndrome in life; we can overthink decisions, good or bad, that we have made and destroy ourselves and others in the process. The song urges us to be involved and to be prepared to take chances. Are you going to sit on the side or are you prepared to be involved? Christianity is an invitation to be as involved as our God chooses to be.

I have wonderful memories of my short time in Liberia-the work of Don Bosco in the then war torn West African State was inspirational and remains with me. I loved the liturgy and especially the dancing offertory procession that could often take more than thirty minutes. Worshippers brought their whole being to worship in a way that shamed me, a white man with no rhythm. Years later I attended a service in San Francisco — the mural around the sanctuary in this Anglican Church was amazing and reminded me of the All-Saints' tapestries in the Catholic cathedral in Los Angeles. The icon depicts ninety saints, from many centuries, many cultures, and many walks of life. You can see ancient saints like St Francis of Assisi, and living saints such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the South African civil rights leader. There is Anne Hutchinson, the Puritan preacher and midwife. Then, there are those not traditionally associated with Christianity, such as Charles Darwin who proposed the theory of evolution. John Coltrane, who was canonized by the African Orthodox church, playing his saxophone. There's Anne Frank, famous for her teenage diary written while she was in hiding from the Nazis. And there is Gandhi, the Indian civil rights leader.

It is clear from the picture, these saints are not only singing or marching, they are dancing. In fact, this mural is called "The Dancing Saints" icon. It's not surprising that the members of St. Gregory's often dance during worship. How wonderful for them to be surrounded by these saints dancing with them each time they gather.

In the gospel account of John the Baptist, Jesus does not sit on the banks of the Jordan watching the multitude; The Perfect One, the one without sin enters the water just like everyone else. Incarnation demands involvement—an involvement we are invited to share. In his latest encyclical 'Fratelli Tutti' Pope Francis uses the example of the 'Good Samaritan' and challenges us to be involved like the Samaritan and not be bystanders. In these difficult times there is a need for us to be involved as fully as we can. There is a fear and a worry, but we do what we can: in this month of Mary, a deep prayer is needed for those who are suffering, those you are separated from or those who simply need encouragement.

None of us are perfect and the danger is society often tells us that only the ones who can make it are the perfect singers, the perfect dancers, the perfect painters or the perfect writers. We all deserve a chance, and we all need to take our part., even if the jurors on 'Britain's Got Talent' have another point of view. Our Church needs to encourage the gifts and talents of everyone from the youngest to the oldest-if we are waiting for the PERFECT it may never come. I really believe our culture loses something very precious from damping down our spirits and our joy. When we are contained in our church buildings, anxiously counting heads and patching up leaks, we are kept from doing the liberating and joyful work of Christ in the community. Let us reclaim the missionary dimension of our Church in these days. Just imagine, if we were to get out of your traditional place of worship and invite our neighbours to join the dance. They just might realize that they too can dance. And what a wonderful disruption that would be to a culture that damps down, separating people from one another, demanding conformity. As the song once again reminds us to use that gift of true love to transform our culture:

Lovin' might be a mistake, but it's worth makin'
Don't let some Hellbent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to sellin' out, reconsider
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance

Author: Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB

Image: St Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church

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