by Sarah Brock
Today’s Readings: AM Psalm 56, 57, 58 PM Psalm 64, 65
2 Samuel 2:1-11; Acts 15:36-16:5;
Salome danced. She danced to please, to curry favor. She danced before her step-father. She danced before her king.
Herod is celebrating his birthday and he throws a party for his court. Nothing too out of the ordinary here. We’ve all thrown and attended parties to celebrate a milestone — birthdays graduations, weddings. His stepdaughter dances, and for the pleasure she brings Herod and his guests, she is offered the reward of her choosing.
We are given very little detail about the particulars of this dance. It may have been the dance of a master seductress seeking to curry favor with the powerful king. It may simply have been an innocent daughter seeking to please her father. Either way, her dance is a part of the culture, a part of the system. Regardless of its motivation, her dance reveals bitterness and resentment, ultimately becoming a means for revenge.
Do you dance within the system, to receive recognition and approval from others?
It makes me sad to admit it, but, if I’m really being honest, most of my dancing is confined by my desire for approval. I worry a lot about what others think of me — my superiors, my colleagues, my friends. I want their approval. I want to be applauded. I participate in systems like racism and classism because I’m afraid to be viewed as a fool if I stand up and speak out. Sure, I have my moments of reckless abandon, of not caring about the opinions of my peers. But, they seem few and pretty far between.
Perhaps, you’re a little like me in that respect. Perhaps, like me, you would like to do more joyful, carefree dancing in your life. Perhaps, like me, you’re thinking, ‘I really hope I don’t have to get up and dance right here, right now!’ Perhaps, like me, you’re thinking, ‘how do I do that?’
Gratitude seems like a pretty good place to start. A practice of gratitude is not just about offering thanks on a special occasion or in response to something really awesome. It’s taking the time to give thanks daily, whether we feel like it or not.
In fact, we all participate in this when we come together to celebrate the Eucharist. The Eucharist, the name coming from the Greek word for gratitude or thanksgiving, is a way to thank God for all of the gifts we have received. It’s a time to give thanks for every moment, because each moment is a gift from God — each movement, each breath, each new day.
The Eucharist is itself a dance, and we look pretty foolish to anyone who is unfamiliar with it. Singing, processing, bowing, shaking hands… And, those vestments look pretty silly, if you really think about it.
But, what about the rest of the week?
We are so busy — rushing between work, school, meetings, housework, committees… the list is endless. It’s hard to make time to practice gratitude. It’s hard to find time for reckless dancing. Often it’s hard enough just to make time to dance in church once a week!
So, why make time for gratitude?
Gratitude, like love, originates in the heart of God. God is thankful for us, for all that we are and all that we’re becoming. We give thanks because we are created in the image of God and, therefore, it’s part of our nature. Practicing gratitude is good for us, we need to give thanks. It draws us deeper into the heart of God. Even if it’s just for a moment, a brief pause in the middle or at the end of the day. A moment to refocus, recognize God in our work, to remember to dance with joy.
So, I ask you, what will be your dance? Will you take time to practice gratitude? More than just once a week in church? Will you dance out of pure joy and risk looking like a fool?
Sarah Brock is a Postulant for Holy Orders in the Diocese of Massachusetts and lives in Boston.
Image Credit: Franz Stuck, Circle dancing