WAILING INTO DANCING
By: Rev. Naomi King
Acts 9:1-6, (7-20)
Psalm 30:11 - You turned my wailing into dancing: you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.
We begin in the middle of things, just like most of us do every day. Acts 9 brings us Saul, who is busy, busy, busy persecuting the people of the Way. Have you ever been harassed by someone because of who you are, how you look, something you do? Have you ever wondered what bee is in their bonnet? Have you ever suspected it’s because of some tilting, some leaning in their heart for how you are?
Saul has a vision on the road to Damascus (seat of authority and local power, port and portal), a vision that takes Paul’s regular vision away, that amazes his sojourners. Meanwhile, Ananias receives the holy memo that he has to hustle over and restore the vision of the very buzzard that’s been harassing him and persecuting him and his People of the Way. How would you feel about being sent over to take care of someone who’s been trying to feed you to the lions?
But if I’m at all like Ananias, I have to pause, and remember the ways I’ve dogged others, the ways I’ve been uncharitable, the ways I’ve wanted that goodness and seemed to be unable to find my way to it. With humility, then, we go out to fulfill the holy memo and welcome the people just like us, the people who haven’t seen clearly, the people who’ve caused injury, the people who’ve spilled blood, the people who have a lot of atonement ahead. If we’re just on the other side of that journey, we pick up some of that energy that’s been tooling us along, busy, busy, busy, and refocus it, aware that maybe now the nectar we’ve been yearning for isn’t all that impossible for us to taste, that maybe, if someone just reaches out a hand to us, we can sing out and enter into that endless love. We sing out in Psalm 30,we sing out and fall down in worship as John writes to us exploding with cosmic joy billions and billions and billions of times (Revelation 5:11-14). Wailing becomes dancing, weeping becomes singing, and the whirl of transformation in God’s amazing love gyres on.
The sages of the lection are well aware that one, two, three stories and songs won’t do it for our spirits. We’ll still struggle with this business of how we answer the holy memo, how we are transformed from wailing to dancing, how we engage this work for our world. Lather, rinse, repeat with John 21:1-19.
Jesus appears to the disciples three times after his Resurrection, and this is it, the third time. And whaddya know? They still don’t know what they’re doing. Jesus comes across them attempting to fish and failing at catching any fish. You can just imagine Jesus watching these people he cares so deeply about trying their very hardest to do what is necessary. You can imagine his smile of recognition as Thomas Twin peers over the side of the boat searching for fish. You can imagine how his heart is full of love as Peter tells everyone what to do after they’ve already done it and when one of the other disciples says something sharp back, Peter says he didn’t really say what he did, but Simon Peter just shakes his head. You can imagine Nathanael and the sons of Zebedee and the other disciples becoming more and more frustrated and hungry and tired and sunburned.
And then Jesus is there, calling from the shore, “throw the net on the correct side of the boat, where it won’t be tangled in all the gear!”
What a gift that such messages reach out and grab us when they do, so we throw the net on the right side of the boat, and we answer the holy memo and heal our persecutors, and we are washed in grief and rise up singing! This week’s lection is such a gift, such a boon calling us back to wholeness.
The disciples change their fishing technique, and there’s this abundance of fish. Then -- because of the abundance they’ve been seeking -- they recognize their beloved teacher. Later, around the feast that follows, Jesus gives them their fishing instructions – now as shepherds – and this is where we know John the poet, seer, and storyteller is winking at us, telling us, “hey, this is all a metaphor”.
That’s when I stop and remember all the times this past week I fouled my gear fishing on the wrong side of the boat, all the ways I resisted the holy memo and recoiled with self-righteousness. I let the salty grief come and wash me clean. I give thanks for the love beyond imagining that calls faulty little stubborn fallible me back to this way of grace. In that gratitude, I begin to sing again, and as the tempo increases, I am singing and dancing again. Alleluia! Amen! Glory and praise!
We need to care for those we encounter in this life, to live as God’s shepherds. We need to reach out and draw in those who are lost and unaware. We’re not going to do it perfectly. We’re going to do it despite our ineptitude and because of sharing that heart of love, remembering what we’ve been taught, and continuing our efforts in devotion. Just as we are transformed from our wailing to dancing, so, too, we are called to help the world in that dance, no matter what.
When have you resisted the holy memo to care for those who hurt and persecute you when they, in turn, are laid low?
When have you been fishing on the wrong side of the boat? How do you disentangle your gear and begin again?
How do you reconnect with cosmic joy in the midst of feeling defeated, after you’ve made big mistakes, after shame?
Compassion Beyond Measure, you know our limitations, our shortcomings, our failures, and our literalness. You know how often we miss the holy memo, rebel against it, and seek refuge in resistance and self-righteousness. Grace us with the tide of salt that releases pain that washes away our barriers, that opens our hearts once again to the way of wider, deeper, truer love. Keep sending us those holy messages, recalling us to this restoring song, inviting us into the whirling dance of glory and grace, praise and plenitude. You are our resounding joy, now and ever!