There is a story about an American philosopher who went to Japan for a conference on religion. He overheard another American delegate speaking to a Shinto priest. “We’ve now been to a good many of your ceremonies,” said the delegate, ‘and have seen quite a few of your shrines. But I don’t get your ideology; I don’t get your theology.” The Japanese paused as though in deep thought and then slowly shook his head. “We don’t have an ideology”, he said. ‘We don’t have a theology. We dance!”
Perhaps we have forgotten that Christianity, itself, began as a dance. There was no ideology, no comprehensive philosophy. Rather there was a series of extraordinary gestures in the life of Jesus which choreographed to tell a story. Jesus did not leave us with a document. Jesus, however, left us with memories – memories of things he sung, and memories of things he did – extraordinary memories through which his life remains present to us now. These memories all come together to create the most remarkable narrative which even now plays through our hearts.
Through Jesus’ actions and gestures, God sings a song for us which leads us along in a new and different way from those around us. This song of the Father which Jesus dances is a different song to the one to which we are expected to dance along in the business of survival. The song that so easily overtakes our own hearts is one of competition, of control, of possessiveness ‑ a song orchestrated by fear and anxiety. It is the song played out in that ethos of techno-consumerism which easily seduces us with a hundred different notes by its melody.
The song sung in Jesus, and by Jesus, however, is a song of resistance. The anthem of Jesus resists the melody by which we are ordinarily led. It refuses to buy into the logic that we can buy and sell the graciousness of God. It stands against the reasoning that thinks we can possess the Mystery of God. It confounds the reasoning that believes our answers to the questions that rise in our hearts are complete. It undoes he illusion that God is ours to market.
With the song of resistance alive in his heart Jesus dances this evening in the Temple in which the melody of the logic of commerce has drowned out all other sounds. It is a dance of anger, a dance of criticism, a dance of confrontation. It is a dance of sheer energy which sends the Temple into a spin. And it likewise sends the Temple of our own hearts into a spin to the extent that they too have been seduced by a logic that is not transparent of the Father’s graciousness. The song of the Father is the song of attentiveness, compassion, service, fellowship and true worship in openness of spirit. This song exposes the other songs by which our hearts have been formed and which leave us bound rather than rejoicing in freedom. The dance of Jesus is choreographed to the sound of something very different from the tones to which the Temple of our own hearts have been deceived.
But the song to which Jesus dances is not a private affair. This song is about change: change here and now in this society. It is a song of criticism, a song of resistance to any force which would diminish our humanity or dull our sensitivity or stifle our imaginations – to borrow words of Tony Kelly. It is a song Jesus will sing anywhere and everywhere. It is a song which he invites us to sing loud and clear wherever we are. And in our singing, he will continue to live in our hearts, recreating them into the temple of his own very life.
Lent is a time to listen again to the song by which we dance. To what melody are we dancing? Does our own dance of life confront the values around us which would make us less than who we are? Are our own lives ones of confrontation and resistance to a logic unknown by the Father’s graciousness and gentleness?
Or have we preferred to hum alone in the corner, tapping our fingers in the hope that nobody will notice us such that the world goes on unchanged by our presence in it? How disturbing is our dance? Does our own dance possess the passion of Jesus’ dance? Does Jesus dance at all in our hearts?
Anything less is whistling in the dark.
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