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Spiritual Temperaments (7of9): Enthusiasts (dancing, singing, rejoicing)

April 27, 2010

‘Excitement and mystery in worship is the spiritual lifeblood of enthusiasts…(They) are inspired by joyful celebration…Let them clap their hands, shout “Amen!” and dance in their excitement…’ 

Gary Thomas, Sacred Pathways (page 28) 

Photo by Andy Ross, used with permission from istock photo

Much of Gary Thomas’s book is about opening peoples’ minds to discovering God in different aspects of life other than the traditional evangelical habits of daily Bible study, Sunday church attendance and perhaps small group mid-week meetings. His insights are revolutionary if you come from that kind of religious tradition and you suddenly realise that God can be found and indeed God finds us in the great variety and wonders of the world we live in. 

Thomas’ seventh spiritual temperament is the Enthusiast. People with this kind of personality tend to throw themselves whole-heartedly into their devotion – body, soul, heart, mind, spirit. Their response to the sublime is powerfully expressed in physical movement and emotional outpourings. Perhaps, a good example from the Bible of this kind of temperament is the ancient Hebrew King David. In the book of the Hebrew scriptures 2 Samuel 6, a story is told where the potent young King David with his mighty warriors defeats the Philistine army and re-captures the Ark of the Covenant. At that time the Ark represented for the Hebrew people the centre piece of their cultic worship. It was on the Ark that the very Presence of God resided. That is to say, God was considered present in the Ark similar to the way light is present around an ignited light-bulb. 

The story relates the return of the Ark to Jerusalem, the Hebrew capital under King David, and various incidents both bad and good during this somewhat uneasy process. For our interest though, is the behaviour of King David as recorded in 2 Samuel 6: 14 as the Ark was brought back into the capital. The Bible author writes: 

‘David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.’ 

‘David…danced before the Lord with all his might…’ 

Perhaps, in our twenty-first century modern world view it is difficult for us to imagine the spectacular visual scene and noise this religious event must have evoked – dancing, shouting, trumpets sounding. Perhaps, few of us have experienced such vibrant life in Church, although some churches do encourage exuberant worship times. Perhaps, the closest comparisons for us would be major sporting events, music festivals or carnivals. It’s worth us remembering though that for some religious devotees the whole, multi-coloured spectrum of human qualities can and should be used in the celebration and praise of the Divine. 

It’s a bit of a golden-oldey now (1995!), but it still rocks, especially compared to most of what goes on in Church or  even disco. Here’s Matt Redman re-interpretating King David’s words in 2 Samuel 6: 16-22, after David’s wife scorns the King for getting carried away stripping down to his linen ephod and dancing before God in front of the crowds.

 

16 As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.

 17 They brought the ark of the LORD and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings [f] before the LORD. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.

 20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

 21 David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the LORD. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

2 Samuel 6:16-22 (NIV)

Copyright Amer Kapetanović (Used with permission Zooad, istock photo)

I found the above image of some of the so-called, whirling dervishes – Sufi Muslims who follow the teachings of the poet mystic Rumi. I have seen the dervishes dancing like this on TV they rotate at amazing speeds. I include it, simply as another example of how passionate physical and emotional expressions of love and devotion to God are considered normal in many different religious traditions across the globe, even if they are not the kinds of behaviour we normally expect of religious devotees.

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One comment

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