I have so many dreams for my son: theologian and New Testament scholar are on the list as well as swimmer and ballet dancer. The first two are because that’s the family business, since my wife and I are both ministers. The swimmer is because he loves the water and he has flippers for feet. The dancer is because he loves music and loves to dance, and spends hours in front of his reflection trying to get the choreography (sometimes his own) just right. To be completely honest, I am also a very big fan of the ballet, not that I ever was a dancer, but I like to dance.
I was pondering these dreams for my son as I rode my motorcycle to a clergy gathering, and then pondered how the ballet dancer has something to say about the role of clergy. As an ordained minister I am constantly reading and discussing the Bible and theology– it is my vocation, just as a dancer lives and breathes dance. Good dancers train and have great discipline, as do good clergy.
I want to be clear that the art form of ballet is not the same mission as the church. It is quite different, yet the art of dance is something we all should do in some form. We do have professionals that give their whole life for the performances. Many of are influenced by music and great themes within humanity, and some even by the Bible. To this day, my favorite interpretation of Luke 15:11-32, “The Forgiving Father” was created by George Balanchine with the music by Sergei Prokofiev and titled the “The Prodigal Son.”
As a fan that is moved by such powerful performances by the dancers and choreographers, I am influenced to dance in my own life as well, to read body language and to move to the music, all of which is important to life. I would be so proud if my son became a ballet dancer.
Without these professional artists we would not have the great performances that remind us of the great beauty of the human body and music. That is one role of the clergy. We are to demonstrate the beauty of the divine–but I do not simply mean during worship, as if it is a performance. While I am pretty proud of my latest sermon and worship service, my greatest work last week was being with a woman who died with her family and friends surrounding her.
I was present and demonstrated love of God, mainly with the help of the Spirit, but my words and stance help me open to the Spirit: it is a dance. I must admit these pastoral moments are very emotional and very difficult, and the more I experience and even practice for such events the more graceful I become.
I think of the dancer’s pointe shoes. The first time, she (or he, but usually a woman) wears pointe shoes, the pain is probably the only thing she feels. Slowly it becomes part of them and they are able to dance and experience the grace and movement greater than the pain.
As ministers (laity and ordained) we are called to demonstrate the Grace of God despite the pain of life and death. I can picture the “Father” God of Luke 15 dancing to his son, the same God at the table where everyone is invited. Our ministry must be on pointe, that we need to show grace and affirmation to everyone, which includes the LGBTIQ community, for the church has caused much pain, stayed silent to many deaths. We need to move beyond casually observing to actively participating in the dance, and to participate means to include everyone. It may be painful for the clergy to say this (we may be afraid of losing membership, financial contributions, or other fears) but we must lead the church to the Grace of the Table, now.
My dream is to see my son dance.