Art & Spirituality: The Word That Leads to Dancing
- Charlie Peacock CCM Magazine
- 2004 6 Jun
Once upon a time there was a living being named David, an artist-king, a musician and singer of songs, a dreamer, a dancer, a man with an aptitude for sheep. And like you and me, David held a high position in the economy of God, people and place. He was God’s direct representative, working on the planet Earth in the Milky Way, tending the “jazz of God.”
Like me, like you, David made some mistakes – just the kind of mistakes musicians make. (I should know.) One mistake in particular is worth mentioning. (I don’t think it’s gossip. It’s pretty much public knowledge at this point.) David’s mistake? It’s the oldest in the world – goes back to Eden – a musical mistake: He improvised when he should have played the chart (sheet music). The chart is the Word, and the Word stirs the soul of improvisation – and not the other way around.
David’s work, at the time, was to restore the Ark of the Covenant, the house of God, to Jerusalem and to oversee all things Ark, including the Levites (the only tribe allowed to care for the Ark). In musical terms, God gave David the chart to play. Some from the tribe of David chose to improvise instead, and there were deadly consequences – a crash and burn. Lives were lost. Dreams were vanquished. The Ark never made it to Jerusalem on that trip. The artist-king returned home. There was no party and no dancing.
The next time David tried to make the trip, things were different. He danced in exhuberant celebration. This time he had cared for the Ark in keeping with the Story – he’d followed the will and the way of God. David could dance because he’d stepped into the Story of God, people and place with intentionality, with obedience and with congruency. And it makes perfect sense that he would dance. Worship is the appropriate response to the joy of living within the Story on the road to the New Jerusalem.
There are some things worth noting about the day David danced:
1. He was intentional in caring for the things of God: He prepared a place for the Ark of God and pitched a tent for it.
2. He acknowledged the sin of not finding reality in God’s ways alone. He remembered the life-saving, life-defining Word and spoke the Word back to his community. He took the Word seriously as a definitive, controlling story. He took it personally, and, as a result, it had personal and community impact.
3. Like an artist using the principle of contrast, he recalled his tribe’s anti-art story of disregard and disobedience to the Word. He reminded his community, specifically the Levites, to step into their roles in the Story of God, people and place -- roles that God had destined for them and only them.
4. David called for the skillful artists -- singers and musicians. Their purpose? To sing joyful songs, to make art, to be and do in the image of God. David also called for the doorkeepers of the Ark to guard it and other musician/priests to announce the coming Ark with the sound of trumpets.
In the company of thousands, David brought the Ark up to Jerusalem. Many, including David, were dressed in their best. They shouted and rejoiced – all of them a work of art and faithfulness, moving uphill on the road to the City of God. It was on this road that David danced. And when they arrived in Jerusalem, the Levites brought requests to God, thanked Him and praised His name. And all of this was done to the sound of music. Art, because it has its genesis in the Story of the Artist. Art, born out of walking in the ways of the Artist/Creator, believing that the Word of the Artist is a trustworthy and life-aligning beginning. (Based on I Samuel 6:12-15)
Contrast the road David danced on with another road – the road out of Eden that the first living beings took when they were cast out of the Garden. It wasn’t a sureness of the trustworthiness of God’s Word that set them on that road but rather a mistrust – one that gave birth to a universal, chronic mistrust.
Two thousand years ago Jesus came to Earth and dealt with the mistrust in a lasting way. He entered into the fleshy side of the God-human story and let people know the time had arrived for something entirely new. God’s old way of interacting with creation was over, and a new way had begun. “‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!’” (Mark 1:15).
Jesus came to subvert every aspect of life and culture with the Kingdom – that which brings a person’s life into alignment with reality. To live in the Kingdom Way is to live a real and everlasting life, beginning the very moment you follow Jesus. This means that everything is overhauled or restructured to fit the Kingdom Way. Knowledge, education, romance, marriage, sex, parenting, work, play, money, ambition, business, social services, caring for the Earth, even being the church in the world – all of these areas and a thousand more now come under Kingdom rule and authority. Following Jesus faithfully means seeing to it that all of these areas in our lives are subverted by the Kingdom and rebuilt in the new way. Our work is to base our lives on this reality. Our work is to be interested in the same things God is interested in. When the children of God are interested in the same things God is interested in, they dance. It’s so personal, so visceral that the bones and ligaments and muscles move even before the voice speaks, or sings, or shouts. Be a David. Step into the Kingdom, live the Word and dance.
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Charlie Peacock is an artist, producer, author and teacher. His new album, "Full Circle: A Celebration of Songs and Friends" (Sparrow), released March 9. His new book, "New Way to be Human" (Waterbrook), released March 16.
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