Lazarus danced a jig. Well, he did.
Sometimes our scripture imagination becomes a myopia of what we see on the written page and we can begin to think that the entirety of Jesus’ life were the bullet points we find in the Gospels. Now, they are the authoritative version, verified by ancient counsels of Godly people who were filled with the Holy Spirit. Scripture IS our authority. Yet, we should not forget that there were events and conversations and laughter and tears that were a part of the personal life of Christ to which we are not privy. We may never know the rhythms of conversation and interaction that happened between Lazarus and his sisters and their Rabbi-Friend, Yeshua. But, I am willing to stake a lot on the fact that Lazarus danced when those grave clothes fell off.
It is late on a Saturday night and we pull into a little hotel on the Croatian coast. After driving all day, we are tired from the journey. The car is a tumbled mess of crushed crackers, blankets, books, pens, and girl paraphernalia ignored for the purpose of just sleepily grabbing the essentials and falling into bed. It is Balkan hot and there will not be any air conditioners in the rooms. There is probably no internet either.
The mosquitoes are zitzing around the windows thrown open; begging entry into this promised land that is ours for the night. Their pleas for mercy are drowned out by the beats of a dance. One by one, the Sunberg 6 slip from their sheets and make their way into the night, toward the light, just like those zitzing insects, because who can stay away from a wedding?
Jay is there first – arms crossed in the shadows, watching the bride in her quick movements as a caller gives a ‘woop’ in time with the beat. I wonder as I watch him, if he is bitter-sweetly imagining his girls in their someday weddings? Lexi says her Day will end this way, this Balkan way, with a woop and a circle and a rhythm of celebration.
Because, in the Balkans, we dance.
And the further south you go, the more we dance.
I find it nearly impossible to imagine that Lazarus did not dance the day he came back to Jesus.
THE CHURCH MUST DANCE
You see, a Balkan dance is all about the choice to celebrate in the midst of difficulty. It is a moment that you intentionally rescue and redeem.
An Orthodox theology says that God is in the process of faithfully, intentionally, fully redeeming ALL of his creation toward a complete whole-ness. A Wesleyan would say the same.
God’s kingdom is coming today. And, if the Church is abiding in God’s will, actively participating in His mission, then a dance is in process; a Balkan jig on a wedding day; a dance to celebrate a resurrected life; steps of joy for redeemed, second chances.
So, let me just ask you, when was the last time you danced? When was the last time you intentionally participated in someone’s journey from death into life?
It is NOT an option, you know.
‘I teach Sunday School.’
‘I play in the worship band.’
‘I clean the church bathrooms.’
‘I tithe 15%, give to missions, and hold a Bible Study in my home.’
Beautiful! Wonderful! Exactly how it should be, BUT …
the Church doing church is NOT the Church BEING the CHURCH.
There is not way to get around the scriptural fact that you and I, WE, are called to BE the CHURCH.
‘Well, I am not gifted in evangelism. My gifts lie elsewhere in serving.’
‘Well, I am not comfortable with people who drink or smoke or choose alternative lifestyles.’
‘Well, I have a demanding job and a family.’
It’s a funny thing, here in the Balkans. You pack up your missionary suitcase and you move into the culture, attempt to muddle your way through a language, come to love the food, learn how to drive on sidewalks and swerve potholes, and before you know it, you have an invitation to a wedding. There will be dancing. There is no earthly possibility that a dance will fail to ensue.
And, the missionary has a very important decision to make. A culturally, contextually, spiritually essential choice.
Soon after that music starts and the circle forms, right after the first few steps and ‘whoops’, the person on the end is going to offer you their hand in an invitation to join …
‘I don’t know how to dance.’
‘I am tired from the day.’
‘I have no rhythm and I will look foolish.’
‘I would rather sit here and watch and encourage you.’
And, all of your missioning, your missiology, your studying and trying and praying and theologizing become an impotent attempt of ministry. Because a Jesus who does not dance on the grave that he conquered could not possibly wear Balkan skin.
TREVECCA NAZARENE UNIVERSITY
Over the next few hours, 12 students and 2 professors will make their last run into a Nashville Walmart and begin to wind their way towards Central Europe. Meanwhile, the Sunberg 6 and Josh will stuff ourselves and 7 backpacks in a black, VW Sharan and cut a path through Transylvania, destination stop #1, Sighisoara, Romania – home of Vlad the Impaler – Nazarene community of hope. They dance there. They dance a lot – with the Roma, with the orphaned, with the elderly – they dance in a place called ‘House on the Rock’ that sits in the middle of that ancient Romanian citadel.
You should join us.
Click the RSS feed. Email a friend and tell them to follow the dance. Join our CENTRAL EUROPE FIELD Facebook page.
But, much more importantly … find a jig … answer the call … move out of your comfortable zone, intentionally join your journey with somebody that desperately needs to find their way back to life,
so Lazarus can dance.
The photo below is from our own home, here in Budapest. Along the Danube, there is this bronzed shoe memorial of the Holocaust. Countless Jews were brought here, to the edge of the Danube, and shot so that their bodies fell into the cold waters and washed away. Someday, these shoes will dance again, like Lazarus. The Church is the Church when we dance.