The climax of the International Festival weekend for me was to worship God. I did so at Westminster Presbyterian Church. Pastor Galen Smith’s message was based on the festivity of King David dancing before the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6).
My mind immediately recalled the joyful dancing and music I had experienced on the Government Center lawn during the two days before. As that happened during the festival, I experienced sacred moments. I believe God’s great desire is for all his children to be free to be together.
David’s actions inaugurated an “integration collaborative.” He was uniting the tribes of Israel by establishing a neutral capital in Jerusalem. Parading the Ark of the Covenant unified them in their common loyalty to God. The Ark housed God’s Ten Commandments. The laws are given to sustain right relationships with God and with fellow humans.
Through the festival, all the ethnic tribes in Worthington moved toward greater unity. We celebrated one another. We thanked the essential workers who provided for us during the pandemic. Also this year, non-profit organizations who share the mission of creating a healthy diverse community joined as partners and added to the festivities. In spite of the threat of rain, we experienced the promise of God’s reign. Our obedience to the commandments fulfills God’s desire that we be together.
David’s actions were risky. The manner by which he brought the Ark into Jerusalem, publicly revealed the character of his rule. He had a position of power and dignity as king. And yet, David was dancing with all his might among the people. While dressed as a priest, the king was rollicking in the streets in front of the commoners. His wife, Michal, was upset. She felt his position should have been established in a cultured, not a common, way.
To achieve God’s desire for togetherness requires us to be freed of our inhibitions, our self-doubts or arrogance, our prejudices, and our fears that others will ridicule us. We all need to be freed of these sins. Community members of all ethnicities need to overcome these barriers. We need to show up and be with one another, in spite of what our own “tribe” might say. We need privileged people in positions of power and common people in positions of vulnerability to come into the streets and dance together as partners, each taking their turn to lead.
Our worship at Westminster also included the sacrament of communion. At the table, we witnessed again the broken bread and poured out cup. We remembered the pierced body and shed blood of our Savior. His unifying and risky sacrifice among us and for us frees us of our sins of dishonoring God and hurting one another. The gracious gift of forgiveness is not a freedom to excuse us to continue being destructive; it is a freedom to energize us to continue being constructive — to build community within our diversity.
On the days we achieve a portion of God’s desire, Worthington is a foretaste of the coming Kingdom of God. We long for and we work for God’s reign where people freed of their sins will come from east and west, north and south and sit at table together.
As preparation to participate in the sacrament, worshipers at Westminster sang “I Come with Joy.” Here are the lyrics to verses 3 & 4:
“As Christ breaks the bread and bids us share, each proud division ends.
The love that made us, makes us one, and strangers now are friends.
And thus with joy we meet our Lord, his presence, always near,
is in such friendship better known; we see and praise Him here.”