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Dancehall Days

It’s midnight in a bohemian stretch of record stores, coffeehouses and pubs. Music forces its way out of amplifiers into the streets, competing with the cars and ringing sounds of the street. Inside any of the establishments that advertise “live music,” bodies push against other bodies, swaying and moving in reaction to all that happens on the respective stages. The movement, contagious, spills out into the night.

Four in the morning and buried deep in an industrial district in a darkened, cavernous warehouse, frenetic breakbeats push up against the walls, lights flash rhythmically, and bodies move in time with bass that shakes the ceiling. A tight-knit circle of techno enthusiasts forms close to the speakers, urging on the timed contortions of those blessed with agile grace.

More than 2,500 years ago, in the bright of day, somewhere in a large Middle Eastern city, the king of a small nation strips down to his underclothes during a religious ceremony and dances to the rhythms of tambourines, castanets and cymbals punctuated by the melody of lyres, harps and other guitarlike instruments. He celebrates his God, shouting and singing words of exaltation, singing possibly the same songs he had written years earlier as a nomadic sheep herder, where his devotion was worked out in the sweat and stench of his servant situation.

Perched precariously now in the 21st century is the Western church, caught up in a moment that has had its day, standing perfectly still while the dance, the movement, has moved on to other places and times. The new song, so heavily touted in the day of David, has been left standing like a ticket taker after everyone’s already gone home. So, wake up church! Our worship must become like Psalm 149: all raucous, bold and loud, praising God with a new song, a new dance. Let the world dance for today; we should be dancing for the promise of tomorrow.

“Praise the Lord!

Sing to the Lord a new song;

sing his praise with the godly ones.

Let Israel be glad in their Maker;

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let the sons of Zion rejoice in their King.

Let them praise his name with dancing;

let them sing praises to him with all types of musical instruments” (Psalm 149:1-3).

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