PROCESSIONAL: Bagpiper: Robert Waller
Canada Day Celebration
Sing: “God Save our Queen”
CALL TO WORSHIP
L - Gathered by the Spirit
P - God’s Church took shape at Pentecost.
L - Inspired by the breath of the Infinite,
P - God’s people have followed the Way of Jesus.
L - Nurtured by the word of the Holy One,
P - God’s children grow to fullness.
L - Inflame us, O pure fire of love,
P - Make our hearts burn with joyful love for you
and your creation. We pray in Christ.
L – Let us worship God as we join together in prayer.
ROCESSIONAL: Bagpiper: Robert Waller
Canada Day Celebration
Sing: “God Save our Queen” # 834
“O Canada” # 833
SERMON: STRICTLY BALLROOM
I stumbled across an interesting Australian movie, it’s not one of those mainstream flicks likely to be shown in a modern multiplex theatre but rather you would see it in some artsy theatre somewhere in old Montreal or on UTUBE The film is called “Strictly Ballroom.” It’s a Pentecost movie, though I don’t imagine that ever occurred to the folks who made it.
It is set in the competitive culture of BALLROOM DANCING, a world in which dancers struggle to become perfect at certain pre-determined steps and movements, In the film, the ultimate goal is to win the coveted Pan-Pacific Cup, the grand champion prize for Australian ballroom dancers.
The lead actor is a young dancer named SCOTT, whose parents maintain a rundown ballroom dance school. His mother is a former would be contender for this Pan-Pacific Cup who never quite made it.
Now she has projected all her aspirations on poor Scott to win the coveted cup. Scott is a brilliant dancer and since he was six she has had him focus on nothing less.
But over the years, the stiff stilted routines, all of it bores him. Scott aches for more. And he couldn’t care less about the cup his mother wants for him with every ounce of her being.
Scott meets a young dance student, named FRAN and there is something about her Scott can’t resist. She takes him home one day to meet her immigrant family, Portuguese I’d guess.
Imagine the scene, middle aged women with no makeup, hair in buns, frumpy black peasant dresses, the men with their sleeves rolled up drinking red wine out in the back yard. Scott’s a dancer, they learn, so they say, “dance with Fran, dance a dance we know.”
To a rhythmic guitar, Frans and Scott offers the perfect steps to a Portuguese dance they have been practicing for just such an occasion. As they dance – so precisely- the women in their black dresses and the men drinking red wine all start to laugh. The couple stops, the guitar goes silent, what’s wrong?” Scott shouts indignantly.
Without an answer, the guitar rhyme begins Fran’s father gets up from his chair and dances the same dance with his daughter, at least most of the steps are the same, but it’s not really the same dance. As you watch this aging laborer dance you can immediately see the difference.
Scott had all the right steps-- all the prescribed movements. But they was no soul, there was little spirit in the dancing. The difference between perfect dancing without spirit and dancing with spirit is portrayed wordlessly.
Everyone sees it, especially Scott.
The film then unfolds you guessed it, on the ballroom floor of the Pan-Pacific Cup. Scott’s mother has paired him up to dance with another potential champion, the two have always disliked each other from the getgo.
But in the dramatic final scene, Scott chooses to dance with Fran. As they begin to dance, they do exactly what everyone was afraid there were going to do. They dance the great old dance, but horrors of horrors,
They break the rules,
They include new steps!
The dance hall establishment watches aghast, mouths drooped open. The president of the Australian ballroom dancing association finally does what he must: he pulls the plug. He literally stops the music so this shocking departure from the way it’s always been done can be stopped.
But he’s too late. Everyone has seen it, they’re transfixed by the dancing so fresh, dancing transformed by the love between the dancers, dancing full of Spirit. And the audience begins to clap in rhythm so that Scott and Fran can dance on.
Which they do and ballroom dancing in Australia is never the same again.
What a metaphor for the church! Just like Australian ballroom dancing, over time every church develops certain set steps, a framework of prescribed movements, what we call “the way we do things.” And we get very good at the “way-- we do things.”
Churches invariably develop certain time honoured movements that become familiar and beloved parts of our life together, sweet and comfortable “the way we do things.” We are very good at the same old steps and wonderfully adept at the familiar movements..
But the danger is this. It can all become as stiff and spirit-less as the Australian ballroom dancing.
During the first Pentecost, this motley crew of Galilean fishermen and an unruly tax collector dance out into the world with the story of the Living God. The world watches in stunned silence. Some, many thousands, in time millions, clap in rhythm.
Oh, some try to pull the plug, but the dance goes on and the world is never the same again. When the Holy Spirit breaks in, those are exactly the two reactions that rise in us. Maybe both at the same time, part of us wants to clap along with something so fresh. Part of us wants to pull the plug before it’s too late.
That was exactly WHAT I EXPERIENCED when I was moved to enroll in the Worship Leader Course. Part of me was anxious and excited about proclaiming God’s message, while another part of me wanted to pull the plug on the very idea. Was I up to this at my age, all those interviews, of being evaluated, who would want to hear what I had to say?—did I have enough faith? I was quite content with my life just the way it was..
Some folk just want to lock God up and keep God out of the present where God can be a downright dangerous threat to our way of doing things. We formalize and regulate, and in the end, if we don’t watch out, we create “strictly ballroom” religion. Who wants anything as unpredictable and unregulated as the Spirit.
But our challenge, just like the challenge facing Scott and Fran at the Pan-Pacific ballroom dance competition, is to dance our great old dance with Spirit, to dance ballroom church fresh, to dance with life and passion. Scott and Fran didn’t stun them with some new and outlandish dance. No, they “wowed them” with a good old ballroom dance, but done with Spirit and a few new steps.
And that is the challenge always before all churches including the churches in the valley. It’s the challenge before our sessions, Boards of Managements, trustees and all the members---- to dance the old steps in a way that is fresh and spirited --- Oh I know, some will clap and others will want to pull the plug.
On this Pentecost period in our church calender do we dare to pray CUM-BA-YAH-my Lord, praying that God will break us out of the confines of the past and make us alive in the this very moment.
And should God answer our Pentecost prayer sometimes we will clap along and sometimes we will want to pull the plug before it’s too late!
Rev. Michael Lindvall, pastor of the Brick Presbyterian Church has been valuable in shaping this message.