There is an exercise dance phenomenon called Zumba. Z-U-M-B-A, Zumba. The only way that I can describe Zumba is by saying it’s a strange mix of Richard Simmons meets Brazilian Carneval meets country line dancing. In Zumba, the exercise dancers line up facing their instructor. With loud, fast, Latin music blaring over a sound system, the dancers mimic the moves that the instructor is doing.
The weird thing to me is that Zumba isn’t just an exercise routine – it has become a culture. You can go online and download some of the newest dance moves to prepare for your next workout. Dancers can become faithful followers of certain instructors. You can even buy your own Zumba shoes.
Now, to be honest, when Maggie, my wife, first told me about Zumba and I looked it up online, I told myself that I was never going to go. I could come up with a variety of rhythmic excuses, and say that I prefer to workout alone. But the truth is that I’m just a big wuss and I’m afraid that I would look stupid. But even Zumba has something to say to people like me: “Ditch the Workout, Join the Party.”
What intrigues me about this slogan is how shockingly Christian it is. When I was looking up Zumba on google, I didn’t expect to be confronted with one of the core truths for disciples of Jesus. In the life of faith, you and I cannot be followers of Jesus alone. You see, there’s no such thing as a Lone Ranger Christian.
That is why we have church – this is our gathered community; a safe place where we can pray together and worship together. And, on certain occasions, we can even stuff our faces with chili together.
To be a part of the church, we have to ditch the workout. The workout is the drudgery of thinking that we’re the only people who can pray for ourselves. The workout is trying to follow Jesus and not telling anybody else. The workout is trying to find happiness or meaning in this crazy world without trusting God.
But the party, well the party is awesome. Joining the party is being part of a community that gathers around this table for our weekly feast. Joining the party is throwing away the idea that religion is a personal issue, because it’s not. If you’re going to join the party, and if you think this party is worth coming to, you have to think that everybody should be at this party as well.
I’m not saying this just because I want St. Alban’s to grow. After his resurrection, Jesus shares one last moment with his disciples. He doesn’t scatter them individually to the four winds. He doesn’t even tell them to be nice people. No, Jesus’ last words to his disciples are to go and make more disciples from all people. Jesus drank the Zumba kool-aid. He tells his disciples that it’s not enough to be great Christians by yourselves. You have to go and tell everybody that they need to ditch the workout, and join the party.
Now, from the looks of it, Zumba seems really hard. After Maggie came home that first time from Zumba and I looked it up on YouTube, I was shocked. How can anybody dance that fast for an hour? Maggie told me that if you just sit there and watch, it looks really hard. And it is hard when you start, but once you jump in and just start doing it, the dance moves become easy. You forget how fast you’re moving because you’re tuned into the instructor. You can feel the energy of everybody else around you.
And again, I was confronted with one of the great truths of Christianity. Being a follower of Jesus looks really hard. In fact, from the outside, it looks impossible. Just the simple act of waking up early on Sunday morning and coming to church looks impossible if you don’t try it. Asking for a friend to pray for you sounds awkward until you’ve actually asked. Giving your lunch to a homeless man sounds silly until you’ve gone hungry and he’s been fed. And it seems impossible that the Holy Spirit works in this world if you’ve never looked for it.
There are all sorts of things in the Christian life that seem impossible from the outside. If we just sit on the sidelines and try to figure it all out, things just don’t add up. From the outside, it seems backwards that the King of Kings was born in a barn. But when you start worshiping Jesus, you see that’s our model for humility. From the outside, it’s weird that we worship a God who was executed. But when you’ve celebrated Easter, you know that the empty tomb is where we find our hope.
On days like today, Trinity Sunday, we celebrate this topsy-turvy nature of grace. From the outside, things like the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are just silly. If we sit around and try to figure out the Trinity, it isn’t ever going to make sense. Because Christianity is not something you figure out, it’s something you live. Once you jump right in, when you start dancing with the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, you’ll see that nothing could ever be better. When you start doing works of justice and mercy and love in the name of God who is three persons, you find that you’re dancing with God.
You, the people of St. Alban’s are dancing with God in all sorts of ways. Some are dancing by teaching Sunday school to our children. Some are dancing through their work with our outreach partners. Others are dancing by praying for us. We are dancing with God in our worship, in our music, in our works of mercy.
So what’s holding you back? Is the music too fast? Do the dance moves look too hard? It may seem that way. It may seem like it’s best to sit back and allow others to do the work of ministry. But that’s not how we learn to dance with God.
Learning to dance takes a lot of hard work and practice. It means that sometimes we are going to get sweaty, and sometimes we are going to step on our partner’s feet. But if we’re scared and blame it all on our two left feet, if we don’t ever try, we’ll never know how much fun it is. If we hold back and never live a life with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then we’ll never know how lovely it is to be a part of the God who is love.
So go ahead, don’t be shy. Come and dance with us. Dance your way to your neighbors and your friends and invite them to this great party. You know who they are. Dance with Christ in his ministry to this hurting and broken world. Dance as you make disciples of all nations. Dance as you get your hands dirty by setting the captives free from their sins, their insecurities, their poverty. Because this world needs lovely people like you to dance with.