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The Life of the Journey
April 18, 1976

St. Paul's United Methodist Church


Several years ago, a man on his way to work early one morning, backed his car out of the garage, felt his car go over something, got out of the car and to his horror saw that he had run over his three year old child, and killed him. As this man worked out his grief in the hours and in the days after that event, he wrote the words to “Lord of the Dance,” which we sang this morning, “Dance, dance wherever you may be, for I am the Lord of the dance, said he.” Throughout Lent we have been discussing a series called Journey to Life, likening our experience on this earth to a journey along a road with many temptations, many lures to leave the road. But, a road when we persist, when we endure leads to heaven, to eternity, to the kingdom of God. 

Today we look at the resurrection window, “He has risen.” Because he has risen, because his power is unleashed in this world today, we are confident that the journey on which we are traveling takes us to life. The beauty, the glory, the magnificence of what lies at the end of the journey makes this journey endurable. They say that the road to Alaska is very bad, but many people endure the trip, endure hardship to their car, injury to their car, to their recreational vehicle. They endure the hardships of the journey because they want to get to Alaska, and the beauty of the magnificence of Alaska is worth the trip. 

Likewise on our Christian journey, every now and then we get a glimpse of what lay ahead. When we turn a corner, round a bend, and smog is away that day, the wind is blowing so the air is clear, the sun is shining, we can see a glimpse of what lies at the end of the way. The magnificence of heaven, the magnificence of our relationship with God makes this journey endurable and meaningful. But the gospel is more than that. The gospel is much more than a journey with our sole reward at the end. The Bible is emphatic. Because Jesus has risen from the dead, that goal, that life to which we strive and aspire, we already know it now in measure and in part. The goal gives us fuel, sustenance, a support system by which we can live day by day and by which we can make it. The resurrection, eternal life and the kind of life we can know in God is so distinct and so removed from our present existence that we have to resort to imagery to understand it. The Bible is full of images. We need an image that is dynamic, an image that's not static, an image that to which we can hang on that will sustain us as we go through this life. The songwriter gave us such an image. Life is like a dance: to live is to dance.

Let's take a look at dance and what that image says to us as we live these days. To look at life like a dance is to believe that life is in constant motion. It's always moving. It's always dynamic. It's not static. It's not changeless. It's not immutable. Nothing is changeless. Everything is in motion. Even the physical world is in motion. This pulpit, this building, the pews on which you're sitting are not solid. If we had the proper equipment, we would see that this pulpit is made up of swarming particles in a dance relationship with each other, constantly moving, constantly relating. Life is like that. It's always moving. It’s impossible to reach into the stream of life, take out an experience and say, “Boy, I like that. I'm going to hold on to that forever!” It's impossible because life moves on. Even Jesus' death was not the end. His death was transformed and the dance went on. He was raised from the dead. Life is in constant motion. Life is movement. Life is in personal relationships with each other and with God. Life is always a dynamic process. It's not static, it's not immovable, it's always moving. 

Therefore, on this Easter Sunday get into the dance. Get with it. Get off the chairs, get off the sidelines, get out on the floor and dance. Don't be a wallflower. Get out there, move, get with it, kick up your heels and dance. As someone has said, “The real test of a person as he or she faces life is whether he/she runs or fights or whimpers or dances.” The Christian dances. No matter what comes to you, no matter what falls on you, no matter what happens, don't run from it. Don't whimper and feel sorry for yourself. Dance. Dance in victory. Dance in movement as life goes on. Kick up your heels and fly. 

I like the poster that says, “You can fly but that cocoon has to go.” The butterflies on my robe are a symbol of resurrection, new life, conversion, new birth, being born again, being saved. Salvation, redemption, all those biblical words, are symbolized by the butterfly. As the spirit breaks forth out of the cocoon, a beautiful butterfly emerges. 

Down deep in each one of you is a butterfly. God made a beautiful person in you. You are a person of great talent, ability, intelligence, sensitivity, creativity, You are a beautiful person. If you haven't discovered that yet, if you're not flying and dancing with the good news, then break out of your cocoon. What is your cocoon? What's holding you down? What's confining you? What’s limiting you? Is it a religion of don'ts? Don't do this, don't do that, rather than a religion of “dos”. Is it people's expectations of you? Do the people around you expect you to be so good, so perfect, so righteous that you can't really be you? Or are people's expectations of you too low? Do the people around you give you the feeling that you don't amount to much, you're not too hot anyway, you're kind of bad, you're mediocre? Do they not expect much of you but failure? 

What's holding you down? What is your cocoon? Whatever it is, let Jesus raise you out of that cocoon into a new life. Fly and dance! And in a dance, you must use your whole body, all your body, your mind, your emotions. Let yourself go and experience life. Every day is meant for you to be alive, fully and wholly alive. Feel those experiences, feel those moments. Let the muscles tingle. Let the perspiration roll. Let the heart beat fast, In moments of tenderness, let the tears of joy flow. In moments of sorrow, let the tears of sorrow flow. Experience, feel what God has given you. Live it, be alive, dance in it. 

Frederick Buechner has given us an inventory:  “Have you wept at anything during the past year? Has your heart beat faster at the sight of young beauty? Have you thought seriously about the fact that someday you are going to die? More often than not, do you really listen when people are speaking to you instead of just waiting for your turn to speak? Is there anybody you know in whose place, if one of you had to suffer great pain, you would volunteer yourself? If your answer to all or most of these questions is no, the chances are that you're dead.” 

I’d like to run that by you again now that you get the point of the inventory. Have you wept at anything this past year? Have the tears flowed? Has your heart beat faster at the sight of beauty? Have you thought seriously about the fact that someday you are going to die? More often than not, do you really listen when people are speaking to you, instead of just waiting for your turn to speak? Is there anybody you know, in whose place, if one of you had to suffer great pain, you would volunteer yourself? Be alive. Experience what God gives you each day. Experience it fully. Don't be afraid, don’t shy away, don’t run, don't retreat. Embrace. In some dances, the old fashioned dances, you embrace. Now you just kind of bounce around! Embrace what God gives you. Embrace what life hands out. Embrace this big, wide wonderful world that God has given you. 

Back to the butterflies. Do you know that there are over 80,000 species of butterflies— 80,000 different kinds of butterflies? You might think God would run out of ideas. With all the infinite variety that God has created and placed in our world, why do you and I, why do people want to make this world so narrow, so small, so controlled? Why do people only want to associate with their own kind of people—people who think like them, dress like them, talk like them, act like them, smell like them? Why are we so narrow? Embrace the world—all the infinite variety that God has given us. Embrace people of all colors. Why be hung up on pale washed out white when God has given us all kinds of colors. Embrace people of different nationalities, different cultural backgrounds, different religions, people who dress differently, who wear their hair differently, people of different sexual styles, different lifestyles, people who look at the world differently. Embrace them. It's a big wide wonderful world! Dance! God has given it to us to live. 

I challenge you this Easter Day to do something today or tomorrow that is foolish. Do something that's carefree and in abandonment. Do it for yourself or for someone else. Do it in love. That's what makes it Christian. Do it in love, in love for yourself, love for your body, love for your life. Do it in love for someone else. Don't do anything bad. I didn't say to do anything that will harm you or harm anyone else. I didn't say do anything naughty— all you kids. I said, do something in love that will free you, that will help you break out of your cocoon and fly. For example, for the rest of today and tomorrow, why don't you greet people by saying instead of hello, or good morning, greet people by saying “He is risen.” See what kind of reaction you get. Say it as if you believe it, say it as if it makes a difference in your life—He is risen. Then take ten deep breaths and thank God for your life. Take a walk in a garden, in a park and listen. Listen to nature speak. Feel what it's saying. Write a poem. Write an Easter poem, or paint an Easter scene, or sing outside the shower. Hug your wife and tell her you love her. Hug your children and tell them you love them. Do something unexpected for someone else that will just completely floor them. Do something really nice for someone else. Do something foolish today. Fly. 

Brother Jeremiah has written, “I'd pick more daisies. If I had my life to live over again, I would try to make more mistakes next time. I would relax. I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I know very few things I would take seriously. I would take more trips, I would climb more mountains, swim more rivers and watch more sunsets. I would do more walking and looking. I would eat more ice cream and less beans, I would have more actual troubles and fewer imaginary ones. You see, I am one of those people who live prophylactically and sensibly, insanely hour after hour, day after day. I've had my moments. And if I had to do it over again, I'd have more of those moments. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else, just moments one after another instead of living so many years ahead each day. I have been one of those people who never go anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a gargle, a raincoat, aspirin and a parachute. If I had to do it over again, I would go places, do things and travel lighter than I have. If I had my life to live over, I would start barefooted earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would play hooky more. I would ride on more merry-go-rounds, I would pick more daisies.” 

And when you begin to dance, you'll make a tremendous discovery. The discovery is that the dance is Jesus Christ. Christ is the dance. Christ is the spirit that frees us. Christ is the spirit that gives us the conquering victorious attitude towards life. Death could not hold him. He has risen and he is alive today. He is on your journey. He is there. The dance goes on into eternity. Nothing can stop it. He is there. Trust Him. Trust Him with your life. Trust that life is good. Trust Him that you are a beautiful butterfly. How do you trust Christ? How do you let him into your life? How do you experience the resurrected power? There are many ways and I've given you a few today: 

Get in the dance, kick up your heels, get free, break out of the cocoon. Fly! 

Experience, feel deeply what God has given you. 

Reach out and embrace the whole world. 

Do something foolish today in love because Jesus is alive.

© 1976 Douglas I. Norris