Sunday, December 17, 2006

be still and God may dance for you

At church this morning the priest urged us to be rather than do, meaning to be meditatively quiet -- present, attentive, open, and vulnerable -- rather than active, planning and accomplishing, making things happen. He said if we contemplate, God will dance before us. Nice image. It ties to the first reading in which the prophet Zephaniah tells the people of Israel that God "will rejoice over you with happy song, he will renew you by his love, he will dance with shouts of joy for you as on a day of festival."

This translation of the Hebrew comes from the Jerusalem Bible. A more usual translation gives "rejoice over you with singing" instead of "dance with shouts of joy for you" but apparently the Hebrew word that translates into "rejoice" is "Yagil" which literally means "spin round in joy" and thus "dance joyfully."

As is often the case, the King James version sounds stately and poetic: "The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; ... he will joy over thee with singing." But it's not exotic since in the time of James I, "joy" could be used as a synonym for "rejoice."

The Online Parallel Bible has the verse in many versions, including 'celebrates over you,' 'make a song of joy over you,' and 'exult over thee with singing.'

I like the dancing image best, reminiscent, as it is, of the dancing god Shiva of India, the dancing Sufi dervishes of Islam, and the Christian Shakers.

Here's a modern version of the whole verse.
Zephaniah 3.14-20

Sing, O Daughter of Zion;
shout aloud, O Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
O Daughter of Jerusalem!
The LORD has taken away your punishment,
he has turned back your enemy.
The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you;
never again will you fear any harm.
On that day they will say to Jerusalem,
“Do not fear, O Zion;
do not let your hands hang limp.
The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.
In the passage, the prophet is speaking to the exiles in Babylon about their eventual return to Jerusalem.

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This plant is called the "Be Still" tree.

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