On Dancing and Deserts

RCL – July 15, 2012 – Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 with Psalm 24 or
Amos 7:7-15 with Psalm 85:8-13
Ephesians 1:3-14
Mark 6:14-29

Since reading these texts a few days ago, I keep hearing an old Tom Franzak song in my head. It was called “David Danced” and had a very danceable melody. Part of the refrain was, “I wanna dance the way that David danced.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the lyrics anywhere. But in the ’80s it was a favorite of mine. Of course, my dancing abilities are about on par with my gardening skills, but the song was about uninhibited praise for God and it had great appeal. And it got me to thinking about what would happen if more energy went into celebrating life and honoring God for the gift of it.

As things often happen when I am paying attention, I heard a news story that captured my thoughts and my imagination. The story was about a place called Toshka located in the southern part of Egypt, near the border of Sudan. It is an interesting place dreamed up many years ago by Mubarak (and others). The plan was to create about a half-million acres of workable farmland in the dessert. This would be central to a community that could attract up to 20% of Egypt’s population and go a long way toward providing food for the whole country.

Unfortunately, Toshka didn’t quite make it to its goal. As it is today, it is 24,000 acres of crop-producing farmland. The irrigation system is in place for more. The whole project was put on hold for various reasons – politics and economics seem to be at the core. But, now there is talk about reviving the project. Egypt is in a state of transition politically. It also faces economic difficulties and a potential food crisis. What better time to create a sustainable community, than a time when people need hope?

So much of the news headlines are horrific and can make a person wonder what is really happening in this world. But if people got behind a project like Toshka, it could happen. Yes, money and resources would be needed to create a town and more farmland out of the desert. Yes, infrastructure would be needed. But these things should not be impossible. If we can fund wars and destruction, should we not be able to support a project like this with as much intention?

Maybe I am over-simplifying things, but if world leaders started talking more about how they could bring water to dry places and food to hungry people, I might be more inclined to listen. I am very tired of debates of healthcare and the finger-pointing regarding the economic situation in this country. At this point, I don’t particularly care who did what to whom. I want to know how these things can be fixed. I don’t do well when a problem has been identified and then just “discussed.” If there is a problem and it has been clearly identified, then there is very likely a solution to the problem that can be worked toward. Why sit around and do nothing productive? I think this is why the Toshka story captivated me – it is a vision that has real potential. If Toshka gets to be even half of what it was envisioned as, it contributes to solving some of the problems Egypt is currently facing.

I think about this place in a far-away desert that is bursting with life and I wonder if human beings will ever live in a world where the only troops sent to other countries are to build or rebuild, rather than destroy. What do we need to start doing now in order to get closer to the seemingly impossible then? And if acre after acre of desert can be turned into farmland, is anything truly impossible with human ingenuity and imagination?

I picture David dancing before the Lord, uninhibited, celebrating life and praising God. We need more of this now. Even as I hear the half forgotten Tom Franzak lyrics, I also hear the words of the psalmist:  The earth is God’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it…

I think this is really why the Toshka project got to me. The earth is God’s. It’s resources are God’s. All people are God’s. We forget this so easily – as individuals and collectively. A vision like Toshka seems to take these things into account. The earth and resources and human beings belong to God, so let’s do something good with them. It’s potentially problem-solving at it’s best if the Toshka project gets started again… or even if it just continues on as it currently is.

It doesn’t really matter where a person finds hope, so long as it is found. This week I found it in the Egyptian desert and in a king who’s been dead for several thousand years. If wheat can grow in the desert, I suppose almost anything is possible, even dancing uninhibited in praise of the One who created all that is.

(Here’s the link to the NPR story that details more of the Toshka project:  http://www.npr.org/2012/07/10/155027725/mubaraks-dream-remains-just-that-in-egypts-desert and if you are interested in more, Google offers plenty of articles, blogs and even Youtube links.)

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