the penultimate WORD


Series 2009 - January

I will lead you all...






eaders, like epic heroes, are not guaranteed an epiphany.

Alberto Manguel,

The Library at Night, p. 27





cannot remember the tune.  The melody was unfamiliar to me.  No matter: the Bride’s waltz with her Father is sufficiently traditional that it requires no interpretation.  My daughter in my arms, we glided across the parquet floor and the room became a blur.  Guiding our course with my left hand, gently nudging with my right hand at her waist, we lost the lyrics and found the three quarter time.  Her joy was sufficient to light the way.

While the music has faded, the dance is as fresh as though I were still on that floor, my feet knowing their own mind and slip sliding on air.  Holding my first-born in my arms, I held at once a wonderful young woman and the infant that came home with us from the hospital many years earlier.  Time compressed in an instant, infancy and adulthood found an embrace that I was happy to give.  The music went on.


enjoy the dance.  Turning once in a stylish flourish the infant beheld now transformed and occupied the front seat of the third row of Sister Helen O’Neil’s classroom at St Patrick’s School.  This Grade two youngster convinced the Sisters of Charity that the Anglican Rector’s daughter knew the faith.  An invitation was extended for me to lead catechism classes for non-Roman Catholics.  My daughter had opened the door of the Principal’s Home Room.  Saint John’s West Side suffered denominational wounds that were historic and deep.  My daughter in my arms had done a lot to salve those wounds and heal past hurts.  The music went on.


ucceeding in neither stepping on her feet, nor tripping over my own, flourish followed flourish and I beheld Little Red on the boards in the K.V. Players Production of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods where I was Cinderella’s inebriant father in a cameo role  My darling encouraged me to join her in four productions over the years.  We reached our zenith at The Playhouse in Fredericton as she showcased Josephine – the Lass who loved a Sailor – in H.M.S. Pinafore to my Ship’s Cook cameo in the Chorus.  We danced in infancy with three-way-huggies and the dance continued in the classroom and on the stage.  The music went on.


ut the insights wonderful by themselves were no epiphany.

Endurance and courage are the stuff that heroes are made of; but for all that, as Manguel is quick to point out, epiphanies are not guaranteed.  While all lives are lived, and are the stuff of epics, the joy of the discovery of the unexpected is not warranted.  The nostalgia of the moment, as music filled the room and we filled each others arms, as wonderful as that was remained long after the tune concluded and the tempo changed and another dance was begun.  Just the same, the music went on.


n the afterglow of those memories my epiphany began to emerge; small, at first, but it gained stature.  The length and breadth of the discovery glided across time as though time were measured by parquet patterns and not hours and minutes and seconds.  The dance floor spanned a life lived.  It presented an epic journey. The music went on and my partner always with me, always leading, ever graceful was the One who invites us all to dance… wherever we may be.

I have never danced alone.

As my daughter brought memories freshly cut as summer flowers in a vase, I recollected moments when joy and sorrow, laughter and tears navigated a dance floor when I felt secure and when I have been alone.  In the very midst of that choreography the lord of the dance continued to lead.  And I did my best to follow.  Finding myself exploring an unfamiliar dance floor and buoyed up by music unfamiliar to me, I have often been reluctant as the music went on.


ut my reluctance is no startling discovery.  Each of us prefers to lead than to be led. 

My epiphany was better than any amount of gold.  It was more poignant than any amount of myrrh or incense.  Those led others to their epiphanies.

My epiphany was to discover the One who first beckoned me to step onto the dance floor.  In whatever circumstances filled my dance card, the dance went on.  And the music goes on still.

Dance, dance, wherever you may be

I am the Lord of the dance, said he

And I lead you all, wherever you may be

And I lead you all in the dance, said he.

Copyright © 2009 James T. Irvine

Midi: Lord of the Dance


Series 2009

Sermon delivered at St Matthew's ELCIC, Fredericton

penultimate WORD Festivals of Light Series