Dancing Like Nobby Stiles


A piece written for Alex Strangeways-Booth for the BBC. With Passion ft Chris Tomlin – God’s Great Dancefloor (Reyer remix) and David Crowder Band – Undignified (writer Matt Redman)

The winsome, toothless dad-dancer Nobby Stiles

Dancing like Nobby Stiles

Sometimes it’s good to be undignified..

I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember this? In 1966 England managed to lose and win the World Cup in the same year. Before the tournament, while on display at a stamp exhibition in Westminster Central Hall in London, the Jules Rimet trophy was stolen from under the guards’ noses.

During their noon patrol, the guards found the rear doors of the building forced open and the display cabinet broken into. The trophy, which had been awarded to World Cup winners since 1930, had been nicked.

Three days later, the Football Association received a ransom note. An undercover police officer took fake money to an arranged spot and met Edward Bletchley, a petty thief. He was arrested, but didn’t have the cup, insisting he was only a middleman. The thief was never found but Pickles, the dog who found it was turned into a national hero, even invited to the celebrations after England won the World Cup.

His owner David Corbett shared in this celebrity and allegedly danced down the road with joy – in a manner similar to Nobby Stiles at the end of the final. Dignified no. Victorious, yes..

We hate to lose things. Football matches, world cups, or the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was Israel’s holiest artefact, lost in a humiliating battlefield defeat to the Philistines. Why? Because David’s predecessor as king, Saul, had lost his relationship with God and was turning to snake oil salesmen and tarot card readers.

The Philistines went on a kind of celebration tour of the country to show off their prize. But instead of excited crowds lining the streets, there was death and destruction. God objected to being taken on a victory tour by unqualified people who couldn’t even dance.

The Philistines realised that they had taken a poisoned chalice, sent it back to Israel and parked it in a field. David, who had spent years on a campaign to reclaim the Ark, was delighted. He could just send a cart with some hardy mules and collect it. The trouble was that God didn’t like Reliant Robin-style transport and killed one of David’s top men as he was leading the wagon.

Dancing David, who had been made to look like a fool, got angry and told his men to take the Ark to the house of the Levite Obed-Edom. David had done his research and discovered that only Levites were allowed to carry the Ark. The Ark spent 3 months with Obed-Edom during which time his house was blessed to the level of a FIFA expense account.

Properly packaged and with Levites in control of the logistics, the Ark moved in a stately manner into Jerusalem. Unable to contain himself, David body-popped like a dervish, Dad-dancing in front of the Ark.  His wife Michal remarked dryly that it wasn’t very dignified for a king to dance like a wild-eyed, teeth-missing former undertaker.

David answered like this: “I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes….” (II Samuel 6:22)

When it comes to our relationship with God, the best thing we can do is not gain status, but lose our inhibitions.

David was a King, but he was also a dancer and a musician; he wrote Psalms and made loads of mistakes – and yet God blessed him

So what is the difference between the slightly embarrassing Nobby Stiles and the uber cool German Captain Uwe Seeler? Uwe lost the cup and most of his hair. And Nobby won the World Cup – the one that was lost and then found..

As convention-free people, we are proud to be undignified because we get the Ark over the line.

Roy Stannard 13.2.22

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