Trinitarian Dance – Trinity Sunday

Written by Joel on June 3rd, 2010

May 30, 2010
Trinity Sunday
John 16:12-15


Today we celebrate the Holy Trinity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As far as I know, this Sunday is the only one which is devoted to a Christian doctrine. Other special days on the Christian calendar may focus on events such as Christmas, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost; but on this day we recall the doctrine of the Trinity: One God in Three persons.

Of course, preaching a sermon on a doctrine presents certain challenges. I can’t simply tell a bible story about the Trinity. The Trinity is alluded to in scripture but never spelled out for us. We see references to The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit in scripture; but it is not until the Council of Nicaea that the doctrine in formally defined. Still, the creed never attempts to explain the exact “hows” and “whys” of the concept of God. It simply states what is. That the father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God, that they are all God and yet three distinct persons. The Trinity remains a mystery. That doesn’t mean it is something that we don’t know about, but rather that is right in front of us and yet we cannot fully understand. As with most Christian doctrines, the Trinity was defined in response to heresy – or bad ideas about God.

Bad ideas like “Jesus is not God.” There were (and are) people that taught this false doctrine. Some who deny that Jesus is God like the idea that Jesus was just a very faithful man who God had favor on and gave him a promotion. The problem here though is that if Jesus was not God – then who was he to save us from our sins? God and God alone is worthy to save.

Our gospel reading today contains part of Jesus’ farewell speech to his disciples in the garden of Gethsemane. He tells them “I have much more to say to you, more than you can bear.” Jesus did not teach his disciples everything that he could have taught them. There was still so much more. But even as Jesus was preparing to leave them he promised the the gift of the Holy Spirit.

But consider the good news of the Trinity as God in a perfect relationship. Our God is not some distant deity who is unconcerned human affairs. God knows what it means to be in relationship, a perfect relationship. 3 persons, interdependent, mutually affirming, supportive so much that they are one!

Early Christians used the Greek term Perichoresis to describe this mutual indwelling of the persons of the Trinity. It is a word for dance. To think of our God, the one in three involved in a heavenly dance with one another.

When I say the Holy Trinity is like a dance I am not talking about Derek and Nicole who won Dancing with the Stars last Tuesday. The show features a professional dancer and a non-dancing famous person. Each pair dances in front of the judges and a couple is eliminated every week until one winner remains. When the couples dance it is a performance, and it is exclusive. It is about those two only; the audience is not invited to join the routine.

Remember that in the Holy Trinity we have three persons, not two. That changes the dynamic when we think of dancing. Instead of two people excluding others, all members of the Trinity are invited in the dance. Its more like a group folk dance. Each member of the group executes each move, the move in and out, and as the dance goes on you can still see each individual and yet they all move as one in the dance.

In California I went to the winter High School youth retreat for the UCC and Disciples in the area. According to camp tradition they always had a dance on the last night of the retreat. Normally they would hold a regular dance with modern pop music, all the cool kids dancing in pairs and all the un-cool kids sitting in the bleachers watching the spectacle. This year, the director decided to hire a square dance caller. The caller taught us the moves we needed, shuffled the groups and before you knew it the dance was in full swing. Campers and counselors moving in, out and among the group; grabbing hands, spinning around; even as amatures still moving as one group. And as we looked around we noticed that it wasn’t just the cool kids who were dancing; every camper and counselor present participated in the dance. Yes, partly because we made them – but mostly because the dance allowed for this kind of participation.

That is what it is like with God. Our God is a God of relationship, and that being the case he has reached out to each one of us; to be in relationship with us. Bidding us into the dance. We are in that dance with God, even if we have two left feet, even if we don’t have any rhythm, even if we feel silly about dancing….even if thinking about God is too much to bear. Open your hearts to God’s guidance.


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