If you have ever seen a toddler take the first wobbly steps, you have seen dance. A child begins to lift one foot at a hesitant time, and parents and caregivers watch as close as can be without touching, arms outstretched, willing, and loving the sweet little one into picking up the next foot. And repeat. The dance speeds up as the child grows in age and confidence. The dance changes direction as obstacles arise, and adaptation is needed.
Some of you might remember dances – from school or the community. Dances where one person leads, and another person followed. And the music played a vital role, without any one part, something significant is missing. Alisabeth dances competitively. Under normative circumstances, her team travels to different locations to perform and compete against other dance schools. She has done this for a number of years, and I did so as well as a child and young person. However, last year, her team experienced something I have never encountered. Their music stopped. For a production dance number that ran over 5 minutes, about 1 minute in, their music stopped. However, as this was a competition, the dancers continued to dance the remainder of their dance without any music. Incredible for those performers. Terrifying for the audience to watch. And thoughtful to reflect on what we need to dance. Incidentally, the sound person believed the dance to be over, so turned off the music, prematurely. If you ever doubt the necessity of music as the third partner, try dancing without it. Crucially the dance is integrally connected to just to your partner but with your music.
Today, we celebrate Trinity Sunday, the only ordinary feast day in our Christian calendar devoted to a doctrine. Why might that be? Here is how C.S. Lewis answered that “[Trinity] matters more than anything else in the world. The whole dance, or drama, or pattern of this three-personal life is to be played out in each one of us: or (putting it the other way round) each one of us has got to enter that pattern, take his [or her] place in that dance. There is no other way to the happiness for which we were made.(1)”
Historically, trinity received the most press and racked up the highest number of heresies and unfollows in the ancient world. Wars were fought, and churches divided. In the 4th century, the Cappadocian Fathers began describing life as mutually participatory and introduced us to this perichoresis, which is translated for us rotating around together. That is to say, there is a flow, whatever is transpiring with God involves Jesus and the Holy Spirit. God is not just the dancer, but the dance. And we are invited to the dance!
Many theologians have since expanded our understanding of the Trinity as dance, including Richard Rohr, who informs my thoughts. (2) This is the love we have for one another – parent, spouse, child, friend, neighbor, co-worker. We share life with them, and our lives intertwine. They do likewise. The love that braids us together connects us to new persons who we invite into the dance. This mutual love reflects the mutually of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer. With the Triune God as our teacher, every member of the community is sacred, has worth and value. No one is left out.
This is endless. The Celtic knot is often used as an image to denote the Trinity. This practice dates back to the 3rd century to describe the Trinity. The number and complexity of loops and knots vary from the simple trifecta to the complex interwoven design, but the concept is always the same. The movement of one continuous line represents the eternal love, growth, and movement in the cosmos. God’s very being in action.
A life lived through the trinity is not centered on self, but self-giving love mutually. Pastor Tim Keller describes it this way: “When we delight and serve someone else, we enter into a dynamic orbit around him or her, we center on the interests and desires of the other. That creates a dance, particularly if there are three persons, each of whom moves around the other two. So it is, the Bible tells us. Each of the divine persons centers upon the others… Each person of the Trinity loves, adores, defers to, and rejoices in the others. That creates a dynamic pulsating dance of joy and love. (3)” In the body, the Church, we can do things together that we may never have been able to dream of on our own.
No dance metaphor would be complete with the mention of stepping on someone else’s feet. In high school, I was a founding member of the swing dance club, and I lost track of how many times I was thrown out of the lift and landed right onto my partner’s feet. Or I misjudged the space around me and kicked the couple next to us by accident. We, too, sometimes step on one another’s feet or misjudge the area around us. The beauty of dancing with God, even for those who have two left feet, is that forgiveness and reconciliation are part of the routine. We need only take God’s hand to dance.
A little later in the service, we will baptize Abigail Hope. Like those who have been baptized, she will be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ last words in the gospel of Matthew, which we heard today, were to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The trinity in community and generative dance with God’s self continues in relationship with us in baptism.
To understand it a little better, let’s ask a question. What if there was not a trinity? Let’s begin to explore if we were baptizing someone only in the name of God the Father. God, who has created the heaven and the earth, and you. However, this would miss the fullness of God’s self in the work and person of Jesus the Christ and the ongoing activity of the Spirit.
How about if someone was baptized in the name of Jesus? Jesus, who walked among humanity, who redeems us and gives us the best example of how to live our lives? We would miss an understanding that God is larger than this moment and our comprehension as well as the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.
And for completeness, if we considered baptism in the name of the Holy Spirit? What is missing there? The creativity of God the Father and redemptive work of Jesus Christ the Son would be missing in overcoming sin and death. (4)
Our baptisms are the beginning mark of the journey of faith. We are immersed, sprinkled, or poured into the whole being of God, whether we understand it or not. God’s very creative power, redemptive force, and sustaining spirit dwells within us. This is not magic, but rather the dance of discipleship. A dance that does not require a rigid choreography, but rather a dance that depends on the movement of dance partners who are watching and practicing as well as moving with the music. A dance of faith that is for three – the one who is baptized, the community which surrounds them, and God who is always present.
So, will you dance today? Will you join God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer in a dance that began long before you and continues into eternity? God’s own hand is extended to you!
“Look,” Jesus says, “I am with you through all time, even until eternity has reached its completion.(5)”
This is the Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
(1) Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity, 1952. 95
(2) Rohr, Richard. The Divine Dance: The Trinity and your transformation. 2016
(3) Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York, 2009. 224.
(4) Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Feasting on the Word, Year A Volume 3: Pentecost and Season after Pentecost 1 (Propers 3-16) David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, 2011. Pages 45-47.
(5) Matthew 28:20.
New Testament Lesson: 1 Corinthians 13:11-13
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
Gospel Lesson: Matthew 28:16-20
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Meditations For Your Week
Sunday, June 7 ~ Saturday, June 13, 2020
Sunday: “Teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20. When you feel alone, God is with you. When the weight of uncertainty and pain of decision-making sits on your chest, the Holy Spirit hovers nearby. The promise of the Triune God, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, is God is always with you.
Monday: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.” 1 Corinthians 13: 11. The movement from childhood to adulthood in maturity is not always chronological. Pray for spiritual maturity. Pray to develop new responses nagging issues that put God at the center.
Tuesday: “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13: 12. Consider that God always has a fuller view. Ask God for wisdom and insight, even as the way might not fully be clear.
Wednesday: “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13. Pray for expressions of God’s love in our world. Amplify God’s love whenever you can.
Thursday: “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” Matthew 28: 16-17. Doubt and faith are not in opposition, but in the same group. They are often in the same person. Ask questions; be curious. The disciples did.
Friday: “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28: 18. Jesus always used authority to give and share with others. Pray for those in authority and leadership. Pray for their hearts of courage and compassion.
Saturday: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Matthew 28:19. God created humanity to live in community, in relationship. God has always been in relationship with God’s own self. Give thanks for the inspiration of the Trinity, who creates, redeems, and sustains.