Come, Join the Dance of Trinity, ELW 412
Trinity Sunday is the only Sunday in the church year devoted to a doctrine, which is a specific way of thinking about something. Thousands of books have been written about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Countless sermons have been preached trying to nail down the correct understanding of the Triune God of which I have done my fair share, and many of you have endured. And yet it remains a mystery, and not just because half way through you started thinking about that sand trap on the eighth hole of the golf course or what how to get the kids everywhere they need to go, but because whatever words used they can do nothing more than circle around the mystery. Yet the truth is there is no other way to appreciate mystery. Father Richard Rohr says, “Mystery isn’t something that you cannot understand – it is something that you can endlessly understand! There is no point at which you can say, ‘I’ve got it.’ Always and forever, mystery gets you.” Speaking specifically about the mystery of the Trinity, he continues, “Whatever is going on in God is a flow, a radical relatedness, a perfect communion between Three – a circle dance of love.” Today, let us join the dance…. (ELW412, v. 1)
Come, Join the Dance of Trinity, before all worlds begun—
the interweaving of the Three, the Father, Spirit, Son.
The universe of space and time did not arise by chance,
But as the Three, in love and hope, made room within the dance.
The dance starts before creation, in dark, formless void, before the big bang tosses protons, neutrons and electrons into being, before everything where God is holy relationship within God-self. Can we dare to imagine this? God as the dancer and the dance itself? Brother Elias Marechal, a monk in a Georgia monastery writes that the ancient Greek Fathers depict the Trinity as a Round Dance, “an infinite current of love streaming without ceasing, to and fro, to and fro, to and fro: gliding from the Father to the Son and back to the Father, in one timeless happening. This circular current of trinitarian love continues night and day…” The monk concludes, “The orderly and rhythmic process of subatomic particles spinning round and round at immense speed echoes its dynamism.” Maybe we could ask our own Alex Seidel, who just finished his freshman year studying physics at the University of Pennsylvania to do the math.
Then the three, Father, Son and Swirling Spirit with love and hope make room within their dance. I think of this like a couple, who perhaps after successfully practicing parenthood with a pet, decides to have a child, to make room within their hearts and lives. Richard Rohr says this the first incarnation when as Genesis puts it, “God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our imagine, according to our likeness’” and creating us male and female calls us mov tov – very good. And while it won’t be long before the terrible twos when we demand to do it our way instead of God’s way, love and hope persists, and always will.
Now, the next verse:
Come, see the face of Trinity, newborn in Bethlehem;
then bloodied by a crown of thorns outside Jerusalem.
The dance of Trinity is meant for human flesh and bone;
when fear confines the dance in death, God rolls away the stone.
The face of Trinity is what Nicodemus was seeking when he came to Jesus by night in our Gospel today. He’d heard about him, how his words reflected the glory of God and his presence was Spirit-filled grace. Deep down Nicodemus knew his life and perhaps even his theology were running dry. There had to be more. And yet when Jesus talks of being born from above, of hearing the sounds of spirit, of reconnecting with the Holy One, Nicodemus, a teacher of Israel, fails to understand. The old words were worn out. The old teachings, little more than platitudes, rules that gave order, but not life, dusty routines done out of habit with no expectation of holiness. This is always the danger of religion which too often tries to domesticate God and is content to sit on the side-lines instead of engaging in the dance.
Jesus tells him that God is dancing, loving the world so much that God gives his only Son. “Join the dance,” he says to Nicodemus, God wants to be your partner, that’s why he sent me. In this second incarnation, the Father give his only begotten Son even onto death, death on the cross, causing all of creation to tremble, tremble, tremble. “Join the dance of flesh and bone,” God says to us, “for I’ve heard you singing the blues, blues full of anxiety and anguish, of sorrow and sin, of failure and fear and I refused to abandon you and my blessed creation. I will never stop dancing for mine is the glory and Jesus is my risen, conquering Son; endless is my victory, that over death has won!”
Come, speak aloud of Trinity, as wind and tongues of flame
set people free at Pentecost to tell the Savior’s name.
We know the yoke of sin and death our necks have worn it smooth;
go tell the world of weight and woe that we are free to move!
Speaking aloud of Trinity is the work of the Church and this changes everything. Pentecost is the third incarnation of God as the Spirit gives birth to the Church and with wind and tongues of flame frees us to tell the Savior’s name. We struggle with this, don’t we? We’re careful how we use religious language because God forbid we offend someone. Or maybe we’re not sure what words to say and so we leave it to the religious professionals. This happens here. There’s a luncheon in Kley Hall. It’s time to eat but the pastor is nowhere to be found. Someone’s sent to track her down, while the food gets cold and stomachs grumble. Part of this is respect for the pastor, but let’s be honest, another part is not being sure of what to say, of how to tell the Savior’s name. And that’s OK, because the Spirit always shows up. Sometimes with sighs too deep for words or sentences remembered from a childhood prayer, or unexpected eloquence.
There’s more for the Spirit opens up possibility that moves us beyond binary thinking and breaks open our dualistic impasses. We’ve all experienced this — how so often the world is divided between us and them, me and you, this political position and that one. It’s how the philosopher Hegel saw the world as dueling dualisms with the only hope being that when we’re finished yelling at each other we might try to compromise and form some kind of “synthesis” position out of our dialectic. But what if we don’t live in a binary world? What if there’s a third possibility and instead of winners and losers and unsatisfying compromises there’s freedom to move in a new way of being?
This past week I was in Washington DC with 1800 other pastors at the Festival of Homiletics where the topic was Preaching and Politics. I heard amazing sermons, honest confessions, and contrasting positions. On Thursday evening, I participated in the Re-claiming Jesus worship service, procession to the White House and a prayer Vigil at gates. At the service Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry, the same one who preached at the royal wedding, presented this third possibility. He proclaimed, “Jesus said, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love the neighbor you like and the neighbor you don’t like. Love the neighbor you agree with and the neighbor you don’t agree with. Love your Democrat neighbor, your Republican neighbor, your black neighbor and your white neighbor, your Anglo neighbor, your Latino, your LGBTQ neighbor. Love your neighbor. That’s why we’re here.” And when we do, we join the dance of Trinity and in love and hope are set free. And now the final verse:
Within the dance of Trinity, before all worlds begun.
We sing the praises of the Three, the Father, Spirit, Son.
Let voice rises and interweave, by love and hope set free,
to shape in song this joy, this life: the dance of Trinity.
(1) Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation, New Kensington, PA, Whitaker House, 2016, 27
(2) Ibid. 27.