Holy Trinity Sunday- The Divine Dance

Black and White - English National Ballet

Black and White – English National Ballet

The Divine Dance

Isaiah 6:1-8

Romans 8:12-17

It was an old (thankfully abandoned) tradition to let the aged pastor of the church send the young novice associate pastor to the pulpit on Trinity Sunday to try and explain this mysterious doctrine. And while he was speaking, the older and clearly wiser pastor would sit back in the pew- ticking off the heresies as they were spoken, each and everyone.

Well, with that said, happy Trinity Sunday everyone! I love this day on the Christian calendar, because it is a challenge to prepare for!  Martin Luther once said that, “To deny the Trinity endangers your salvation; to try to comprehend the Trinity endangers your sanity.”

I encourage you today to step up to the challenge as well, to put your thinking caps on as we dust off our most ancient and holy points of doctrine, the Trinity, so that we might (with great humility) explore its significance once again.

May we all delight in basking in the wonder of our awesome God.


I was reading an article this week by David Lose who was considering our Romans passage today. And he proposed this thought that I’d like to share with you:

“Imagine with me for a moment, the delight you would experience in discovering that you had a long lost uncle or aunt, who had made you the heir to their estate. Can you see it? You’d wake up one morning and discover that they had left you riches beyond count, that your major financial worries were over, and that you really didn’t have to worry all that much about the future.

If that scenario happened, how would you feel? What would you do? Or, more to the point, what would you do differently? And here I don’t mean what would you run out and buy – though I suspect that most of us would treat ourselves to something J – but I mean something more along the lines of, what would be different about your day-to day attitudes, practices, habits, and outlook? How would knowing that your future is absolutely secure – change [how you live] your present?”

Consider that for a moment.  Now consider that this is actually the same scenarios that Paul is talking about in his Letter to the church in Rome.

Paul says:

“For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:15-17a).

If Paul is right, and I trust that he is, then we are not only Children of God, but we are heirs.   And not just heirs, but co-heirs with Christ –“that is, equal inheritors of all God has to give- with Christ, God’s only begotten Son.” For we are adopted into the family of the triune God.

So, I ask you, what did we inherit? Not money, not Aunt Margaret’s good china… but something far better than that.  But I think each of you could answer this best for yourselves. What did you gain when you became a part of the Family of God?

We inherit a new kind of life – in a verity of ways. Paul suggests that we inherit the release of anything that would keep us as a slave to this world. So “rather than being afraid- of the future, of what people may think of us, of our status, or our standing with God,” Paul invites us instead to image a life of courage.  A courage that comes from knowing that you are adopted and loved by God. The God of the trinity. The God of relationship.

Now, let’s pause to talk about the Trinity for a moment. Because this idea of being adopted by the God of relationship is a big deal.

A guy named Tertullian in the third century coined the name Trinity. Which literally means “three in one.” The word Trinity never appears in Scripture, but the essence of the Trinity does.

Paul says in his second letter to the Corinthians, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”   This triune statement is Paul’s classic benediction. And he kind of makes it sound like he is listing off the three different persons of God: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, The love of God, and the communion/ or fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Paul sounds as if he is talking about God in three modes/persons.

The word, “person,” comes from the Greek word “persona,” which means “mask.”     So when we say the persons of God. It is as if each aspect of the trinity is somehow a mask that God wears.

And this idea is perhaps the most understandable way to think of the Trinity. But if I left it at that- the old, aged pastor keeping track of heresies would tick one at this point. God is not simply three personas. Our Lord is so much more than that.

Lets look at the whole of the Biblical story for a moment. People throughout Scripture and throughout history have engaged our God in different ways. In Genesis, Adam and Eve walk in the garden side by side with the Creator of the universe. In the New Testament, the disciples and the others that followed Christ -the Savior and Redeemer. And last week at Pentecost we talked about the Holy Sprit, the one who is still powerfully with us in the world today – the Sustainer.

In Scripture and in time we see one God that has been made manifest in different ways throughout history. Made known to us in different times and through our different human experiences.

But the problem here is that we tend to fall into this idea of persona or “masks” imagery. The doctrine of the Trinity is not saying that there is one God who wears a bunch of different disguises- but that there is something wholly Father about God the Father that is not the same as God the Christ, or of God the Spirit.

20th century theological Robert Farrar Capon once described human attempts to explain the Trinity as like an oyster trying to describe a ballerina, we just don’t have the words to describe something so beautiful.  But, like I said earlier, today is for challenges.

Lets look at Genesis 1:

         “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good…”

We read here that God created.  God created The heavens and the earth. God, Creator, Father, the first person of the Trinity. We read that a “…wind swept over the face of the waters.” In Hebrew the word of “wind” and “spirit” are one and the same. The Ruach. The Spirit of God. Hovering over the waters at the creation.

And how does God create?  God speaks: The word, the Logos, the Christ. In the opening of John’s Gospel we find a deliberate echo of the creation story in Genesis. John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

  •          We believe that all of God was present in Creation, and that all of God is still present in Creation today.
  •          We believe that God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit, was wholly present in Genesis and the Old Testament. And God was wholly present in the life and ministry and redemptive acts of Jesus Christ.
  •          we believe that God, the whole of God, is present in movements of the Holy Spirit.

This is a lot of “We believes” contained in one doctrine.

But somehow this all means that God is Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. And that Jesus is Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. And that the Holy Spirit is Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.

That is a lot to wrap our heads around..

Our God is One!

And, somehow, our God cannot be divided up functionally.

To sum things up so far, we have walked through a minefield of heresies to talk about what God is NOT. God is not a person wearing different “masks.” The Trinity is not God divided up into functions. Nor is God divided up into different times and spaces.

So what now? It is hard to engage our God when we only talk about what God is not.

It has been suggested that at this point. When we start talking about what God is not that we abandon the talk of “ontology” or asking “what is it?” And focus on the question of “how is it?” or relationship.

So lets do that, lets abandon the Good Shop Ontology – this frees Christians to start talking about the Trinity as what it is intended to be. Not a maze of heresies – but a story of relationship.

Louis Evely said that, “God is communitarian… From all time God was several, a society of persons who know and love each other so well that They’re infinitely transparent and united. They had to be several to be God; They had to be together to be Themselves; They had to be sundry {or varied} to be love.”[i]

The Easter Orthodox church describes the Trinity as perichoresis – which literally means “dancing around”.   Referring to the complex interconnectedness and movement of God.

When considering this idea of Perichoresis – some Eastern Orthodox theologians have suggested that the very act of Creation – when the Spirit rushes over the water – is an act that results from the love present in this dance spilling over to make a world. And so that they can make room for more and more people to join in the dance of creation![ii]

I’m not entirely sure that imagining the Trinity as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit moving gracefully in a dance helps me understand the Trinity any better, but it sure does help me appreciate it.  And this picture teaches me truth – that the Trinity is a story of relationship.

Here’s the story: In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the Spirit of God swept over the waters. And God spoke- God said the Word the Logos the Christ- and creation came into being. From the beginning, whether it told clearly in the text or not… God is, at the core… community. A God of community created all of this! A great and diverse living community of creatures upon the earth. And then God made humans, earth creators, in the image of God- in the image of the God of Community. Made us all to be in relationship. With one another and with God as well. The God of love and relationship made us to be the same: love and relationship. The triune God created us to join in that divine dance. Because you were adopted by God. You are co-heir with Christ! And so what does this mean: it means that God isn’t three in order to be complete- God is three so that there is always room for more of God’s Children! Begotten and Adopted! That’s you! Even today, even now, God is calling you and me- calling everyone of us wall-flowers to join in the dance and be a part of Trinity’s story of relationship.

It’s a good story.

I asked you at the beginning of our Message: What did you gain when you became a part of the Family of God?

So I ask you again… with the Trinity in mind: So what?

What does it mean for us to live knowing we are God’s beloved children, adopted, chosen, unconditionally loved?

How does that change the way that you live now?

Consider that this week…

Perhaps we might stumble across the realization that the promises God makes through the Trinity are a big deal.

God has promise to love us love us. God has promised us redemption. And God is working inside of you right now through the Holy Sprit to bring about newness and wholeness for your life.

Supposedly Saint Augustine was walking along the beach one day, pondering the doctrine of the Trinity, and he happened along a child that was running back and forth, with a bucket in hand, who was pouring water from the ocean into a hole that he had dug in the sand.

Augustine asked the boy, “What are you doing?” The boy replied, “I’m trying to put the ocean into this hole.” Augustine abruptly realized that he had been trying to put an infinite God into his simple and finite mind.

But nevertheless, I pray that as you go from worship today, back to your homes and everyday lives, that you remember that you have immeasurable value in God’s eyes. I pray that you know that no matter what you do, or what is done to you, and no matter where you go, God always loves and cares about you. And that the hand that is outstretched towards you from the Dance of our God, will never be taken away.

Amen.

[i] Louis Evely, That Man is You.

[ii] Sarah Sanderson- Doughty, Sermon on Trinity Sunday, May 2007.

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