How many of you have ever taken dance lessons? Anybody? Yeah, I uh, I will admit that I took dance lessons once upon a time. I was in my mid-20’s and disco dancing was all the rage. I thought it would be – you know – a good way – maybe – to meet women. And I did have a dance partner – but I think she might have been more interested in me than I was in her. This of course was in the days before I met Nancy.
Anyway – I learned a few dance steps. Even learned to do the cha-cha, but I was there mainly to learn how to disco. Wanna see? Yeah! I’ll just bet you would!
Instead of me giving you a dance demonstration – or even a dance lesson – we’re going to talk about God today instead. Just in case you missed it, today is Trinity Sunday (weekend) the one day out of the year that we focus specifically on the doctrine of the Trinity – in other words – God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And you may be wondering what my dance lessons from 35 years ago have to do with the Trinity. Glad you asked.
When two people are dancing – and by that I mean when they’re actually touching each other – and they know what they’re doing – I mean, you’ve seen them at wedding receptions. Ultimately there’s always at least one couple out there who are really good.
They know what they’re doing. The man leads – and the woman follows (just like it ought to be in every area of life. I’m sorry! I just couldn’t resist saying that. And for the record, I really don’t believe that’s the way it ought to be. Well, at least most days.)
Anyway—when dancing – the man leads – and there are certain signals that the man gives his partner – a move of the hand – a subtle tilt of the head – and the partner knows that a different move is coming up. I asked Nancy if she would be here with me today so that we could demonstrate. But – alas – she is preaching at her own church today. So – no demo.
Anyway – when two people dance – it is the job of the man to lead – the woman to follow – AND – and this is so important – it is also the job of the man to make the woman look good – to give her the time of her life – so that she becomes the star of the show. And it is a joy to watch. When you see a couple who really know what they’re doing – it is as though the two are moving as one.
Now, no one has ever been able to satisfactorily arrive at a description of the Trinity that is both accurate and understandable. Early on in the history of the Christian church, someone came up with this idea that one way to think about the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is to think of them as involved in some kind of dance. The fancy church word used for this is “perichoresis”. Perichoresis. Write it down, there will be a test.
It’s Greek. Peri means around, and chorea – from which we get the word choreography – is to dance. So the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are joined in this dance where the three are moving as one.
Pastor Steve Wende puts it this way. “The early Christians wanted to say that when you think about God – and we all think about God – even people who don’t believe in God think about God – when you think about God think of a glorious dance of love, joy and self-giving grace, a movement and energy in the very heart of God from which has come all creation and to which He would invite us through the Lord Jesus Christ.”
I want you to know that we Christians believe in one God. And that there is no other god. And yet – it still gets a little confusing, I know. We do indeed talk about God as Father – and as the Son, Jesus – and the Holy Spirit. And that’s because that’s the way the Scriptures talk about God. When the Scriptures talk about God – when they mention the Father – or the way Scripture talks about Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we can only conclude that all three are talked about as if they are God. Not three gods, but one God. A one personed God in three persons. Another word you might hear from time to time is the word Triune. The Triune God. Which simply means three in one.
Simply put – this is how God has revealed Himself to us. So we Christians affirm the Trinity, not as an explanation of God, but simply as a way of describing what we know about God.
And again, you will not find the word Trinity in the Bible, but the concept that it represents is there. For instance – in our readings today, we get that Trinity formula. In Genesis we read, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…and a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” Now other translations say that the Spirit of God swept over the waters. The Hebrew word is ruach – and it means, wind, breath or spirit.
So in creation we have God the Father as creator – the wind, breath or Spirit of God moves over the waters – and although not mentioned here – we know that Jesus plays a role in creation as well.
• John 1:3 says this – talking about Jesus – “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing cane into being,”
• Colossians 1:16 says – again talking about Jesus – “…all things have been created through him and for him.”
So you see the Trinity joins – in the dance – of creation.
Then notice how our reading from 2 Corinthians ends. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” Where have you heard that before? Yeah. At the beginning of our worship services. We declare right up front why we are here – and in whose name we are welcomed – and in whose name we gather every weekend.
And then our Gospel reading from Matthew is that well known passage that we use at every baptism. Fred – Ethel – Johnny – Suzie – you are baptized in the name – in the name – of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In other words – you are invited. You are invited to join in the dance. Through your baptism you are invited to join in the dance of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – AND to join in the dance with all baptized Christians of every time and every place.
Are you catching the connection? We are caught up in the divine dance. So while we’re here on earth, we need to learn a few dance steps. Yes? We need to learn a few dance steps if we’re going to be the people God wants us to be in order to do the things God wants us to do. The dance steps God wants us to learn has not so much to do with the movement of our feet, but with the movement of our hearts.
So let me close with a story. Up until now this has been something of an academic sermon – maybe even more of a lecture – which is why most pastors would rather be on vacation than show up to preach on Trinity Sunday (weekend). So I guess you could say, what I have been saying is appealing more to you left-brained people. By the way – do you know what they say about left-brained people? They’re not in their right minds!
Anyway – this comes from the late Methodist Bishop Earl Hunt. “A physician once told of a transforming experience he once had when he was young. He was going to check on a patient who lived in a rather rundown apartment community. He pulled the car up to the curb and got out. A little boy was there bouncing a ball on the sidewalk. The little boy said, ‘Man, that’s a nice car, Sir. Where did you get that car?’
“The doctor stumbled a bit in answering, because his older brother owned a car dealership. They had worked out a deal in which the doctor would take care of the brother and his family for free, and the brother on a regular basis would give the doctor a car. It worked for both of them.
“The doctor started to explain, and said, ‘Well, my brother gave me this car…’ but before he could go on, the little boy said, ‘Your brother gave you that car?’ ‘Yes, you see, we have this arrangement…’ The little boy said again, ‘Your brother gave you that car?’ ‘Yes,’ and before the doctor could say more, the little boy said, ‘Would you wait right here?’ and the little boy went tearing off around the corner.
“The doctor didn’t have much time. He didn’t really want to wait, but there went that little boy, and the doctor didn’t know what to do. When the boy came back, he was pulling a wagon, and in the wagon was another little boy, smaller than he, clearly younger than he. The little boy in the wagon had legs withered from the waist down.
“The older boy came pulling that wagon with the other boy with the withered legs right up next to the car and said, ‘Joey! Do you see that car, that shiny nice car? His brother gave him that car! Joey, I promise you that when we get older, that’s the kind of brother I’m going to be for you.’
“In telling that story, the doctor got very quiet for a moment, and then he said, ‘Years have passed since that happened, but I believe God has used that experience to keep me in His will and in His love. Because every time I have a decision to make with my practice, my family, my friends, or with anything, I keep saying, ‘God – that little boy pulling the wagon – that’s the kind of brother I want to be.’”
Folks – what kind of sister – what kind of brother – do you want to be?
There is a dance that has been going on since before time began. You and I are invited to join in that dance. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit invite us to join in their dance. It’s what it means to be church. It’s what it means to love God. To love neighbor. Because nothing else matters. And when we get that right – we’ll know that we’ve got the dance steps right.
It’s a dance where it’s not a matter of getting the movement of our feet right, but getting the movement of our hearts right. Amen