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Sermon - Trinity Sunday

In the Name...

 

And Jesus asked, "Who do men say that I am?"  And his disciples answered and said, "Some say you are John the Baptist returned from the dead; others say Elias, or other of the old prophets."  Then Jesus asked, "But who do you say that I am?"

 

And Peter stood up and replied, "Thou art the Logos, existing in the Father as His rationality and then, by an act of His will, being generated, in consideration of the various functions by which God is related to his creation, but only on the fact that Scripture speaks of a Father, and a Son, and a Holy Spirit, each member being coequal with every other member, and each acting inseparably with and interpenetrating every other member, with only an economic subordination within God, but causing no division which would make the substance no longer simple."

 

And Jesus said, "What?"

 

Today is Trinity Sunday, a day we celebrate God in His being rather than for anything He has done.  Throughout the year most of our church festivals are narrative.  They tell a story - the story of Jesus, the story of salvation.  Today, though, we turn from the sacred story to the sacred itself.  The drama of the seasons has been interrupted, as it were, by a commercial break - a word from our sponsor.  Indeed, it is sometimes said that Trinity Sunday is the only feast in the year devoted to a doctrine.  But that isn't really true because the Trinity is not so much a doctrine as a Person - three Persons, in fact.  "Trinity" is really the name of the God we know as Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit.

 

Every day, we live surrounded by concepts which are hard for us to understand - gravity, microbial mutations, the Kardashians.  The concept of God is something else that's too much for us to comprehend, like, for example, the roundness of the earth.  We accept that the earth is round, but we don't experience the earth as round.  Most of the time, we act as though the earth was flat.  To experience the earth as round requires us to have a larger perspective.  We need to look at a globe, or see a photo taken from space.  The earth is so large and we are so small, that we can't sense the true shape of our planet.

 

To experience the Trinity, we also need the equivalent of a globe or a satellite photo.  We require something more accessible than the technical theological language which the church has constructed to explain the Triune God.  Oh, we still need these words because they provide intellectual accuracy and precision.  They speak to our minds.  But we also need an image that can engage the heart.

 

Various images are available.  The great Welsh saint Patrick famously used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Trinity to the Irish.  Other times the symbol of a triangle internally subdivided into three more is used.  But today I'd like to present a different image.  Not a static graphic, but a moving picture.  God the Trinity as God the Dance.  God the Dance.  Now, this particular dance is not a formal ballroom affair with many self-focused couples following a prescribed path.   Nor is it a rave, where everybody does whatever.  The dance we might consider for an image of Trinity is an old-fashioned folk dance, a circle dance with everybody's hands joined.  A dance without beginning and without end with all the participants looking at each other.

 

In this holy dance called Trinity, the three who make the circle do not predate the dance and the dance does not predate the three.  Each cannot be confused with the others, nor is one of greater worth than another.  In this dance, each plays a specific role, and the three of them move in constant, eternal, rhythm, this way, that way, in and out, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  That's the basic image of God the Dance.  It's not too bad, it's easy to imagine, but it's not complete.  I said it was a moving picture and something about it is about to change.

 

Six months ago, we began the liturgical year with the season of Advent.  Since then, our focus has been on major events in the story of Jesus, his coming and birth, his suffering, death and resurrection.  For the next six months, now, until Advent comes again, our focus will be largely on how we live what Jesus taught by word and action.  And the principal thing that Jesus taught is that the only way we can live by those words and actions is if we join in the dance.

 

In other world religions, the gods are totally other, totally removed from the human experience.  They exist high up and far away.  What's different about the God revealed in Christ is that He invites us to join in his experience.  St. Athanasius, the greatest proponent of Trinitarian theology in the Early Church famously summed this up when he said that "Man is a creature who has received a command to become God.” 

 

And so, the dance circle breaks open, and the Son and Spirit, still holding hands with the Father, extend their free hands to us, inviting us into the circle, drawing us into the dance, that we may become participants in their life.  We are children of the Father, brothers and sisters of the Son, filled with the Spirit.  We are made in the image and likeness of Trinity.

 

And being part of this dance is what carries us forward through life - when we're thankful for what we’ve been given, proud of what we’ve done, and hopeful about the future, but also during the hours of darkness when we feel without place and without purpose.  When we need assurance that beyond death there is new life, having our hands held by the Trinity is what gives us strength and direction.

 

That's why the Trinity is hard to capture in a snapshot.  It's constant motion.  And like the roundness of the earth it's hard to comprehend because we're in the middle of it.  And yet, the being of the Trinity is our source of being, the life of the Trinity is our source of life.

 

As I said earlier, we need the technical theological language of the Creeds for intellectual accuracy and precision.  But those words would not have become so widely accepted if ordinary Christians had not heard, in the background of the theological lyrics, the tune of God as dance.

 

Today, we celebrate that tune and give thanks that, because of it, we know who God is.  Knowing that, it's easier to appreciate all that He does and get on with doing what we must do.  Joining hands.  Joining God’s dance.

 

In the Name...

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