"The Divine Dance" – John 16:12-15
[Jesus said] "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you."
There has been a daily countdown in the Stamper household for the past few weeks. As of Friday afternoon, the countdown reached “4.” As in, only four days left of school for my oldest son, Nolan. Four days until summer break.
With the school year almost over, I asked Nolan to reflect on what he appreciates, remembers, and learned in the course of the year. He talked about friendships with classmates, how excited he is that he can read almost everything we put in front of him, how he really likes math, and how disappointed he is when he can’t play basketball during recess because another class is always out there already and doesn’t share.
I’m grateful to have a child who is capable of reflection. This has been a point of emphasis in our parenting style. We started early by seeking to identify his emotions and teach him their names, which would often result in humorous experiences like when he would scream at us as a toddler and we would look at him and say, “Oh, you’re so mad!” Exchanges like this taught him a vocabulary that allows him to express himself. Also, he knows that every day when I take him home I ask him to describe his day and that every night we gather as a family and take turns sharing our highs and lows from the day.
He doesn’t always wax poetic about his experience of life. He's as likely to mumble a response as any other kid. And when we ask him “How was school today?” Nine times out of ten he’ll reply “good.” But we persist, because we know that reflection yields wisdom and empathy. And relationships are enriched by our ability to put our reflections into words and actions.
But not all words are equal. By themselves, nouns are pretty much useless for reflection. Imagine this conversation:
Q: “How was school today?”
A: Pencil, friends, recess, teacher, book, math.
Adjectives, by themselves are a little better.
Q: “How was school today?”
A: Good, fine, exciting, stressful,
Unfortunately, this is where most of our reflection and expression stops.
Where things get really exciting, though – where the truth really comes out – are our action words – verbs.
Q: “How was school today?”
A: We laughed, I studied, we played, I learned
Paying attention to the ways we use words to describe our experiences is helpful on days like today when our focus is on the Holy Trinity – the foundation of Christian faith.
The Holy Trinity, as described by nouns, is pretty much useless for reflection:
The Holy Trinity is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Three in One and One in Three.
The Holy Trinity, as described by adjectives, is only a little better:
The Holy Trinity is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; they are related and connected; distinct from one another yet equal to one another.
The Holy Trinity, as described by verbs, gets to the heart of the matter. In fact, one of the earliest ways of speaking about and understanding the Trinity was the word perichoresis , meaning, the divine dance (from the Latin roots peri- around and choreo - where we get the word choreography). Using the action words we begin to see that…
The Holy Trinity is what flows under, around, and through all things – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit divinely dancing. The Holy Trinity is what we enter into as God’s beloved creation; our participation in the flow and divine dance enables us to be generous, serve others, and experience connection, harmony, and love.
Relationship, connection, energy, generosity, and love are at the core of Holy Trinity. Because the Trinity is the foundation of our faith, that means relationship, connection, energy, generosity, and love are available to us and can shape our entire faith and involvement in the world. The Holy Trinity invites our participation. It forces us to be active. It makes our faith a verb.
The Holy Trinity is the foundation of our faith; but unfortunately, not much has changed since 1970 when Jesuit priest Karl Rahner indicated (in his book, Trinity) that Christians could drop the doctrine of the trinity tomorrow and most Christian literature, practice, and devotion would remain virtually unchanged.
One could argue, as many theologians are, that the normal Christian image of God is still pagan; that is, Zeus – a man with a white beard sitting in a throne, getting involved in worldly affairs only once in a while (either when he is asked enough times or when he feels like it), sometimes with lightning bolts at the ready.
It is a false and destructive path for Christians to profess the divinity of Jesus Christ yet continue to think of God as an individual who passes judgment and destruction, promising good things to only those who tow the line. If we believe that God sits on a throne and passes judgment, we will model our life around this belief.
If, on the other hand, we believe God is in relationship, dancing, flowing, energizing the everything from the grass of the field to the cells of our bodies, then how amazing it would be for us to model our life around this belief. Perhaps we would choose grace over judgment, peace over pain, relationship over isolation, forgiveness over self-righteousness, and action over ignorance.
For a Christian Church that professes and worships the Holy Trinity, nouns are pretty much useless:
building, committee, pastor, bulletin, hymn, band, wine.
For a Christian Church that professes and worships the Holy Trinity adjectives are only a little better:
good, nice, welcoming, inclusive, entertaining, nurturing
For a Christian Church that professes and worships the Holy Trinity, verbs get to the heart of the matter:
We who are caught up in the divine flow of the Holy Trinity worship, learn, serve, pray, proclaim, love, hold, and forgive.
Our challenge today is to reflect on the true nature of the Holy Trinity in which we place our trust and gain our strength – a creating God the Father, a redemptive Christ, and a life-giving Holy Spirit, each one united in a divine dance of relationship, connection, energy, generosity, and love. The Trinity calls us out of isolation and apathy and invites us to participate in the verbs of our faith so that all may join in the divine dance.