When I first began my ministry at my previous parish, I asked one of my assistant priests, “how long of a sermon does this community expect one to preach?” He responded, “They love long sermons, I preach at least 25 minutes.” So I extended my 15 minute sermon to 25 minutes and found out they didn’t like 25 min, they liked 12. Well, that Asst soon moved on …to Scotland.
I’ve learned much in the past 10 years and here on my first Sunday at CCC I didn’t ask how long, I just went with the 25 minutes.
In many parishes, Trinity Sunday is a preaching day avoided by the rector and instead the Assistant Curate or a Guest Preacher is often called upon to preach. A Dean of Grace Cathedral once said, “no preacher can speak on the Holy and Undivided Trinity for more than 30 seconds without falling into heresy” 3 counts of heresy…heresy by thought, heresy by word, heresy by deed and heresy by action…4, 4 counts of heresy.
I, however, enjoy preaching on the Trinity and find creative ways to not speak heresy. Because the Trinity is really about relationships. The word Trinity is a way of explaining the eternal relationship between the three Persons of God. A relationship that is an example of a living community. A community that is in action. The movement between the three Persons of God, is an active and eternal process of love offered to the other. A type of active movement that can be described as a dance.
“I danced in the morning when the Earth was begun, I danced with the moon and the stars and the sun, I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth and in Bethlehem I had my birth”
This first stanza of the popular hymn, Lord of the Dance, suggests the essence of the Trinity’s relationship internally and with us. The Trinity is a dance, the technical word is perichoresis. It is a Greek word, of course, which means to go towards, around or to dance around intimately. It is a relational event that occurs between the 3 Persons of the Trinity. Alister McGrath writes that it “allows the individuality of the persons to be maintained, while insisting that each person shares in the life of the other two. An image often used to express this idea is of a ‘community of being,’ in which each Person, while maintaining its distinctive identity, intertwines the others and is intertwined in turn by them.
It is a joyful dance that is constantly giving away to the other…a life of eternal, mutual self-giving. Theologian Mark Macintosh says “At the heart of all reality there is now understood to be the life of eternal mutual self-giving. Although the first person of the Trinity is still understood as the source of the divine existence, this life is never not being poured out to the ‘other’ in God.”
So the heart of all reality is life that is always being poured out to the other. In the late 5th century, a mystical theologian Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, who was an Athenian convert of Paul’s, said of the Trinitarian creation that “in the eternal joy of giving away to the other, is the sole explanation for why there is universe at all rather than nothing.” He goes on to say that “love is the reason for existence. God’s yearning desire for the other is the very source of creation. God draws out of God’s self in ecstatic love towards the beloved other- both the other in God and the other than God. The nature of life is about eternal giving and love.
“I danced for the fisherman for James and John and they came with me and the dance went on. Dance, dance wherever you may be, I am the Lord of the Dance said he and I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be and I’ll lead you all in the dance said he.”
This love for the other results in us being called, enticed, and invited! We are led to join in the dance of love with the God and with those who are other than us. To build and become a community on earth that reflects the heavenly realm. To establish between ourselves and the other, the same intimate relationship that exists between the Trinity and between the Trinity and us. It is a dance initiated and supported by God that nonetheless requires our presence and effort. The first step of the Trinity’s dance is the Invitation and gathering.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’”
Jesus called his followers and invited them to live in him and his love so that they could bear fruit. Jesus was connected to the God who loved him and he in turn responded by loving his friends in that same way, and telling them in turn to spread this love to others. As Eric Law has noted, Jesus emphasized that we are all only two degrees of separation from God through Jesus. We are all children of God through our baptism, and thus all siblings to each other. Realizing and living out this connection changes every relationship, it forces us to see each other on the same level: face to face and underscores the importance of developing relationships with others. When we make real faithful connections across the diverse people of God we are building up the Kingdom of God. In this invitation we are invited to see that white, black, Asian, gay, straight, trans, cis, non-gendered, 2 spirited or other we are all beloved children of God.
The second step in the dance of the Trinity is welcome and transform.
Building and strengthening the network within our parish is an essential first step in building the church, however in order to fulfill the command to love your neighbours as yourself and to spread this love to the ends of the earth we need to develop relationships outside our community of faith.
We need to engage outside our walls connecting with people in our immediate neighbourhood, in the city, metro region, across the province the nation and across the face of the earth. We enter into the intimate dance of love, with the world by accepting Christ within us, seeing Christ in others and sharing Christ with the world. In doing so, that welcome transforms both us and those whom we have welcomed as we are prepared to be sent into the world on God’s mission.
Theologian David Bosch develops a missiology based on the thought that ‘God is a fountain of saving love’ and the Missio Dei, the mission of God, is the work of that sending love in the world. It is a mission that we are all invited to be a part of. The third step in the dance is the sending.
“They cut me down and I leap up high, I am the life that will never never, die. I live in you if you live in me, I am the Lord of the Dance said he.”
God the Holy Trinity is engaged in an intimate and eternal dance of love. A dance we are invited and gathered into. A dance that then transforms us and sends us into the world on a mission to teach and share that dance with those other than us. In the dance we are part of the re-creation of the world, part of the process of transforming it from the world as it is..a world of hunger, hatred, racism and other isms, homelessness and injustice into the world as it should be…the world that God dreams of, a world of peace, of justice, fair and equitable distribution of resources, a world governed by the principle of God’s love.
Through Jesus we become part of this dance and are called into action. The World as it Should Be can become a reality on earth if we join God’s mission to transform the world into one governed by God’s mercy, love and justice.
Imagining a new heaven and new earth today allows us to make the changes we need to make …today, not tomorrow. We become agents of transformation by not just providing solace but by challenging and transforming the assumptions and institutions that perpetuate the injustices of the World as it Is. By giving to the other, by loving the other we realize that we are connected to the other and we must care for and love our neighbour as we do ourselves. In the words of MLK “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
And that is why we are called to dance.
“Dance, dance wherever you may be, I am the Lord of the Dance said he and I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be and I’ll lead you all in the dance said he.”
May it be so.