The Dancing Trinity – God’s Glory Revealed!
[Genesis 1:1-4; Matthew 28:16-20]
What on earth is a “Dancing Trinity”? Trinity, literally, means a “group of three” – so if I were to divide up the congregation in groups of three, we would each participate in a trinity of fellow Christians. Literally, a dancing trinity, would be a dancing “group of three.”
The word, “Trinity,” never appears in the Bible – it’s a “doctrine” or belief that early Christians created to try and explain WHO GOD IS and HOW GOD BEHAVES in the world. I have chosen the verb, “to dance,” – because it is up-beat, dynamic, alive and joyful, which is how I experience God.
We talk a lot about the “glory of God” – and I’m not sure how most people understand the word, “glory.” In the Old Testament the word for "glory" is the Hebrew word כָּבֹוד "kabowd" which carries the idea of heaviness and weight. In the New Testament the Greek word is δόξα "doxa" which carries the idea of opinion, judgment, estimate, splendor, brightness. It is the root word for Doxology, the song of praise we sing every Sunday as we consecrate our offerings.
Praise, honor, admiration, distinction, to exalt with joy, to rejoice… emanate from the word, “glory,” but do not completely capture its essence. I often say: “To God be the glory!” – which essentially means that all honor, praise, & admiration belong to God, not to us. We find joy IN GOD and in God’s presence, rather than separate from God. That is why Sunday worship is the high point of my week: it’s the time we set apart as a community to bask in God’s presence: confessing our sins, listening to God’s words to us through Scripture, hearing and singing about God, praying for ourselves, others and the world God loves, and then being sent into the world as God’s ambassadors of love and reconciliation.
This has been true for me since I was a little girl sitting on the left side balcony with my family…in a large Gothic sanctuary. We literally “looked down” onto the pulpit where Dr. Myles MacDonald took off his watch and without notes delivered a message from God every Sunday in his persuasive New England accent. God and God’s glory touched my life every Sunday morning.
Sitting on those hard wooden pews I would whisper into my mother’s ears, “Why can’t I take communion with everyone else? I’m sorry for my sins and God knows how much I love him.” She would respond… “You’re not quite old enough, but after you’ve joined the church, you can receive it.” It has been a vindication of my childhood desire, that we now serve communion to young children who can experience God’s love long before they can put that experience into words. That’s why Presbyterians baptize babies: it’s our deepest theological conviction that “We love because God first loved us.” God’s love bathes us and envelopes us from a young and tender age, if our parents introduce us to the community of faith.
We live and breathe in God’s presence. I invite you to pause and take a long, slow, deep breath, mindful of God’s love entering your being… and then slowly exhale all that is false, negative & destructive… Breathe in again… and breathe out everything that is not of God.
Imagine the story of the BEGINNING…Genesis 1:1-4 on page 1 of your Bibles. “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; and God separated the light from the darkness.”
Friends, this is poetry… beautiful poetry… of wind, “ruach,” which is the word for Spirit, sweeping over the face of the waters and God’s word bringing forth LIGHT in the midst of darkness. The Light of the World stepped down into darkness and introduced God’s presence and God’s goodness to all of creation.
This Scripture was never intended as a scientific document… this is God’s metaphor… for how God created the world. This is the meaning behind and in the midst of God’s creation. God is creator…breathing life into all that exists, speaking light into darkness. And it is all GOOD, because it originates and emanates from God.
The mystery of who God is cannot be contained in one concept or metaphor. The God who creates is so much bigger & broader than our minds can imagine, as Job discovered when God conversed with him. God asked Job in chapter 38: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Who determined its measurements? On what were its bases sunk or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?” This is the great and awesome Creator God of our Scriptures whom Job encountered. How might you symbolize this Creator/Father God who created all things? As I have reflected about this all week, my body expresses God the Creator like this: “Let there be light and there was light.”]
But that huge, mysterious and eternally creative God entered the human condition through the womb of Mary…as the original missionary from the Kingdom of God: God became flesh… God became human… Jesus, the Christ. Paul describes this manifestation of God in his letter to the Philippian Christians, Chapter 2, saying: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness, and being found in human form, he humbled himself and became vulnerable to the point of death—even death on a cross.”
That is also God’s character – God empties God’s self – which we would do well to copy. “Me first” gets us nowhere… “God first” puts us in the presence of divine love, joy & faith. Everything we could ever desire is found in God. As we follow in Christ’s footsteps…we learn what happens next: though humbled for a season, Paul writes: “Therefore God also highly exalted Jesus and gave him the name above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Think about a simple movement of your arms, head or body… which might acknowledge Jesus, the Son. This is the embodiment I have chosen.
The doctrine of God as the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, or Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer…emerged many years after the Bible was written; however, Matthew 28: the Great Commission is one of the fundamental Scriptures which points to the Trinity: the three-ness of God in one unified being.
Jesus’ parting words to his disciples were these: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Presbyterians have a long history of believing in God as the Creator… the heavenly Father… who loves us and cares for us and makes us stewards of creation. Presbyterians also have a long history of believing in Jesus the Son of God, who took the brunt of all our sins… and silently endured the cross of punishment, so that we could be “one with God” again, forgiven and free. The doctrine of the Atonement, literally “At-one-ment” describes how Jesus, the perfect Son, took the punishment for all of us fallen children, returning us into healthy relationship with God who is holy and without sin.
We say so easily, “We are justified by faith in Jesus Christ… and we enter the Kingdom of God on the coattails of One who was perfect and died for our sins so that we can live.”
However, as Presbyterians, we are a little weaker in our understanding of the Holy Spirit; yet, we live in the age of the Spirit…the age of Pentecost, which Jesus promised his disciples while he was still living with them. This third person of God: the Holy Spirit – is God’s presence here and now in us, in one another and in our community. Yet so many of us say: “We don’t believe God still does miracles. We don’t believe God answers prayer, because God didn’t answer MY prayer for healing or wholeness. We don’t believe God overrides the laws of nature and science that God actually created.” And yet, Jesus said to those early disciples: “When I go back to the Father, YOU will do even greater works than I have done through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
What symbol would you give for Spirit? Would it be flowing water, a dove descending, a blazing fire, a loving embrace? What “dance step” would characterize for you the Spirit of God? How does the Spirit fill you?
Jesus’ parting words offer us a trinity of “power, purpose and presence.” 3-p’s. Since Jesus was raised from the dead, God’s resurrecting POWER is now ours, but it is never a tyrannical or controlling power. In fact Jesus modeled for us what perfect power looks like: it is self-emptying, self-denying. By seeing God in Jesus, we now have PURPOSE for our lives: to be born again in God, to grow up as he grew, live as he lived, and even perhaps die as he died. Finally, we are promised the very PRESENCE of the living God, as the Spirit, fills and renews our bodies, minds and spirits regularly.
The Trinity of God…is a metaphor for what we can experience in our faith. God offers us power, purpose and the abiding divine presence. What more could we ever need to navigate the challenges we face? And yet there is a rhythm to life in the Spirit. There are magnificent highs, humiliating lows and through them all the mysterious, yet abiding companionship of a Loving God! Will you allow God to have this dance with you? Will you trust God as your dance partner in your life of faith? Let us pray. Creator and Father, Son of Sacrifice, Spirit of love, reveal to our bodies, minds, and spirits your dazzling glory & may we feel within us your amazing love. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.