Archives for 2004

Trinity Sunday (C) – 2004

The rhythm of the Trinity

June 6, 2004

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Psalm 8 or Canticle 2 or 13; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15

Today we find ourselves at a midway point in our travel through the Christian Year. Since Advent, our focus has been largely on major events in the story of Jesus: his coming and manifestation, his suffering and triumph, and his gift of the Spirit. Until Advent comes again, our focus will be largely on what Jesus taught by word and action. Thus, we will learn how to live in the power the Spirit has given to us.

Today, at this midway point, we look for a moment beyond what Jesus teaches us and beyond major events in his story to something that encompasses all of us. Today we look, not so much at what God does, as we look at who God is: the Trinity of Father, Son, and Spirit.

Even committed Christians find this hard. Because God as Trinity appears in every aspect of our faith, the truth of the Trinity seems almost too big, too omnipresent, for us to appreciate. The Trinity is for us something like the roundness—or near roundness—of the earth. We accept that the earth is round, but we tend not to experience the earth as round. Most of the time we behave as though the earth were 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 of our planet taken from space, or even go out into space ourselves. Otherwise, the earth is so large, and we are so small, that we cannot deeply appreciate the true shape of this planet.

To experience the truth of the Trinity, we need the equivalent of a globe, or a satellite photo, or a trip into space. We require something more than technical language, the symphony of words that through the centuries the church has constructed in response to the self-disclosure of God. We need these words because they set forth the truth with accuracy and precision; yet we also need an image, something that can engage the heart.

Various images are available but today seems a good time to examine a particular image that has a special appeal: God the Trinity as God the Dance. The dance in question is not a ballroom dance where couples travel the floor with arms around each other. It is not a rock dance, where the partnership of couples is not apparent, and each dancer has great freedom to perform. The dance that offers this image of divine Trinity is a circle dance—Father, Son, and Spirit with hands joined in a circle, engaged in that dance which is their life together, a dance without beginning and without end, a dance which is joy beyond all telling.

In this holy dance called Trinity, the partners do not predate the dance, nor does the dance predate the partners; but both the partners and the dance are eternal. In this holy dance called Trinity each partner cannot be confused with the others, nor is one partner of greater worth than another. Instead, each partner plays a specific role, and the three of them move in rhythm, showing the utmost courtesy and affection and grace.

The music of this eternal dance echoes in the vast reaches between the stars, and pulses in worlds inside of atoms, and travels on every breeze across the earth, and surges with the blood through our veins. From time to time, we hear the music of this eternal dance. During the silences when everything makes sense; during the celebrations when we taste a bit of heaven; during the transitions when we graduate from one phase of life and are ready to start another. When we are thankful for what we’ve been given, proud of what we’ve done, hopeful about what the future holds. It is on these great and good occasions that we hear the music of the eternal dance, the rhythm of the Trinity.

We hear this music also during the hours of dark tragedy, when the ordinary supports of life have been kicked out from beneath us, and we feel without place and without purpose, yet we know that beyond our current death, life awaits us again, for the music we hear is unceasing: the rhythm of the Trinity.

Since Advent, our focus has been largely on major events in the story of Jesus. The story’s point is this: all of us are invited to join in the dance. Until Advent comes again, our focus will be largely on what Jesus taught by word and action. That teaching’s point is this: all of us are invited to join in the dance.

The Trinity is unending, joyous dance, yet the miracle is that the circle breaks open, and the Son and Spirit, still holding hands with the Father, extend their other hands to us, inviting us into the circle, drawing us into the dance, that we may become their partners, participants in their life.

When you go to wedding receptions and observe the dancers, you usually find that they show different degrees of proficiency. Some glide along with flawless form. Others move with small, timid steps. A few of them are downright clumsy. What is saddest of all are not the dancers who lack skill, but the many who never get up at all, people who could dance but decide they will not.

Our life works the same way. A dance is going on. That dance is the living God, the holy Trinity. We are invited to join that dance. The Spirit is eager to help us move. The Son reaches out his wounded hand. The Father wants us to see his face.

No hesitancy should hold us back. The problem with human life is not bad dancing, but that some of us choose not to dance at all. What finally matters is not how well we dance, but that we take a risk, get up, and go out on the floor; that we join the circle and move to the music, the rhythm of the Trinity.

 

— The Very Rev. Charles Hoffacker is rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Port Huron, Michigan, and author of  ”A Matter of Life and Death: Preaching at Funerals” (Cowley Publications, 2003).