“Invited Into the Dance”
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
Texts: Psalm 8; Genesis 1:1 – 2:4a; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Sisters and brothers, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Have you looked at the stars lately? If you live in the city, there’s enough light pollution that you miss a lot. But if you haven’t looked for awhile, get out of town, into the fields, and look. Psalm 8 was written by a star-gazer. Someone who looked up at the stars, and then around at the amazing wonder of creation, and said, “How can the God who made all this care for us one bit?”
That’s the real mystery of the Triune God. Not that we believe there is only one God, creator of all things, who has become known to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. No, the mystery is why that God cares for us, tiny carbon-based life forms on a tiny planet in the outskirts of one of millions of galaxies. “When I consider” all these things, the psalmist sings for us, I can hardly believe it.
And if that’s hard to believe, then consider what the Son of God says we tiny humans are called to be and to do: we are to represent this mysterious, powerful, creating, loving God to the rest of the world. We are to embody this mysterious love and care for the rest of the world so that everyone can come to believe what we find hard to believe ourselves – that this God is in love with them as well as with us. As the psalmist says, “how is this possible? Yet you, O God, have done this!”
It’s enough to make you quit looking at the stars. If you simply focus on things close up, you can return to the self-image of being the center of all things, all-important, with only one goal, to make life better for yourself, or maybe a small circle of others around you. Once we start looking up at the stars and around at creation, and then consider what we have come to know about God – everything changes.
But first we must recognize that all we know about God is only what God has revealed to us.
Looking at the stars or any wonders of creation only tells us there is a creator. Not much more. Even our confident use of the word Trinity is a human creation trying to sort out the revelation of God we have heard and seen and believed. It gives us something to hang our understanding on – but it’s as imperfect as any image of an original always is.
So we want to believe in God as Triune with the appropriate humility that we as created humans have no real idea at all of the grandeur and mystery of the God who made all things. We’re just doing the best we can with the revelation we’ve received from Jesus. And what we’ve received, through Scripture and through centuries of believers who’ve passed down their faith, is that there is only one God, who has made all things, but who has become known to the world in three distinct and different Voices, three distinct and different Personalities, who are related to each other and live in and with each other in only one God.
There is an ancient word describing this relationship, perichoresis, which speaks of the indwelling of the Persons of the Trinity in and with each other. The idea as I understand it is that it is in the inter-relationship of the Persons of the Trinity that the being of almighty God is found – and in some ways one could say it is most like what we see in a dance. Each of the Voices that has come to speak to humanity is in a dance of love and grace with the other Voices, and it is in that in-between space that God’s life is found. In fact, perichoresis implies both dance and rest – and in this living space the triune God exists.
And those three Voices have come to us this way:
We have heard the Voice of the Creator, the one who spoke into the darkness and brought light – and this Voice has spoken to our ancestors, to Abraham, to prophets, to rulers, even to tree-pruners and ordinary folks, according to the Scriptures.
We have heard the Voice of the Son, who was born into our world as Jesus and became one of us – surely the greatest mystery of all. This Person spoke to us most directly and showed the depth of God’s love for us in willingly dying for the sake of the world.
And we have heard the Voice of the Spirit, who came into this thing we call Church, creating us into a community, a fellowship, making us part of each other. And this Voice still speaks to us, still moves in mysterious ways in our lives and throughout the world, only identifiable by the fruits and gifts left behind.
And these three Persons live together in a dance and rest of indescribable joy and light and love, one God, yet mysteriously distinct from each other, too.
So the Son whom we know best, who was one of us, taught us to call the Creator Father, using our human relationship of father-child as a model for our prayer, and speaks to the Father himself, and can and does also promise to send the Spirit to us.
And when the dawn of creation broke, John the evangelist reminds us that not only was the Father present and working, and the Spirit, as Genesis says, but also the Son – that this dance of God’s own being was even then complex and beautiful and creating all that is and all that will be.
And now the Spirit works and moves in the world, creating and making God’s people holy, and yet the Father and Son are present in that work, too.
If this were all we knew about God it would be enough – more than enough. More than we can process and understand, certainly. More than we can image.
But even harder to grasp is what causes the Psalmist’s awe: Even given this reality of God, how is it possible that this God cares for us and calls us to serve?
What we have known and learned about this God’s love for us is nothing short of astonishing. Each of these Voices, these Persons, has shown love to this world and to us, and has called us to join in the dance of God that created and saved and now renews the world.
The Father spends most of the Old Testament desperately trying to draw the world’s people back into love, and calling them to live in justice and mercy in the world.
The Son comes to be with us in the most concrete way, and dies and rises from the dead just to show us how deep God’s love for us really is, and to call us to embody that love in the world.
And the Spirit comes to us in ways that we know in the deepest parts of our hearts, and shapes us, remakes us, re-creates us so that we can be the love of God in the world.
It is beyond understanding why God would love us and call to us in this way, and in this we agree with the psalmist. But we need to remember it is so, for the Son has told us it is so. The mysterious God who even more mysteriously loves us beyond all knowing, the God who in three Persons dances and rests within God’s own self and makes all worlds and all love, this God has opened a space in the dancing for us. The dance and rest, the living space in which God moves and lives is opened to us, the Scriptures say, and we are welcome, invited, desired to enter and indwell ourselves.
This God for some reason considers us worthy of love and attention. And even more, considers us worthy of trust to do the mission and work of the triune God. Worthy of trust that we can not only join the dance but do it well, and bring God’s unexplainable love to the rest of this world.
This is the joyful mystery of Holy Trinity. We don’t have to understand it fully – or even minimally, to tell the truth. We simply are invited to join the dance.
The God of all time not only loves us, and the whole world – having spent over 3,000 years proving it – this God now opens up room in the creative, loving, transforming dance of life that is the being of God, opens up room for us to join the dance, to sing the song of God’s love in the world. To be the song of God’s love in the world, the dance of God’s grace.
When we consider that, we can only be amazed. But it’s also the only thing we want to do. So let’s join the dance. It is the dance of life. It is the dance of God. It will change your life. It will change all our lives. And it will change the world.
In the name of Jesus. Amen