Get in the Dance: June 11th Sermon

Sunday, June 11, 2017 – Trinity Sunday and a Sunday celebrating the Youth of our Parish

Genesis 1:1-2:2, The Story of Creation (adapted from James Wheldon Johnson’s, “God’s trombones”)
Psalm 8
Our Deepest Fear, by Marianne Williamson
Matthew 28:16-20

Get in the Dance

Last week we heard the story of Pentecost: the day on which the disciples, not just the 12, but all those
who followed Jesus when he was alive, are called by the Spirit and given all they need to go out into the
world and do what God would have them do, which is kind of obvious. For these 120 followers, men and
women, find they are overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit and can suddenly speak in the languages of the
thousands of people gathered in Jerusalem, so they can tell them about Jesus, tell them about God’s
new relationship with God’s people through him.

These followers are called, or gathered in their case, gifted and sent, to tell the story; to everyone. For
they are sent out – far and wide. That’s what happens next; throughout the rest of the story, really. To
the disciples, these followers of Jesus, and that’s what has to happen next for us, not just for our sake,
but for the sake of the world that God loves.

As we said last week, we engage the story like they did, we hear the word, we say the prayers, we share
Christ’s own peace, we break the bread the way that Jesus asked us to remember him; and we share it
with one another – a community of God’s love and grace. We worship God and we love one another as
Jesus loved his disciples, as he instructed them to love each other, and taught us to continue in his love.
But we can’t stop there.

Because this is not an intellectual exercise – this is an ‘all in’ way of being, a way of life, a commitment to
a way of being… choosing to walk in the way of Jesus, and to go out into the world and meet others on
the way like those disciples who have gone before us.

Go out into the world to walk in the way of Jesus, to be in relationship, to meet people where they are
and care about their situation. Like the young people who are going out on mission this summer, whom
we will bless and send forth today at the end of our 10am worship service.

But lest we forget, today is not just the day we celebrate Youth Sunday, it’s also Trinity Sunday. A
complicated concept: one part Church history, one part Church anti-heresy theological wrangling, and
one part practical theology. Unpacking the formulation of the Trinity is not meant for sermon material,
that’s the stuff of adult education (EfM if you’re lucky.) But for the purposes of our sermon, it’s the
practical theology that matters, and for that we are going to focus on the basics: the Trinity is our way of
understanding how our God is: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but one God; how the three in one math
works. Trust me when I say that there are whole volumes dedicated to this!

Yet even the ancient Church Fathers found ways into this concept that people could use, to give people
an entry point into the life of the Trinity. They established the easy hand holds for people, like the easy
ascent on a rock climbing wall, so we could find our way in, for that’s the whole point.
Augustine wrote that the Trinity could be described as the Lover, the Beloved and the Love itself.
Our Greek theological ancestors in the faith might do it best, using the word “Perichoresis” to explain
the Trinity: peri means around and choresis is the Greek word for dance. With Perichoresis, they are
really describing the Trinity as God’s “Dancing Around-ness.”

Rev. Eugene Peterson goes into great detail describing this folk dance between the three members of
the Trinity, how they weave in and out, and move swiftly with and between and among one another,
swinging and twirling, embracing and releasing, holding on and letting go.

He writes:
There is no confusion, every movement is cleanly coordinated in precise rhythms, as each
person [of the Trinity] maintains his or her own identity. To the onlooker the movements are so
swift it is impossible at times to distinguish one person from another; the steps are so intricate
that it is difficult to anticipate the actual configurations as they appear… 1

So it seems this being gifted by the Spirit and sent forth is a great deal more than an intellectual exercise
after all – it’s an invitation for us to get into the dance of God’s love, as it spills forth. Our three in one;
one in three God who cannot be contained, in all God’s dancing around-ness, is inviting us to join in the
dance of God.

What does it look like to be a participant in the company of God’s love? To be part of the dance of the
Trinity? It’s about living out Gospel values – living in and from that place, inviting others to do so. Being
clear that we are doing what we do in the world, not because we are nice, or it’s a good thing to do, but
because we are part of the dance, we are Christian. We are followers in the way of Jesus. We are moved
and empowered by the Spirit, gifted and called: to stand up against injustice, to respond to those
suffering, to protect those at risk, to forgive others, and to reconcile the world to God’s self. And to do
all that out loud- so others can tell we are dancing with God, and they might catch the rhythm, and
remember they, too, are part of the dance.

An example: Earlier this week, I had to park in a parking garage in Portland, and as I was walking from
my car I passed a little Subaru hatchback – on top of the car was a hard shelled rocket box, covered in
stickers from state parks from all over the country. But the biggest sticker by far was the one on the
back of the hatchback – it was at least 12 inches high. An enormous semicolon. A semicolon is a
punctuation mark; it looks like a period with a comma under it. It is used to indicate a pause that is
longer than a comma but short of a period’s full stop.

Culturally, the semicolon has become a symbol for those who have once seriously thought about or
even attempted suicide. It symbolizes the fact that at some point, this person thought about putting a
period on their life prematurely.

But then something happened to make them realize there is more; they are more. Someone made a
difference, added a comma, and made what could have been a period into a semicolon.
From my perspective, someone invited them into the dance… or something happened to show them
they are invited to the dance, were created to be part of the love of God. And they are so much more
than whatever moment or event had them feeling lost and alone, hopeless.

And this person who was so lost, had the courage to accept the outstretched hand, or the opportunity
to see things differently, and grabbed hold of the chance to live into that love and life and becoming
more themselves, the size they were created to be.

The person who put that semicolon on their car was celebrating their life, and their courage to grab hold
of life again, against whatever seemed so impossible to overcome at one time. And they are brave
enough to share that with others, with strangers, in case, just in case there is one other person out there
who might see that sticker and know they too can make it.

To me that sticker is an outstretched hand to others who might feel they are the only one who has ever
felt that way… and it works well with our dancing Trinity.

Further in his discussion, Eugene Peterson actually writes:
“We cannot live as spectators of the dance of the Trinity. A hand reaches out to pull us into the
Trinitarian actions of holy creation, holy salvation and holy community…” 2

No matter what happens to us, no matter how awful the world can be, or how hopeless a situation
seems in the moment – nothing can separate us from the love of God, nothing. Nothing can separate us
from the dance. We are loved beyond measure and created by God, blessed and beloved. Through the
love of Christ, we are forgiven our sins, we are made whole. We can live our lives without being afraid,
we can live our lives life-sized. Without having to play small, or live in fear of making a mistake. Children
of God, we are loved and redeemed, and invited to participate in the love of God, and share it with

If you are quiet maybe you can hear it, the music that must be playing, for there is always a dance going
on. As God reaches out to us, to pull us into holy creation, holy salvation, and holy community: to pull us
into the dance of God’s love.

So friends, get into the dance. Hold out your hand and invite others, give them someone to grab hold of,
and draw them into the dancing around-ness of God’s self. As together we make up the holy community
of God’s love. That’s some serious math: one plus one plus one equals three; plus all of us, equals one.
Never mind the math, just dance.

Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology (William B.
Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2005) 45.
Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology (William B.
Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2005) 46.