Come, Join the Dance of Trinity

Come, Join the Dance of Trinity
"Trinity" and "Dancing." I suspect that those are not two words that we are used to using in the same breath. But here they are together in this hymn. It invites us to imaginatively capture the implications of the Trinity for faith and life through the playfulness of dance. It resonates with this week's lessons from Proverbs and the Psalms in tracing the beginnings of the dance to the Trinity's loving presence in the delightful work of creation. The dance encompasses the story of the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The dance goes on in the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. And it continues as we are drawn into the circle of the dance, now set free from the weight of sin, to join in singing the "praises of the Three, the Father, Spirit, Son." Perhaps the fittingly bouncy rhythm and tune might release a toe-tap. Or maybe we might even stand up and move a little, so our bodies can teach our minds a thing or two. For indeed, there is power in this dance to shape our lives anew.

O God of the Dance, release our beings, heart, soul, mind, and body, to join in the playfulness and joy of the Trinity. From creation, to Resurrection, to Pentecost, let the rhythms of your love draw us in and teach how to step out in freedom and new life. Amen.
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The theologians in the early church tried to describe this wonderful reality that we call Trinity. If any of you have ever been to a Greek wedding, you may have seen their distinctive way of dancing. There is a Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, and possibly some of you have been to a Greek festival. There is a particular term in Greek that they used to describe a dance. It's called perichoresis. There are not two dancers, but at least three. They start to go in circles, weaving in and out in this very beautiful pattern of motion. They start to go faster and faster and faster, all the while staying in perfect rhythm and in sync with each other. Eventually, they are dancing so quickly (yet so effortlessly) that as you look at them, it just becomes a blur. Their individual identities are part of a larger dance.

The early church fathers and mothers looked at that dance (perichoresis) and said, "That's what the Trinity is like." It's a harmonious set of relationship in which there is mutual giving and receiving. This relationship is called love, and it's what the Trinity is all about. The perichoresis is the dance of love.

But it's not like much of the dancing we see so often. Have you watched Dancing with the Stars lately? In ballroom dancing, there are only two people involved. When only two people are involved, there is a certain exclusivity to their dance. No one else is invited to be a part. They are so intent on each other that there is no room for anyone else.

But the dance of Trinity is not like that. The dance of the Trinity is more like square dancing. We have some square dancers here in our congregation. When one is square dancing, one is dancing not with just one person, but with the whole group. That's more like the dance of the Trinity.

When I was in 5th grade, our music teacher (Mrs. Parlor) was determined to teach us how to square dance. She asked us for volunteers. I breathed a sigh of relief because some of the kids volunteered, which meant I could sit on the sidelines and be a spectator. But as they began square dancing, they looked like they were having so much fun, that more and more kids started to get involved. Not me. I remained frozen in my chair. Finally, I was the only kid still sitting down. All of a sudden, someone (I don't know who) grabbed my arm and pulled me out of my seat. Before I knew what was happening, I was in the middle of the square, dosey-doing with the rest of them. And after a few minutes, I started to enjoy it too.

That's what salvation is: when God jerks us out of our complacency and makes us part of his dance: perichoresis. Thank you, Mrs. Parlor, for giving this reluctant music student his first lesson about the Trinity, this invitation to share in God's life.

What about you? When was the last time God jerked you up and made you part of something so wonderful that you could never have asked for it on your own?

John 16:12-15

John 16:12-15
You are caught up into the Trinity. What God is about in this world includes you. But surprise, surprise, Jesus tells us here that unpacking that "truth" is not like unpacking a box that has arrived in the mail. It is more like living into the reality of a package that has not yet arrived. Notice all the future tense verbs in Jesus' words in the gospel lesson for this week. They imply that God's work among us is not finished; it is an unfolding story. Certainly Jesus' life and ministry on earth are an important part. But Jesus says that even his resurrection is not the end of the story. He still has "many things yet to say;" he promises that the Spirit "will guide you into all truth," and "declare to you the things that are to come." God's work through the Spirit continues beyond the scriptures and beyond the tradition. God's work even in Jesus is not pre-packaged, but is still unfolding. Because God is on the move in an ever-changing world, truth is never a present possession, but a future toward which we journey by the power of the Spirit. This requires imagination and attentiveness to what the Spirit will say and to what God may be about here and now in our world.

God of Truth, help us to see that your truth made known in Jesus our Lord is never a finished product, but an unfolding story that continues to invite us and all your creation into its folds. Help us to keep our eyes, and ears, and hearts open to the leading of your Spirit that we may indeed join in giving glory for all the things that come into being through your love. Amen.
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John 16:12-15 (NRSV)

12 "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you."

John 16:12-15

John 16:12-15
This week we continue to celebrate the God we worship by focusing on the word "Trinity"—surprisingly a word that never occurs in the Bible. The word "Trinity" comes from later reflection of people of faith through the years as they have sought to be faithful to the scriptural witness about God. And here in this short passage from John that witness is as clear as it gets. God the Father, Jesus, the Son, and the Spirit of truth are all here. Not as independent agents, but as a "Trinity" that is one in purpose. This Trinity works in a relational harmony and unity all for your sake, all to make sure that what Jesus has done in his life, death, and resurrection takes shape and has meaning in your life here and now. Just imagine it! You are the beneficiaries of all that belongs to God. Everything that belongs to the Father has now been given over to the Son. And now the Spirit is in charge of taking what belongs to the Son and handing it over to you. It just doesn't get any better or any more wondrous than that!

God of Glory, that you should invite us through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son, to share in your glory is almost too wonderful for us to grasp. But through your Spirit keep declaring that good news to us. And just perhaps one day we will fully understand the deep love from which that invitation springs, that deep love that binds the Trinity in a harmony that would seek to include us as well. Amen
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John 16:12-15 (NRSV)

12 "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you."

Romans 5:1-5

Romans 5:1-5
Let's face it. Being boastful is probably not on the list of our favorite Christian virtues, or at least we feel a bit guilty about it. But here in Romans the Apostle Paul urges us—twice in fact—to take a risk and be boastful. Because we've got something to boast about. Even in the midst of sufferings we can boast about our hope in "sharing the glory of God." Such boasting is not self-serving or self-promoting, but springs from a hope grounded in the love of God, a love that Paul says has been "poured into our hearts" through our Lord Jesus Christ and through the gift of the Holy Spirit. So there you have it—it's all about the Trinity. And Paul says, if you think that's something, then imagine this: we have a God whose whole energy is poured out for our benefit, that we might live each day in hope. We stand at the door, given access to the grace of God, no, not as a promise for some distant future, but grace in which we are standing firm and full right now. The implications of this grace tumble over themselves in Paul's inability to contain them—words like justification, faith, peace, glory, hope—and all of them authored in that deep love of God given to us as gift. Now that's something to keep boasting about!

God of Love, remind us each day of that marvelous gift you have poured into our hearts through our Lord Jesus Christ and through your Spirit which you have caused to dwell in us. May that gift inspire us to live this day in hope, and maybe even to boast a bit of this marvelous God whose glory we have been invited to share. Amen.

Romans 5:1-5 (NRSV)

1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.
3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Psalm 8

Psalm 8
Some of us would probably be a bit uncomfortable about standing up and cheering in worship. But here the psalmist assumes the role of cheerleader and invites us to get up on our feet and join in a few cheers for the Trinity. An enthusiastic "Rah, Rah" for God brackets the psalm. "How majestic is your name in all the earth!" And in case we aren't quite there yet for first cry, tucked in between are some reflections to get us "pumped up" a bit so that we can truly join in by the time we get to the last climactic shout. If you need some convincing about the greatness of this God, just take a look around at the wonders of creation, from the vast heavens to the beasts, and birds, and fish that inhabit the land and the seas. And if you think that is really something, then just imagine that at the pinnacle of this creation God has placed human beings, and then risked it all by entrusting us with the care of the whole. Wow, that is really something to cheer about. And maybe even to keep thinking about when our feet come down to touch the ground again and we have to go back to work at caring for this creation.

O God of Majesty, we ponder the greatness of your work in creation, and then stand in awe when invited to imagine that you have entrusted us with the care and delight in all that you have made. Help us to risk a few cheers for such a marvelous God, and help us to live in such a way that honors a God with such a wonderful name. Amen.
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Psalm 8 (NRSV)

1 O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established;
4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?
5 Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet,
7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
9 O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Tradition sets aside this week for reflection on the Trinity. Many of us have probably had more than one lesson on how complex and weighty a matter it is to comprehend the Trinity. But here the voice of wisdom invites us to experiment with a lighter touch. If you want to understand the Trinity, perhaps it's better not to let your thoughts run too deep; let them range imaginatively to the joys of cherished relationships and to the rich wonders of creation. Wisdom recalls with delight being the first of creation, and then "being there beside him like a master worker." Here we find a deep sense of playfulness in the way God rejoices in the "inhabited world" and in the "human race." In contemplating the particularities of creation, the earth and fields, the "first bits of soil," or God's assigning the limits for the seas, perhaps we will come closer to understanding our God, this Trinity who longs to share with creation and us in the wonder and goodness of our world.

O God our wondrous Creator, when we are tempted to be confused or put off by mind-boggling complexities, invite us to delight with you in the wonder of your creation and to risk joining you in the playfulness of relationships that fill us with ever-unfolding new joys. Amen.
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Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 (NRSV)

1 Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?
2 On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand;
3 beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
4 "To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live.
5 O simple ones, learn prudence; acquire intelligence, you who lack it.
6 Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right;
7 for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
8 All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them.
9 They are all straight to one who understands and right to those who find knowledge.
10 Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold;
11 for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.
12 I, wisdom, live with prudence, and I attain knowledge and discretion.
13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.
14 I have good advice and sound wisdom; I have insight, I have strength.
22 The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago.
23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water.
25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth—
26 when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world's first bits of soil.
27 When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28 when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep,
29 when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30 then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always,
31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.

Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart

Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart
Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
wean it from earth, through all its pulses move;
stoop to my weakness, strength to me impart,
and make me love you as I ought to love.

I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies,
no sudden rending of the veil of clay,
no angel visitant, no op'ning skies;
but take the dimness of my soul away.

Have you not bid me love you, God and King;
all, all your own, soul, heart, and strength, and mind?
I see your cross; there teach my heart to cling.
Oh, let me seek you and, oh, let me find!

Teach me to love you as your angels love,
one holy passion filling all my frame:
the baptism of the heav'n-descended dove,
my heart an altar, and your love the flame.

Today is the Day of Pentecost. Remembering that the hymns we sing as a congregation are really prayers set to music, our request this day might be: "Spirit of God, descend upon my heart; wean it from earth, through all its pulses move; stoop to my weakness, strength to me impart, and make me love you as I ought to love."

When we gather to sing together, shouldn't the emphasis be on "us" rather than just "me?" In Acts 2, it says: "All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability."

Isn't this the way the Gospel gets "spread abroad" yet today? It is not a question of "some of us" but "all of us" as missionaries of the Spirit where we live day to day.

Gracious God, where we live is where the message of Christ and the Spirit need to be heard. Help us be true witnesses to your love to all. Amen.

Oh Master, Let Me Walk With You

Oh Master, Let Me Walk With You

O Master, let me walk with you
in lowly paths of service true;
tell me your secret; help me bear
the strain of toil, the fret of care.

Help me the slow of heart to move
by some clear, winning word of love;
teach me the wayward feet to stay,
and guide them in the homeward way.

Teach me your patience; share with me
a closer, dearer company,
in work that keeps faith sweet and strong,
in trust that triumphs over wrong,

In hope that sends a shining ray
far down the future's broad'ning way,
in peace that only you can give;
with you, O Master, let me live.

There is a word that we hear in the public media almost daily, and that word is "sustainable." As believers in Christ, what sustains our faith from day to day? If it is true that we can only believe what we are loved into believing, then the answer is love, or, as this hymn reminds us, "In work that keeps faith sweet and strong, in trust that triumphs over wrong."

God's presence and love sustains our faith. And our work is to treat people as God in Christ treats us. In the place where we live out our daily lives, there is opportunity to help others in their needs that results "In hope that sends a shining ray, far down the future's broadening way" as we sing in this hymn.

Faith is a gift of God's Grace. Put it to work!

Lord Jesus, we pray that we help others to faith the same way you brought us to trust in you: by loving us and by your presence with us. Amen.

John 14:8-17, 25-27

John 14:8-17, 25-27
As the Sunday when we celebrate Pentecost approaches, we may marvel at how the ways in which the "outpouring of the Holy Spirit" has been understood in various church groups over the centuries. There was a time when it became almost a "sign" that one was truly a Christian only when one could "speak in tongues." But the Apostle Paul warns the Corinthians: "If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." (13:1)

The key description of what it means to be a Christian has always been the presence and expressions of love, just as Jesus loves us, so we are to love one another. There is no room here for "superior" or "inferior" Christians based on who "has the Spirit" and who does not.

Gracious God, grant us the grace to love as we are loved in the Holy Spirit's promised presence within and with us. Every day is Pentecost Day! Amen.
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John 14:8-17, 25-27 (NRSV)

8 Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied."
9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, "Show us the Father'?
10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.
12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.
13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.
17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
25 I have said these things to you while I am still with you.
26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid."

John 14:8-17, 25-27

John 14:8-17, 25-27
Jesus is very concerned about the power of God's peace, so that our hearts are not troubled or afraid. The word Advocate means "helper," the Holy Spirit, that God has sent to us, not only on a day called Pentecost, but to abide with us, and be in and among us every day of our lives.

The word translated as "if" in the New Testament, can also be translated as "since." Jesus then says about the promise of the Holy Spirit: "Since you love me, you will keep my commandments."

We live in a world that is all too "iffy" and not "declarative" enough as "since...then" reality in our daily lives. Jesus wants us to know that to be Christian is a gift that dwells within us, and that the Holy Spirit is our helper and giver of faith, hope, and love, in the "here and now" of our witness to God's grace.

Lord Jesus, the promised Holy Spirit is not defined by the word Pentecostal, but is the very presence of your life now lived out, in and through us. Help us to live out our mission for the good of all people. Amen.
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John 14:8-17, 25-27 (NRSV)

8 Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied."
9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, "Show us the Father'?
10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.
12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.
13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.
17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
25 I have said these things to you while I am still with you.
26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid."