May 24, 2015

Pentecost Year B 

Matthew Gunter, the chaplain to the last General Convention of the Episcopal Church, describes God this way: "God is a dynamic dance of mutual self-giving and receiving and delighting in which there are three givers, but one giving." The theological word we have for this notion is perichoresis, which literally means something like "they dance around together." One of the ancient metaphors we have for God the Holy Trinity is God as a divine dance of loving friendship.  

God the Father is the source and creator of the dance. God says, "Let there be light," and the universe flies into space and time. God says, "Let there be Lora or Jan," and something unique and creative comes into being. Everything that is, is an expression of God’s love and truth and exuberant joy. God calls everything into being in the great universal dance. God looks at what God has created and pronounces it good. Our purpose, our joy, is to join the dance of God.  

Jesus came dancing, the perfect image of the eternal dance, the perfect image of God. In the life of Jesus of Nazareth, we see God dancing perfectly in human life. Jesus danced the way of God, living God’s love and truth and joy. In Jesus, God’s Word is consistent with God’s Being, embodied in the movement and life of Jesus. We watch Jesus in the stories that have been passed on to us, and we see the friendship dance of the divine. A dance that rotates and spins even unto death, when Jesus embraces the dark, minor chords of sin and evil and cruelty, holds all of that in the exquisite slow dance of the cross, descends into hell itself, and leaps out of the grave on Easter in the thrilling pirouette of the resurrection. Now Jesus spins to look us each in the eye and offer to us most intimately our invitation to join the dance. Jesus is God’s invitation to join the dance of God’s love and truth and exuberant joy.  

The Holy Spirit is the power of God living in us, moving our feet, our hearts, our arms and eyes and minds around the eternal dance of love and truth and joy. The Spirit is the choreographer of our participation in the dance of life; the Spirit is the energy of our dance. That Spirit of Loving Friendship is present in all places and at all times and is available to all people through Christ, eternally immanent and wondrously transcendent with and above all that is.  

Most of what we may know about God we have as wonderful clues through the life of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit through the church. And out of our experience of those clues, comes the Trinitarian language we use in this metaphor of the dance, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Archbishop Rowan Williams has said famously of Trinitarian language, "It’s the least worst language for God we have." God is so much more than anything we can say.  

And although we can’t say very much about the mystery which is God, we can know and experience God in a deeply personal way. God overflows into human life. That is the work of the Son, the presence of God incarnate from before time and forever. Our receiving of God’s overflowing is the Holy Spirit. So love and truth and joy flows from God into creation; through the Spirit we experience love and truth and joy, and every time we do we can be conscious of being taken up into the divine eternal dance of the Holy Trinity. When we are awake to the presence and rhythm and movement of God’s being, God’s dance, our eyes see more clearly, our spirits gape wide with love, and our hearts resonate with deepest joy.  

God grabs us and dances with us. Breathing life into our being. In God’s intimate life there is always room for otherness. God makes space for us — space for relationship, intimacy and belonging. This is more than doctrine or teaching. We’re not simply given some information about God, we are given God’s own self in Jesus. We are not given some theological content demanding intellectual consent, we are given the Spirit of the living God. It’s all about relationship. Decartes got it wrong. It’s not "I think, therefore I am." In God, it is "I am loved, therefore I am; I am in God’s love, therefore I am." 

Today we reaffirm our baptism and re-engage in God’s dance with us. The Spirit of God enters and incoporates the baptized into the life of the Holy Trinity, the dance of mutual giving, of sharing and receiving. The Hebrew word for Spirit is ruach, the same word we translate as wind and breath. The same word that is used in the creation story in Genesis chapter one. Invisible, yet so very real. Powerful and life-giving. The nearness of compassionate, self-giving love. The God in whom we live and breathe and have our being. Involved in everything yet overwhelming nothing. The Spirit is the very energy of our life. In the Spirit we are dance partners with God.

Now I have to admit that I’m not very good at dancing. I’m a bit too self-conscious and calculating, trying to work out the dance like a mathematical formula, rather than letting the music flow through me. Sometimes I think that’s the way we approach our lives with God, like it’s some kind of formula we have to get right, rather than a dance we feel as the Spirit flows through us. In order to get it, to really enter into the experience of the dance, I have to surrender to the music, surrender to the Spirit. The more I try to control it, the less I actually experience it.


Maybe you can feel the power of being held securely in God’s eternal arms. Maybe you can sense the unqualified love that is being poured out toward you in overflowing measure. Maybe you can surrender to the joy that is the energy of this dance of life in the Spirit. This is the eternal giving and receiving which is the very heart of God. It is in Christ through the Spirit that we enter in with open eyes and hearts of those who are alive to the glorious, radiant and splendid Sacred Presence of the mystery we call God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are invited to join the dance of loving friendship; we are invited into the very life of God. This is our Penetcost!