In the name of God, who is love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
My final year of formation as a deacon was significant for two major reasons, one related to ministry and one related to our class time. The ministry I became involved in was visiting the homebound, first as a Eucharistic Visitor, then as a deacon.
In particular, I got to know six wonderful women who had been active at St. Andrew’s but were no longer able to attend. In her own way, each of these women invited me to share life and love with them. But one of them—Pan Eimon—took a while. The first few times we visited, she was out and about in her assisted living facility, and we visited in the dining room or parlor. She came across as a quiet, proper lady; she didn’t say much beyond a few polite phrases.
Then one day, I couldn’t find her out and about, so I knocked on her door. She let me in and WOW!!! The walls were filled with her paintings. She was a wonderful artist. What a variety of styles and colors and subjects! Through those paintings, Pan finally invited me into her life and love. Come to find out, Pan and her husband had traveled and lived around the world. Fascinating!
I’ve been thinking this month about my favorite painting of hers. A group of Latin American street musicians are gathered almost in a semicircle. Some are looking at others in the group, and some are looking at the audience. I felt like they were inviting me to dance. I could almost hear the music. It was tempting, but I resisted the urge to invite Pan, “Shall we dance?”
Speaking of dancing, that takes me to the second reason my final year of formation was significant. Early in the year, one class session focused on the Trinity. Now, I have not always embraced the idea of the Trinity. For many years, it just felt like hubris to think that humans could dissect and analyze God enough to define God so precisely: three persons in one God. And the Bible only hints at the idea of the Trinity. It’s not like the word Trinity ever shows up in the Bible. It’s not like the concept is ever clearly stated. Honestly, I was not looking forward to “Trinity day.”
What I encountered, though, blew me away! Turns out the early church wrestled with how Jesus and the Holy Spirit were connected to God the Father for about three centuries. And what brought them to the idea of the Trinity wasn’t dissection and analysis. It wasn’t thinking they could define God precisely. Instead, it was experience. They gradually came to realize that they experienced the Father and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit as unified in purpose and love toward them in a way that could only be described as divine. The Trinity was their way of expressing this deep mystery.
The mystery of God as Three in One revolves around what may be the key insight of Scripture: “God is love.” If God is love, then—even before creation—God must be in relationship. The Greek word agapē in this phrase in 1 John refers to a mutual, self-giving type of love. In other words, agapē is not a solitary love; it takes place in relationship.
It’s impossible to fully express experience and mystery in analytical language. Best to approach it through poetry and metaphor. So let’s do that. William Paul Young expresses the mystery of the Trinity through this poem.
is not by nature Love,
may be Prime Mover,
and if Everything is All and All is One
One is Alone
And striving toward Balance
At best Face-to-Face
But Never Community
Love for the Other
And for the Other’s Love
A fourth is created
Ever-loved and loving
The Trinity is the beginning of community. The love that God expresses within Godself overflows toward humankind, toward all of creation. All are invited to share God’s life and love—with God and with one another.
In that formation class, we broke into small groups to discuss this beautiful mystery of the Trinity. We were asked to take what we had encountered and express it in a metaphor. My group suggested the metaphor “Folk Dancing with the Trinity.” I didn’t mention this to the class, but what I had in mind was the Chicken Dance. Do you know it? Here’s the general idea. (X4: beak, wings, tail, [clap]—everybody circle one way, then the other way) Anyone can join in; that circle can grow as big as it needs to. Great fun!
The Chicken Dance may seem pretty undignified, but it’s not so far from metaphors used by others. In The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation, Richard Rohr indicates that “the ancient Greek Fathers depict the Trinity as a Round Dance.” Rohr himself puts it this way: “Whatever is going on in God is a flow, a radical relatedness, a perfect communion between Three—a circle dance of love.”
It’s beautiful and life-changing to begin to understand the Trinity as a Circle Dance of love. Because the circle is not closed. It’s always opening up to include more and more. A similar expansive understanding of God’s love can be seen in the images of family in today’s readings from Romans and from the Gospel of John. God’s family is not a closed group. The Holy Spirit freely offers birth from above and adoption as children of God. She invites all into the life and love of the Trinity, into a relationship with that original family—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
As a church family we gather each Sunday to celebrate a love feast. A feast of agapē, that self-giving love that flows from the very nature of God. Our celebration of the Eucharist is an ever-open, ever-flowing invitation to join this community. As we move toward the altar rail, we see those who have gone before. As we are at the altar rail, we can be very aware of those next to us and across from us. On our return path, we see those who are yet to come. At the end, we send out Eucharistic Visitors to extend the love feast to those who cannot join us in person. What a reminder of community, of the family of God!
God extends an invitation to us to enter into the life and love of the Trinity and to share that life and love with one another. May we each respond to that invitation whole-heartedly. May we extend that invitation to others.
Welcome to the family! Join in the love feast! Shall we dance?