When I was in the 5th grade I was a pretty awkward kid. In fact I believe the 5th grade was the gateway to a few awkward, wonder years. The years that you begin to get things like acne. The years that parts of you begin growing at odd rates. The years when you may have special meetings with the nurse or the coach about biological changes. Oh, and the years that guys and girls may first notice each other and have no clue what to do.
Yes it was in those awkward, wonder years that my gym teacher introduced us to a 4 week unit on dancing. Square dancing. With an old scratchy record and a recorded caller speaking over the music. And the whole class forming squares of awkward children Do sa do-ing and promenading sweating hands, smelly feet, and awkward tween dancing.
Ever learned how to dance? There’s something to it. Dancing takes on its own life. Whether it’s couples ballroom, tap, ballet, or you rocking alone in your living room… as the singer Gloria Estefan once said, “the rhythm’s going to get you!”
And all this is related to the Trinity. I promise…it is!
The Trinity–God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit can be described in many ways. When I was a child the book 3 in 1 describing God as parts of an apple was pretty popular. And it helped me envision the different forms that God is in our life…that is until one of my seminary professors was quick to point out that talking about the parts of God was somehow robbing of the completeness of the Trinity and that in fact I was committing a well known heresy of partialism. Oops.
No matter how we try to describe the Trinity–it’s a mystery!
Franciscan priest and prolific author Richard Rohr has written the book on the Trinity. Well one of many books about the Trinity and he’s noted for saying that when it comes to the Trinity–there’s simply no words that do justice. That’s why we’re always forced to use metaphor or similes.
One of the best descriptions for the Trinity is a in fact a dance. God the Father for us, God the Son hand in hand with us, and the Holy Spirit inviting us into this dance. The dance that began before time, and the dance that may take on a different rhythm throughout your life.
Haven’t your eyes danced upon the stars at night as you take in the glory of God’s cosmos? Haven’t you felt the draw of the Father’s creative rhythm in the thunder of an ocean wave? As the Psalmist writes,
The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of glory thunders; the Lord is upon the mighty waters.
Or think of when you’ve been drawn into the lullaby as your look into an infant’s eyes? Or as songwriter Brandi Carlile sings,
Oh, but all the wonders I have seen, I will see a second time From inside of the ages through your eyes
Grandparents and infants alike, we all are drawn into this mighty dance of life where we can cry “Abba, Father!” to God the Father who hears us and creates the very rhythm that is life.
And there are times you know that this dance’s rhythm shifts from the creative to the salvific. There are times in the dance take on a sacrificial tone as the Savior shows us how to live and die. In fact this Memorial weekend many are remembering friends, family, and bands of brothers who did not get to come home from sacrifices they made for the sake of another.
When the burdens of the world and your own missteps seem to convince you that not only do you not belong in the dance, and that there may be no hope–the dance of the Trinity shows us the way. As we hear from our Gospel today that
“the Father did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
It’s at these times in our life that our Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is dancing with us–surrounding us–filling us with the promise of life in the sacraments we receive, dying for us, so that we may know life.
One of the more famous hymns to come out of the Catholic folk movement was Lord of the Dance. With these lyrics,
I am the life That’ll never, never die; I’ll live in you If you’ll live in me – I am the Lord Of the Dance, said he.
Sydney Carter creator of the hymn Lord of the Dance, witnessed to this when we wrote that,
Christ as the incarnation of the piper who is calling us. He dances that shape and pattern which is at the heart of our reality.
And yes, there are times when the dance takes wings and flies pointing to and inviting us in. The Spirit who brings us in, through Holy waters and a Word of faith adopts us into this dance. Through the Spirit we are given the life-beat by which we move. It’s this same Spirit that moves you to tap your foot to the beat of God’s time which very may well be different from our own time. And the same Spirit with a hand out inviting you in and drawing you again into the dance.
Back to those awkward wonder years and the dancing. Coincidence or not–a few weeks after those square dance lessons my home church had a fellowship event where luck had it featured square dancing! But still the awkward hesitation got in the way. Everyone there seemed to know how to dance and just seemed like they belonged.
And there I was on the sidelines… watching… wondering… wanting… hesitating…and so..so awkward. And that’s when Stan Gardner happened. Beloved Stan. Carpenter, veteran, church leader. Stan extended his hand out and swung me into the dance with a look that proclaimed, “you gotta be part of this!” Don’t miss out!
You gotta be part of this dance! Our Triune God wants you to be part of this dance! No matter how awkward your wonder years are, no matter how aged your hips may be, no matter your two left feet… you gotta be part of this dance! And be a Stan Gardner–let the Spirit move you–invite another into the rhythm of God’s dance. Fred Astaires, Ginger Rogers, and the Michael Flatleys of the world are invited of course, and God truly wants the Stan Gardners of the world, too. God wants you to be part of the creative, spirited, and Christ led dance that can be your life.