Genesis 1:1-2:4a; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20
“Draw Us into the Dance” is the title for the liturgy that I’m using today, liturgy that comes from the Rev. Thom Shuman who writes for the Iona Community in Scotland. I was intrigued by the title and, though the liturgy is wordy, it has an element of movement and dance in it.
“Draw us into the dance,” is the prayer that is implied throughout the liturgy. Yet, how odd it is to think of faithfulness as a participation in dance! Shuman, in this prayer, assumes that the dance is already going on – and we’re to join in.
Why does he choose this as a theme for Trinity Sunday?
Hear Shuman’s words:
“There are all sorts of explanations that might be offered when it comes to the doctrine of the Trinity, all kinds of theologians can be quoted, all manner of creeds and confessions might be affirmed. And – after all that – most of us are still confused.
One image I find helpful is that of the dance – the Holy Community joining hands and joyfully being in relationship with one another. Sometimes, God is the one who keeps the underlying beat going, Jesus might teach a new step that the others had not thought of yet and the Spirit will improvise the tune so that the tempo and rhythm is not always the same. But they are always in step; they are always focusing on one another, even as each is aware of the particular part they play in the dance.
And they want to share that dance with us – to teach us the steps, to help us hear the music.
The Father reaches out in Love, inviting us to dance, to show us those moves called grace, wonder, laughter, peace. The Son connects with us in Love, taking us by the hand to draw us into the dance, whether we are hurting, or angry, or grieving, or broken, or lost. And the Spirit welcomes us, enfolding us in Love, as we are taught to dance with abandon, with kindness, with hope, with gentleness.
And as we dance, we discover that the Trinity is not so much a doctrine as it is a relationship – with us!”
One of my favorite authors is Sam Keen. To quote him (again): “Once upon a time there was an unchanging God who was king over an orderly world…” He was speaking about the faith that had reigned for a long, long time, a faith that was carefully scripted, explained in and through doctrines that got learned, memorized and recited to prove to ourselves and others the truths of the faith. Then, the world intruded and everything seemed to fall apart. The notion of a God who could be contained and defined by our careful doctrines, of a God who was predictable, immovable, constant and unchanging began to falter. Some went so far as to declare God dead.
Keen, writing in the late sixties, noted the cultural upheavals of the day, upheavals that by no means have lessened, but rather grown more intense. The constants in our world showed themselves to be less than fully reliable.
Maybe the sense that the constants we relied on weren’t trustworthy arose as science began to delve into the mysteries of how it is the world, the creation, itself is constructed. We found not solidity, but intricate dance: the dance of electrons around nuclei, the dance within the protons and neutrons of atoms, the dance that scientists call the butterfly effect, telling us that the world is inter-related in ways that boggle the mind.
Movement and energy are the building blocks of reality. Inter-relatedness is an often unacknowledged reality.
What if this movement, energy, and inter-relatedness were reflections of the Divine, the creator?
Simon and Garfunkle had a song, “I Am a Rock.” (Still love it!) It declares an ultimate aloneness. “I am a rock. I am an island.” I think of it as the introvert’s anthem! We live in a society that values self-sufficiency, independence – seeing oneself as the center of our own universe. On Trinity Sunday, we speak of one God – God in three persons – parent, child, and spirit. In that declaration, perhaps we would be well served by focusing less on how that might be possible and more on the fluid nature of God – God who is in constant relationship with God’s very self. That core nature of God – of being a community – becomes the source, the blueprint for the world and human beings.
If we explore the universe, we discover a dance. In atoms, energy is expressed in a choreography that allows the parts to work together and become building blocks. There is the dance of the universe: planets in orbit around suns; galaxies dancing with each other. There is the dance that is the wonder of the human body –each organ with its choreographed responsibility, working together to allow us to see, hear, smell, taste, feel: to allow us to move and think and dream: to invite us into life-giving community with one another and with God.
“I am a rock” ends on a plaintive “a rock feels no pain and an island never cries.” Yes, it is true that a rock feels no pain (as far as we know) and an island never cries. But that sense of aloneness is present. Even the pain and the tears would be preferable to that stark isolation.
There is a vulnerability in God’s dance. God knows that vulnerability in and through the life and death of Jesus. The dance, in our world, is never perfect. We step on one another’s toes. We mis-hear the beat and are out of step with God’s good dance. We choose different music that drowns out the heavenly beat and dance according to our own sense of what is right.
This dance calls us beyond ourselves – to see the world and know that we have a responsibility to it and for it. The dance calls us to recognize those who share the planet with us and care for them, as God does. It calls us to see the creation itself and acknowledge our connection to it so that we may care for it in ways that promote its very healing and wholeness. The dance calls us to mercy, to justice, to reconciliation, to seeking and working for the ways of peace. It calls us to allow ourselves to be wounded and vulnerable and, yes, even wrong, as we strive to hear God’s song and step into God’s dance.
With the title for the service “Draw Us into the Dance,” I thought we had to sing “Lord of the Dance.” The hymn words come from the time when all the assumptions about God were beginning to be challenged and shaken. “Dance, then, wherever you may be. ‘I am the Lord of the dance,’ said he. ‘And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be. And I’ll lead you all in the dance,’ said he.”
Ann Weems’ poem, based on the hymn, starts:
When they ask what happened here,
We’ll simply say Christ came by
and we learned his dance.
Perhaps Christ learned his dance in the community that is God – Father, Son, Holy Ghost; parent, child, spirit; creator, redeemer, sustainer. The three in a holy dance into which we are invited.
Christmas Eve Service
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