The Trinity–join in the dance

June 3, 2012, Rev. Cyndi Banks
Trinity Sunday—Year B
Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8:12-17; John 3:1-17

Trinity Sunday. The day that feels like we are sentenced to do theological calculus. The three is one and the one is three. How can this be? It makes no sense, at least not in any math I know. Is this doctrine an overly complicated piece of theological reflection that is way outdated and no longer relevant to us? Was this doctrine just the product of a good political fight and the compromise that resulted with its attendant winners and losers—it wouldn’t be the first time that a convention of the church had that kind of outcome. Or is it the very foundation of the universe, the very stuff of our being, the very stuff of Being itself, and in that sense not only worthy of our reflection, but central, central to our life and to our life in God.
Okay, let’s start with a visual. Richard Rohr says that when we reflect on the trinity, it’s important not to start with the three, but to start with the one, to think about the nature of the one.
But the problem with the one who is only one is that that one is very self-contained. Everything that one needs is within that one. That one is very efficient, very independent, but also very what? Lonely. That one is lonely. And that was not a place that God wanted to stay. What is the very first thing this God does? God creates, God pours God’s essence, pours the divine life out in an act of creation, and a creation of wonderful multiplicity and diversity at that. Hold on to that thought.
So the one is driven to be more than one; the one is driven to create the other. So what happens when we have two? Okay I need two volunteers, each of you take an end of this scarf. What happens when we have the two? Ah, they start a tug-of-war. So often the two devolves into two poles, two opposites who struggle and fight and pull against each other, think about that oppositional energy you so often encounter—the essence of dualism. The two that have no room for the third. The two that often don’t have room for the other. Or, conversely, the two come toward one another, and in creation, that often births a third.
So, what happens when the two become three. If they pull really hard, it becomes a triangle, but if they hold it more loosely, it becomes more like a circle. And the circle holds the potential to move like a dance. The Greek Fathers knew this when they described the trinity as perichoresis—“the dance around.” And the circle always has room to include another, and another, and another. The circle doesn’t struggle to resolve the tension in favor of one over the other. In this circle, all are equal, absolute mutuality and reciprocity, a constant never-ending giving and receiving, one to another, each being filled and each pouring out. And what is it that flows? Love.
Why trinity? Because one is lonely, is not in relationship, and two tends to fight, unless it comes together to create that third, and then all things are possible. Three leaves an open space where new things have a place to grow, and where the dance can invite another in. But it’s not just three autonomous individuals, it’s three fully integrated wonderfully distinct and different beings fully committed to being connected, to being in relationship with one another, giving and receiving, loving who they are and loving sharing themselves completely with the other.
Don’t you see? This isn’t about getting the doctrine right or the formula right or even the words right. This is about living into the mystery of God in God’s essence, in God’s being, in God’s very nature. It’s not just that “God is love,” as John I said a few weeks ago; it’s that God is the dance of loving. God is active and moving and inviting and wooing, celebrating difference and bringing it into relationship with the other in a way that is neither threatened by, nor subsumed by, nor consuming of the other. God in trinity loves the variety of this world, loves the difference that makes up that variety—this is the only kind of world that is worthy to reflect the majesty and splendor and glory of God. Think about this in terms of the energy of Godthat energy that is grounding and gives life to everything, that births, that energy that redeems the hopeless and makes the broken whole, that energy that moves and animates and energizes and sustains—the three energies of God in which the divine, and we, live and move and have our being.
We may ask, “What difference does it make?” It makes all the difference in the world because how we see God is how we will see the world. For a moment, forget about the theological calculus, forget about the fact that this was forged by a bunch of bishops in a fairly political church convention a couple of thousand years ago, forget that it is the doctrine of the church, forget all of that, and just contemplate the mystery of God, participate in the mystery of God, step into the circle and dance within the Dance that is God.
How would it change the world if we could live the life of the trinity?
What would our world look like if we understood and honored and loved each incarnation that we met as the unique creation of God that it is?
What would it look like if we were fully individuated and didn’t project our shadow, dark or light, onto the other, but let them stand as the beautiful other that they are? (Can you tell that I spent the last week with a bunch of Jungians, but it does ring deeply true.)
What if we could celebrate our differences and our variety and yet still be in relationship with one another?
What if we didn’t have to consume or be subsumed by the other; what if we didn’t have to threaten or be threatened by that otherness?
What if we treated each other as equals, what if the nature of our relationships was defined by how we allowed our buckets to be filled by one another and poured them out in return? The kenosis, the self-emptying, that at the same paradoxical time is completely, wonderfully full?
What if we measured our success in this world by the quality of our loving, a loving that knows how to let the other be in a way that mirrors God’s great let-it-be that brings a new creation into being?
What if we could live into and out of these amazing, profoundly different, yet intimately connected energies of God?
Can you imagine the creativity that would be unleashed in this world?
Can you imagine what would be birthed?
Can you imagine how our lives and our world would truly begin to reflect the glory of this dancing God?
On this Trinity Sunday, we don’t just stop to reflect on the nature of God, but we dare to step into the circle and join in the dance, and brothers and sisters, our very lives, and the life of the world, depend upon us doing just that.
I want to teach you a body prayer in the name of the Trinity. I offer it today as a way for all of us to mark our bodies and hearts and minds and spirits with this God who is trinity, who is the Dance. I’ll teach you the words first, and then I’ll sing the first round. Then I’d like for you to join me in singing and signing the whole litany:
In the name of the Father,
in the name of the Son,
in the name of the Spirit,
we are made…one.
In the name of the Mother,
in the name of the Son,
in the name of the Spirit,
we are made…one.
In the name of I AM,
in the Word made flesh,
in the Spirit who midwifes,
we are made…one.
The Rev. Cynthia K. R. Banks
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Boone, NC
June 3, 2012