Well, I checked my files and the last time I preached on Trinity Sunday was in 2007! This is the only day in the church year that is about a doctrine, instead of an event from the life of Christ or the saints. As such, it is not a favorite of preachers and most of us who set the preaching schedule are happy to assign this date to someone else!
Many sermons on the Trinity use an object to describe the one in three and three in one. You may have heard about an egg with its shell, yoke and white; water in three forms: liquid, ice and steam; three leaved clovers (that was St. Patrick’s idea), or even the sun, where God is the star, Jesus the light beams and the Holy Spirit the heat. Frankly these and other explanations like them are simply useless because they leave out the experience and relationship that are at the heart of all that gives meaning to the Trinity.
I loved our pre-Pentecost campfire out in the courtyard, here at St. Luke’s. While we dodged the smoke, set our marshmallows on fire and stuffed our faces with s’mores, we told stories. We heard about how the Holy Spirit moved in dramatic ways during prayer meetings and worship services during the charismatic renewal movement in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. People told of the life-changing power of the Spirit that completely re-directed their lives. Some told how the Spirit creates connection and relationship with our unhoused neighbors and those who are on the margins.
We heard how the Spirit has guided this congregation into new ways of being, of God’s love and acceptance for same sex couples, full inclusion and ordination for LGBTQ folk. Many talked about how they have found a home for their spirit in this community as they are welcomed as new members. Like the stitches in a crazy quilt, the Spirit binds together the many lives and pieces that make up this beautiful, beloved, community. Together we are participating in the ongoing life of the Holy Trinity together.
Over a lifetime, I have loved to dance. Most babies and toddlers start off dancing as soon as they can move to the music. We respond to the beat, the energy, the presence of others in the room. Feet tapping, head bobbing, hips swaying. We feel the spirit and we move! Soon we start imitating others, we learn steps and patterns. We find partners or groups. We dance formally and informally, alone in our kitchens or in giant stadiums with thousands of others.
There are dances for celebration, mating, grieving, or fighting (like the Sharks and Jets in West Side story). Sometimes the dance requires years of practice, learning the steps or rehearsing the moves. Other times it is completely spontaneous and free-flowing. Some leap and jump. Others dance while remaining stationary. There are as many dances as there are beings to create them. And don’t tell me you’ve never danced with a beloved pet or seen an animal respond to music with their own rhythm! Leaves dance in the wind. Stars dance through the skies. Wind dances on the water.
We dance with our bodies, but also with our hearts and heads and spirits. While we dance, we rotate with the movement of our planet, earth. We flow through the Milky Way and expand with the universe. Sometimes, we feel the connection growing outside of our own bodies, joined with others, and part of all creation.
As Proverbs proclaims, the world was made while Lady Wisdom danced, rejoicing in the inhabited world and delighting in the human race and all of creation. The Spirit and the Word joined the dance of creation from the very beginning, blowing over the face of the waters, in union with the Creator.
And we, too have been invited to share in this dance of the Holy Trinity. Have you ever experienced it? Have you felt it or felt yourself in it? I remember one freezing, March night on the Scottish Island of Iona, at latitude 56 degrees north, next stop Iceland. We seminarians made a pilgrimage to this remote, holy site when no other tourists would brave the trip. We began our night with group Kayleigh dancing. We wove in patterns with one another and strangers became friends and partners. We came from all over the world, from Africa and Haiti, the UK and the USA, New Zealand and Canada.
Once the Kayleigh had ended, down at the pub the disco began! Now we made our own steps. We showed our moves and abandoned ourselves to the beat. We danced till we were covered in sweat and out of breath. We closed the pub down. Then we burst out into the cold, dark night for the walk back to the Abbey. Above us the sky was dancing, with the green and purple waves of the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights. We and the entire universe were caught up in the dance.
In the dance of the Trinity we are both fully free and perfectly guided. The Spirit leads and inspires us, all the while that we are perfectly free to express our true selves. We experience simultaneously the sense of being in and out of control. Our own will and strength are present while we are caught up in something far greater than we can comprehend or control.
Have you ever been poised on the top of a giant wave? Your every sense and strength is exerted to manage the overwhelming power beneath you. You do not control the wave, but you can ride it and let it carry you. It’s no surprise that the Biblical writers often use the imagery of giant waves and powerful seas to describe the power of God.
To dance with the Trinity is to enter the Cloud of Unknowing, to penetrate beyond human understanding to revelation, deeper reality, beyond knowledge and reason. It is to encounter mystery and yet to retain all your mental faculties. It is to both lose and find yourself at the same time; to choose the dance and to abandon oneself to it all together.
Words fail. I’m no mystic or poet. I’m an eminently practical person. It’s probably why I’m an Anglican rather than Pentecostal or Orthodox. And yet, I like each one of you have had experiences that bring me into the glory of the presence of the Trinitarian God. Like you, I have been to the depths and risen to the heights. I have felt the boundaries of my single self expanding as part of a greater whole.
Maybe we leave it there. With gratitude that there is so much more to experience of the holy. With longing to be caught up in beauty, mystery, love, eternity. With a willingness to join the dance even when we don’t know the steps and are afraid we will fail or make fools of ourselves. And when we reach the end of this life’s journey, and our steps slow and stop, may our spirits dance once more with the Holy Trinity over the threshold into the unending dance of love. Amen.