Sunday, June 15, 2014

God the Dancer

St. Paul’s Church in Bergen, Jersey City NJ
Church of the Incarnation, Jersey City NJ
June 15, 2014

Year A: The First Sunday after Pentecost – Trinity Sunday
Genesis 1:1-2; 4a
Psalm 8
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Matthew 28:16-20

God the Dancer
            I have been on a kind of “spiritual high” since our magnificent Pentecost celebration last Sunday.
            For me, it was not only one of the best services we’ve celebrated since I’ve been rector. It was one of the very best services I’ve ever experienced.
            The weather was perfect – maybe a little warm, but we have our air conditioning! We had knockout music and a packed church. Everybody looked so good decked out in their Holy Spirit red. I had the privilege of baptizing three beautiful children, Olivia, Charlotte and Amir. Standing at the font and feeling the joyful and expectant crush of the crowd around us was a very powerful experience.
            We prayed over our new altar. We congratulated our Sunday School children and gave gifts to our recent graduates.
            And then we topped it off with an all-time great St. Paul’s picnic. It was a little bit like the loaves and fishes – despite the larger than expected crowd there was more than enough delicious food for everyone.
            One of the highlights of our 10:00 service was the dance offered by some of our girls and led by Patrice Maynard. I had seen a little bit of their rehearsals so had some idea of what they were going to do. I knew it would be really good, but it was excellent.
            And then something happened that I didn’t expect.
            Patrice broke into this amazing high-energy solo dance right in the aisle.
            Now, I remember Patrice dancing here at St. Paul’s when she was a kid. I told her after that she’s still got it – she’s still a great dancer.
            How many of you like to dance?
            Because I’m so “smooth and graceful” I know you’ll be surprised that I’m not much of a dancer. You can just ask Sue if you don’t believe me.
            I remember in high school going to Prep dances that were held in the school cafeteria. There were lots of boys like me who couldn’t quite muster the courage to let loose and dance. So they set up a row of chairs on either side so the wallflowers would have a place to sit.
            Years later when I taught at Prep and chaperoned dances, I used to joke that nothing much had changed. Twenty years after graduation, I was still standing off to the side watching other people dance.
            Now, pretty much the only time I dance is at weddings – when I do the white guy two-step with Sue during some of the slow songs.
            Last week we celebrated the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. And today on the First Sunday after Pentecost we celebrate and ponder the mystery of the Trinity – this mind-blowing impossible to explain belief that God is One in three Persons.
            God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
            God is Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.
            Now since it’s pretty tough for us to wrap our heads around the idea that God is one and three at the same time, Christians for many centuries have tried to come up with analogies and metaphors and images to make the ultimate mystery a little less mysterious.
            St. Patrick made probably the most famous attempt, using the shamrock, the three-leafed clover to explain to the Irish how God can be One and Three at the same time.
            Some of the early Church Fathers used the Greek term perichoresis, which means rotation, to describe the relationship among the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Father dwells in the Son and the Son dwells in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit dwells in the Father and round and round they go.
            Others have taken that rotation image and made it less abstract by describing the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in a great and cosmic dance, dancing together in love for all eternity.
            God is the great dancer.
            And God could have left it at that. God doesn’t need anyone or anything.
            The Trinity could have danced away alone for ever.
            Yet, apparently God doesn’t want to dance alone.
            God chooses others – chooses us – to be part of the divine dance.
            In today’s first lesson from Genesis, we heard the familiar story of creation, the biblical explanation for why there is something rather than nothing. God chooses to share God’s love with all of creation. God chooses to share God’s love especially with us.
            God invites us to the dance.
            Sometimes we accept the invitation. Other times, more often, we decline.
            We know in just a few verses after what we heard this morning, there’s the story of Adam and Eve. Talk about invited to the dance! Yet, we know how the story goes. The first man and woman choose not to dance with God, choosing their own wants and desires instead.
            Throughout the Old Testament we hear the story of God using prophets and other holy men and women to invite Israel to the great dance. Sometimes they accepted the invitation. Other times, more often, they declined.
            And then, finally, God joined us in and through Jesus of Nazareth. God brought the dance right here to earth. God invited us to dance, to dance by loving our neighbor as ourselves, by loving our enemy, by giving away our lives in loving service to God and one another.
            We declined that invitation – actually, we destroyed that invitation - at the Cross, in the ugliest way imaginable.
            And yet on that first Easter Day, God extended the invitation to the dance once again. The resurrected Christ says, “Peace be with you” and breathes the Holy Spirit on us.
            Now, the invitation is issued to us here today.
            Once again, God invites us to be part of the dance of love.
            We accept the invitation to the dance in the water of baptism. We accept the invitation each time we ask and receive forgiveness. We accept the invitation each time we stretch out our hands and take the Body and Blood of Christ into our bodies and our souls.
            God invites us to be part of the divine dance of love.
            We accept that invitation each time we reach out to someone in trouble, each time we offer forgiveness, each time we share our bounty with those in need.
            We accept God’s invitation each time we go out into the world and through our actions and our words, we teach about Jesus. We accept God’s invitation each time we share the Good News, making disciples on Duncan Avenue, on Storms Avenue, everywhere.
            For all of eternity, God the great dancer is dancing away.
            Father, Son and Holy Spirit are dancing their dance of love.
            The Good News is that God invites us to the dance.
            The Good News is that at God’s dance there are no chairs along the side.
            The Good News is that at God’s dance there are no wallflowers.
            The Good News is that, if we say yes, we can all dance with God.