Trinity Sunday Proverbs 8: 1-4, 22-31, Romans 5: 1-5, John 16: 12-15
One of the most touching moments of in a wedding is the first dance. The formality of the liturgy is past, the speeches have been said, the cake has been cut, and the couple can relax and enjoy each other in a dance of love.
It might surprise you to know that the Church Fathers used this image to describe the Trinity. The Greek word ‘perichoresis’ indicates the mutual indwelling of the three persons: ‘Peri’ means ‘around’ and ‘choresis’ a ‘dance’. This is the root of the word choreography which is how to plan and execute a dance routine. It is used, quite appropriately, to describe the moves that we make during the liturgy. Indeed in the liturgy and particularly the sacrament we learn the steps, so that we can join in this dance with the Trinity.
The image picks up the active life of God the Holy Trinity in creation which is expressed in the reading we heard from Proverbs. One of the mistakes of Christian thinking is to see creation as something God did long ago and stopped. Indeed the incarnation, the coming of God’s Son into the world, underlines God’s continued active involvement in creation.
In these days of ecological crisis Christians must urgently recognise and collaborate with the redemptive actions of God in creation. I applaud the activity of the Climate Action group in this parish who seek to do just that.
In this regard some useful insights come from the thought of St Francis of Assisi who lived 800 years ago. St Francis expressed in his Canticle of the creatures how the Trinity and creation are related. Creation is not a mere external act of God like an object on the fringe of divine power. Rather it is rooted in, and overflows from the goodness of God’s inner life. This means that creation shares in the revelation of God as Trinity and is holy. St Francis regarded himself as brother, therefore, not just of all humanity, but also of all creation.
People have long realised that creation reflects the power, wisdom and goodness of the Trinity like a mirror. This reflection can be seen sometimes as a trace, sometimes as image or sometimes as likeness.
Every part of creation from a simple grain of sand to a star system expresses a trace of the Trinity in its origin, its reason for being, and its destiny. What would it be to meditate on some material thing with that insight in mind? We might consider that the first person of the Trinity is reflected in the power that holds it in being; that the second person is reflected as the wisdom by which it is created, and that the third person is reflected as the goodness that will bring it to fulfilment.
Genesis tells us that God said, “Let us make humankind in our own image; according to our likeness.” (Genesis 1: 26) All people are made in the image of God because they possess insight and the capacity for union with God if they choose. Every person is holy and should be treated with reverence as one made in the image of God.
Those who are shaped by grace also bear the likeness of God. The likeness of God is most perfectly seen in the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Those who love God and seek to serve him grow in this likeness by following in his Way. In Baptism we take up this Way and join the Church in the celebration of the Eucharist, the prayers, studying the bible, in ministry and so on. But it is through his grace that we can, as Paul says, boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. We come to realise that such a life will involve suffering which will produce endurance which in turn will produce character which will give rise to hope which will not disappoint. The hope of course is grounded in the resurrection of Jesus the Son. Those who are called to bear the likeness of God are to live Christlike lives. They cannot tolerate personal satisfaction and comfort while other parts of creation and humanity continue to suffer. It can sometimes seem as if the church suffers, and people suffer to be a part of the church. When we reflect on the debates of General Synod around same-sex marriage, climate change, family violence, we realise that people suffer in the present because of our collective lack of courage and generosity to move forward on these and many other issues. If when we pray, we identify with the poor, the hungry and them that mourn then we experience anguish because we love them and feel impelled to join in their cry to God for mercy. This life is only possible because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Otherwise we could never sustain prayer and ministry at any level and we would soon lose hope.
Through grace we are drawn into the intimacy of the Most Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as three persons who are one, each reflecting in their own way the oneness of God’s love. This love joyfully overflows into a creation groaning in labour pains as it awaits its fulfilment when the Son comes again to draw all things into God.
In the meantime, and while we wait, the dance goes on. Through liturgy and sacraments we learn the steps of this holy choreography in this rather odd sort of dance class we call the Church.