In Step with the Trinity

Sunday, May 26, 2024
Pastor Jason Bryan-Wegner

Ephesians 4:1-16


Grace and peace to you from God our creator, Jesus the Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Erica and I had just started dating the spring of our junior year of college. As we were registering for classes for our senior year, we both needed one more Phy. Ed. class before graduation. Erica, who was always quicker to plan – and still is– found a ballroom dance class that she wanted to take, and she didn’t hesitate to “suggest” that I should take the class with her. I’m not what one would consider a coordinated dancer, but I figured this was one way I could show her that I was committed enough to this blossoming relationship to risk making a fool of myself, and maybe I’d be just a little less awkward on the dancefloor if I took the class with her.

That fall, we showed up to class the first night and when we walked into the gym we wondered if we were in the wrong place. There were 80s rock ballads being played on the loudspeaker and a woman, who looked like she may have just come off tour with Linda Ronstadt stood in the center of the gym. She soon introduced herself as the instructor and got us paired up to start dancing. This was not going to be your ordinary ballroom dance class! For the next eight weeks we learned to waltz, swing, foxtrot, Cha-cha, and Tango to the greatest hits of the 1980s.

As absurd as it felt at first to do these classic dances to Madonna, we soon learned that it wasn’t the song that mattered but finding the rhythm within the song and learning to trust the movements of our dance partner that made the dance work. We also soon learned that even if each pair were using the same basic steps, not everyone’s moves were exactly alike. That’s what made it interesting.

The same applies to the ways we live by faith. There are certain steps that define what it is to be a Christian. But they may not be the same that we often hear some talk about. There’s no particular prayer that makes you a Christian or sacrifice of service or particular political position you have to take on hot button issues. I know deeply faithful people who sit on every part of the political spectrum, folks whose faithful acts of service and devotion are known to very few. I’ve seen the dance of faith take on so many forms – yet by the Spirit’s power, the faithful are moved together as one body.

What makes us Christians is not initially what we do, but what God does and who God is that makes our movement to the rhythms of faith possible.

Paul writes in the second chapter of Ephesians, shortly before our reading today, that at the heart of what unites us with God is the confidence that we are saved by grace through faith, not by anything we do on our own, and that out of this gift of grace from God, we are instruments of God’s good work for the sake of others. From this gift, we are called to lead a life that is in rhythm and step with God and each other. It’s not that we make up the movements as we go along, but we are shaped by who God is, and how God’s grace moves us ever more closely in step with the goodness, grace, and generosity of God.

Notice how much movement there is in God, in us, in the world. How can we not look at the stars at night, or the ways new life comes into being, at the power of being forgiven by someone we love and not see God moving in and through, and among us?

We belong to a God on the move. Because we know – and are united with this God – we pray, we serve, we consider how God is seeking to meet the challenges people and the world face today. These actions don’t make us a Christian, they are an active response to the faith that is in us. To move together with God, is to be part of how God moves above all, and through all, and in all things. What an incredible gift to be made part of! This is the new life given in baptism, it’s what we are fed when we gather together at the communion table. This new life is experienced when we show up together to do God-shaped, grace-centered work. I was visiting someone this week who has been in transitional care for several weeks. She told me how much she missed being at church with all the people, but has been so blessed by the cards she has received from people at church, even by some who she doesn’t know. That’s God’s people, moving in rhythm with God.

We find this rhythm in the nature of who we confess God to be – God, Three in One – Father, Son, Spirit – also, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer. This God who is unity and harmony.

On the back of your bulletin is an icon of the Trinity. It was originally created in the early 15th century. The earlier church spent a lot more time than perhaps we do exploring the mystery of how the Trinity of God is at work above, through, and in all things. They didn’t seek to contain the mystery or fully understand it – I’m not sure any of us will fully understand it this side of heaven.  But earlier Christians saw the nature of God as an important part of what they actually believed about God. Making this part of our faith practice today could fend off the temptation to make God simpler than God really is. Or perhaps more dangerous, to make God in our own image, who only reflects our thoughts on the way of the world. That kind of God doesn’t lead to the unity Paul urges Christians to find in God or in the diversity of gifts we see in one another.

This icon helps us visualize the mystery and even imagine where we are included in God’s unifying work among us. The three figures gently move in harmony, some even see them in a kind of dance, each gesturing in ways that invite each person of the Trinity into relationship with the others.

They are seated at a table with food, a sign of abundance and hospitality. At the very front is a small rectangle carved into the table. Many art historians believe that the original icon contained a mirror in that space, where the viewer was invited to the table, to feast and see themselves as part of the “dance” with God. Theologians have called this icon “Perichoresis” – which means to “dance around”. Paul writes “Live your life worthy of the calling to which you have been called. With humility and gentleness, patience. And bearing with one another, make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in peace.” This is the sacred dance of faith.

We might hear “worthy” as having enough value or being good enough somehow. But the Greek word is axios, a word that more accurately describes how the two sides of a scale are in equilibrium – balanced. So, the appeal here to be “worthy” is for Christian living to be in balance with God’s call. As Christians, live out who God has already made you to be. Christian life puts into action our new reality of finding the balance of our lives in Christ, in the movement of God. Seeking to place that balance anywhere else comes up short, disappoints, and leaves us eventually seeking something more.

So, friends, listen for the rhythms of God- the One who unifies us by being above all, and through all, and in all – even if those rhythms might sound as surprising as 80s ballads in a ballroom dance class. God is on the move, and God is looking for each of us to keep dancing, by living the call that draws us and all things in and through Christ. Finally, share your unique gifts for the sake of the goodness of God and the needs of the world. That is a dance worth pursuing.


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