All the World’s a . . . Dance: The Trinity and You

By Eugene C. Scott

“Country road take me home. . .,” John Denver warbled from the CD player as our Jeep jolted down the lonely miles of country roads in the Canyon Lands of Utah. “. . . to a place where I belong,” John sang in complete incongruity to how out-of-place we were among the soaring rock formations and sinking canyons breaking the pastel expanse of the desert. We had not seen a home in hours and the last time we did it was a meager, wind-bitten outpost set against this glorious wilderness.

As we pounded out the miles, I wondered why more of us don’t call these wild places home? I remembered I had once dreamed of living alone in a teepee in the wilderness.  Like me, so many of us romanticize rugged individualism and the wilderness in songs, paintings, and books. And many of us yearn for the singular beauty of the desert or an isolated mountain.

Yet the majority of us sink our roots nearer to communities than canyons. Why is it only the hardy hermit or crazy coot can live out in barren places? Certainly the harshness of wilderness life plays a role. That there is no hot, running water, not to mention no Quickie Mart, may indeed be an ingredient. But there were no Quickie Marts for most of human history and even back then folks chose to gather in communities rather than brave the solitude of their vast and wild world. So ease of life cannot be the major factor in why we gather rather than scatter.

I tried variations of my lone wolf in the wilderness dream before coming to the conclusion that not only did I like people but I also needed them.

God is the cause of our need for community. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image in our likeness. . .’” (Genesis 1:26) This simple sentence contains as much information about human life as a DNA strand. For centuries theologians and philosophers have held those words under their microscopes mining them for meaning. Most have concluded being created in God’s likeness means we derive our personhood, emotions, intellect, will, etc. from God. In other words, all the attributes God shines we reflect–albeit in a severely smoky mirror. We are who we are because God is Who He is!

Thus we come to the words “us” and “our” in that ancient sentence. Here is our first introduction to God as three-in-one. Trinity may be one of the toughest concepts about God to understand. I’ve heard various attempts to describe God’s three-in-oneness. The simple chicken egg, they say, is made of three distinct parts: the shell, the whites, and the yoke, but there is only one egg. Others focus us on complex chemicals to see how God can be three-in-one. H2O can be a solid, a liquid, or a gas, and still be water. Today modern molecular biology informs us that every whole is made up of millions of other wholes. In essence models of Trinity are all around us.

An older and better metaphor for understanding God as Trinity can be seen in the Greek word perichoresis. It means to dance: peri = around and choresis = dance. For thousands of years the ancient Greek Orthodox Church pictured the Trinity as Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a holy and sacred dance.

Eugene H. Peterson, in his book “Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places,” describes it this way: “Imagine a folk dance, a round dance, with three partners in each set. The music starts up and the partners holding hands begin moving in a circle. . . . The tempo increases, the partners move more swiftly . . . swinging and twirling, embracing and releasing. . . . But there is no confusion, every movement is cleanly coordinated in precise rhythms . . . as each person maintains his or her own identity.”

Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage.” But it may be more true that all the world’s a dance and Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the caller. There is nothing we do without “dancing” with God and others in relationship.

How are we created in God’s image? God is in relationship and we too were created to be in relationship. Our human need for community is not just an analogy of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; it is one of the attributes of God we reflect. Just like God is love and God is just, God is community. The Father exists in relationship with the Son and the Holy Spirit. The great darkness and pain of God the Son on the cross was the breaking of that community for the first time in history. The great victory of the resurrection was the healing of that Holy Community and the mending of the tear in our human relationships with God and one another.

We need to live near other people and be intimate with one another because God created us in their image–the image of Community. Our need for one another is God designed. Therefore, those hermits hacking out a life in the wilds of our world are bucking God’s plan. And John Denver’s longing for home was planted in his heart by God. I love and need the solitude of a desert horizon or mountain vista. I hear God’s voice and see God’s strength in the barren places. But I feel God’s warm arms and know God’s forgiving love and healing touch best when standing among my God ordained community of family and friends.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church. More info go to tnc3.org.

11 Comments

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11 responses to “All the World’s a . . . Dance: The Trinity and You

  1. John Moyer

    Community and healing. Just Monday, the 4th. did a stint in the kitchen and serving line at Denver Rescue Mission’s Crossing facility. This is a group housing unit where people in transition seek healing from addiction and homelessness. Living together, they go to work, attend classes, get to know each other under the same roof. I wonder if this “community” atmosphere leads to greater healing. Only 1 out of three makes it successfully thru the program, which is fortunate but disorders that they bring to the Crossing are so deeply entrenched and powerful. I am nearly certain this has been studied and probably ought to ask the program director out there.

    • John:

      John:

      Great points. I would love to hear about any such study. I believe community is a healing force. It has been for me personally in so many ways. As a pastoral counselor too, working with teens and families I’ve seen that when addicts don’t have a new, clean community the only friends or support group they can go back to are the addicts. Then they fall back into their addictions.

      I’m glad you are using your faith and gifts in that way. I’d like to hear more. Thanks for commenting. Eugene

  2. Georgie-ann

    There can be something very sublime in a fantastic natural setting. We can taste the “cosmic dance” of the universe, God’s supremely orderly, majestic and marvelous handiwork, sprinkled throughout with the spontaneous elements of chaos that always keep us guessing and “on our toes!” — (and quite possibly, a little humbled, as well).

    I used to dream of being alone in a small cabin, on cliffs overlooking a dramatic ocean, and experiencing all kinds of seasons and weathers, (within survival parameters), and vistas! But, truthfully, even just a few hours spent some such somewhere, “remote” and alone, can be wonderful, — (or not, as I would sometimes discover!) — and would usually be quite sufficient to gather in my focus and energies (“regrouping” as they say), and to touch down on some transcendental peace and inspiration (hopefully), and then — lo and behold! — I would actually experience the “other desire” for a return trip to the warmth of human commerce, company and companionship!,…warts, chaos, — (mine & “theirs”) — and all!

    I can easily begin to feel “smothered,” or like “drowning”/confused, after too long of an extended period spent immersed in the complexities of the “horizontal” inter-twinings of human life, events and emotions, which hardly ever seem to settle down of their own accord, (as there always seems to be another “issue” — or ten! — on the horizon)!

    Matthew 6:34 “So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble.”

    Pulling away, to lean my head on “God’s shoulder,” is a necessary and regenerative part of being able to maintain the energy and clarity necessary for keeping up with “the ongoing dance,” (and at times, human “rat race”). Establishing and re-establishing the nourishing strength of the “vertical solidity” of our relationship to God and to the eternal verities, acts to keep the axis of this “spinning top” functioning more so at its peak, with clarity, and unwavering-ness. So easily can the collisions of life leave us a little “tipsy” and disoriented after awhile. (I’m sure we’re all different, but I know that I’m quite sensitive in this regard, and have to keep a keen watch on the helm of the energy currents, as I’m being affected by them.)

    But, truly, love does draw us back, calls us back, to touch and sense our common shared vulnerability, joys and sorrows, rest and challenges, understanding and mutual service and aid that we can offer to one another, all symbolized sometimes in a simple smile of acknowledgement. This sharing brings its own rewards, as we cooperate with “the Plan” of our Creator, dancing the cosmic dance while also dancing the earthly one — sometimes more aware of one than the other, even though they are happening, all the while, simultaneously.

    And the Eternal and Unwavering God has said “it was (and is) Good!” He also sent His Son to be with us and share with us in the experience and trials of our time here “in the flesh.” In this He showed us not only His Mighty Compassion, but His Willing Courage, and Long-suffering and Sacrificial Strength — All-Power and All-Gentleness and All-Understanding, all rolled up in One Unending Display of an Extravagantly Giving and Grandiose Love.

    And then He invites us to “take and eat,” to be joined intimately with Him, in Sacrifice and Victory!

    • Georgie:

      You are right. As Michael Gallup has written in his last few blogs, silence and solitude are crucial for our spiritual and emotional health. Part of the story I did not tell is that I am an extrovert: the definition being someone who gets emotional energy from being with people. Therefore for me too long in isolation actually drains me. I have tried to live that hermit life two or three times and now I know why I did not make it.

      But my point was not really about extroversion or introversion but about our tendency to believe that the monkish, aesthetic lifestyle is more spiritual. Silence and solitude and experiencing God in creation are wonderful but we were created be together and going to a party and laughing and talking can be just as deep–maybe deeper–of a spiritual experience as attending a silent retreat.

      I hope your summer is going well. Good to chat with you. Eugene

      • Thanks for the shout-out!

        I adore trinitarian theology. Well written article, I escpecially enjoy the connections between God’s identy and our own. However, I disagree that there are “models of Trinity are all around us.” Each of the examples given are woefully inadequate in comparrison to orthodox undersrtandings of what is the Trinity. The three modes of water are not co-existenent, the leaves of a three leaf-clover (which inspried St. Patrick) do not posses the sum of the whole. The Trinity is completely unique in all of creation. While the example listed offer glimpses and echos of this uniqueness, we are left with the pinacle of everything being soley unique. Augustine put it this way: “try to understand the Trinity and you will lose your mind, but try to deny it and you will lose your faith.”

        This uniqueness drives me deeper into wonder and awe at our incomprehensible God who still makes himself known. Thanks for the great blog!

      • Thanks, my friend. Looking forward to talking in person. Good points, Michael. God, not just a Trinitarian understanding of God, is unique (no need to qualify with “completely”). There is no theological system or metaphor that can capture all of God. As Michael Polanyi theorized, we cannot know the fullness of any whole (God especially) by examining the parts.

        But to misquote another Shakespeare, “I think the man doth protest too much.” I was not trying to dull the shine of the mystery of God as three in one.

        Yes, our metaphors and theological systems (even the orthodox understanding of the Trinity falls so far short) explaining the Trinity are inadequate. That does not mean the order of creation does not model or reflect a Trinitarian God. Just as our reflection of God’s image, imperfect as it is, still models or reflects God. I am a father but my Fatherness is a dirty rag compared to God’s. Still it reflects and models God’s image. I love but . . . . You get the picture. The partial or flawed nature of God’s image in me does not negate God using it in a myriad of ways.

        But . . . and this was my point . . . relationships are the one piece of the created order that model and reflect the Trinity more fully and completely than anything else because the Trinity is Relationship. We all co-exist and cannot exist without each other. We dance.

        When you use the phrase “incomprehensible God” you don’t mean that literally do you? I don’t believe God is incomprehensible in the literal sense as those who say God is “totally Other.” That we cannot know or understand God at all. I don’t believe this is true. The completeness of God is beyond us but we can comprehend God. Scripture is full of affirmation of this. “Come let us reason together,” God tells Isaiah. Know me, God begs us throughout scripture. Jesus said, If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.

        Stimulating conversation. Thanks. Eugene

  3. Great reply, well said. I did not intend ‘incomprehensible’ literally thus qualifing it with “but still makes himself known.”

    You offered a great image of how the imperfect creation reflects the glory of the perfect creator. “Push back” may have been a better phrase than “disagree.” I simply wanted to express my adoration with how much more beautiful and unique the Trinity is than anything in all creation. Judging from your response, we are of one accord.

    I miss you.

    • Yeah, that’s what I meant by the Shakespeare quote. Push back is more accurate. We are of one accord. And I did not really think you meant incomprehensible literally. I also heard your adoration very well and loved the challenge it brings to not just “think” about the Trinity but to worship God as Three-in-One. Eugene

  4. Georgie-ann

    Hi, Oogene! (-:

    (Summer is proceeding,…and all is well enough!,…thanks for the good wishes,…and the same to you and yours!)

    I would think that the number of really “permanent monks” in this society is very very low!

    And I’m sure we’ll find many variables on a continuum of introversion and extraversion as far as all people are concerned, but I think we’ll be needing to “dance” in some kind of way that will bring some balance to both, at least acknowledging both, — and as a Body, we will balance each other out in many wonderful ways! — if we’re open to the blessings!

    I tend to actually try (to work) to write about things that have been “less accessible” conceptually, via our usual cultural programming. The things that I’m assuming that are more generally “accepted” and more or less experienced by us all, like the joys of friendship, fellowship and “extraversion,” I guess I don’t particularly mention as much. (Maybe, “my bad!”?)

    I’m a person that enjoys groups “with a purpose or well-intentioned focus” very much — (stress-laden chaos, not so much!) — and am certainly open to good friends and family at any time. I even like to quietly smile a friendly smile, while looking “semi-strangers” in the eye (like the check-out person) — unless they’re just plain “too scary!” But I do also like to kick back, feet up, and think and organize my impressions and thoughts (being a former teacher), — and “chew the cud,” so to speak, — and even more so now that I’m older. I’ve certainly done my fair share of running around all over the place! But I may also be quicker than some to retreat to a time of resting and regrouping. We ARE ALL different,…but with similarities too! (And maybe “moderns” have different sets of things that they will be “taking for granted,” compared to the assumptions of us older people. Life can be very interesting that way!)

    But if we are doing all our “doings” in the Love of God, with hopes and intentions of benefits to all, what more can we do?? It’s simply great enough!! We should definitely enjoy God and one another!

    I’m pretty sure that a lot of so-called “introverts” can be fairly miserable people, as I’ve “been there” at times, myself! But being introverted is not a guaranteed birthright that a person will have “found God” “in there!” Introverts may actually “need” a lot of generous love and dialogue, but they will ultimately need to reconcile with God’s Love and Truth, first and foremost. Probably some of those “saved” introverts will be really happy to find out just how extraverted they can be!!

    And,….of course, not all extraverts have really found God “in there” either! We’re all “in process!” Wouldn’t it be funny if “saved” introverts became more extraverted, and “saved” extraverts became more introverted??!! I’ll bet it really does happen,…and maybe a lot!

    I’m not glorifying “introversion” per se, when I speak of finding quiet time for a personal relationship with God. “Seeking God’s Presence” in an extremely busied and distracted, secular CULTURAL setting, such as ours, has become a default setting these days, for “the way much less travelled,” even “unknown” or despised by many. So, I guess that is a large part of the reason that I feel drawn to address the issue.

    Given a few “completely free” hours — (I’m retired, remember!,…& I’ve “paid my ‘always-too-busy’ dues!”) — I could easily and happily divide them between visiting with some new-found Greek friends in their newly opened Gyro Deli, eating, chatting, reading newspapers, listening to their music, and drumming up business in general, and then drive down the road to a safe and scenic spot in front of a lovely Greek Orthodox Church on a hillside overlooking a farm with a very inviting horizon, sit happily alone in my car, read, pray, organize my mind and thoughts, gaze on clouds and beauty and think about God!,…til “whenever,”…and that would be for me a very GOOD and enjoyable day, for these days — people time & God time. And that’s just when I’m on “vacation” from choir/music and duties for my own church, and all the things daily living offers and requires in general.

    Normally, I wouldn’t write about my “stuff” like that, but I’m hoping to convince you that I’m not all about some kind of always quiet “holy” introverted-ness. I’m just about finding out that God is a Loving God who wants us to want to know and discover Him as He is, and that the Word of God, the Bible, contains very helpful and pertinent information for all of us in this regard.

    I guess it would also be good to add:

    1 John 1:3,4

    3 …”that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have FELLOWSHIP with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that YOUR JOY MAY BE FULL.”

    Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are GATHERED TOGETHER in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

    1 John 4:7-21 (excerpted) [Knowing God Through Love]

    7 “Beloved, LET US LOVE ONE ANOTHER, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. … 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. … 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. … 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”

    Hebrews 10:22-25

    22 “LET US DRAW NEAR with a true heart in full assurance of faith, …

    23 “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)

    24 “And let us CONSIDER ONE ANOTHER to provoke unto love and to good works:

    25 “NOT FORSAKING THE ASSEMBLING OF OURSELVES, as the manner of some is; BUT EXHORTING ONE ANOTHER: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

    1 Thessalonians 4:9-18 [A Brotherly and Orderly Life]

    9 “But concerning BROTHERLY LOVE you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 10 and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; 11 that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, 12 that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.”

    [The COMFORT of Christ’s Coming]

    13 “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, LEST YOU SORROW AS OTHERS WHO HAVE NO HOPE. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

    15 “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore, COMFORT ONE ANOTHER WITH THESE WORDS.”

    The Body is all about being a Blessing to one another — whether we love, hope, help, exhort, pray, comfort, feed, clothe, sing, preach! So, let’s be happy “rubbing shoulders,” “wearing out our knees,” “dancing, praising, worshipping,” being together in person, and in our hearts!

    God is Very Big Love!

  5. Georgie-ann

    I think the Trinity is supposed to be a “mystery,” that differentiates our concept of God from the pagan gods and other religions. An identity of quality and substance is shared, common to all, but functions and roles played are different. I would agree that Love and relationship are the basic “messages.”

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