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The Rev. Dr. Peter Samuelson The Rev. Dr. Peter L. Samuelson

The Rev. Dr. Peter Samuelson is a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

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The Dance of the Trinity: the ultimate "Dancing with the Stars."

May 31, 2010

In his sermon posted on the Day1 website for Holy Trinity Sunday, the Rev. Canon Chuck Robertson invites us to view the idea of God as Three-in-one as a dance.  I am taking up this invitation by further suggesting that the dance of the Trinity is not just any dance, but a ballroom dance.

My wife and I have been taking ballroom dance lessons for the past 8 years or so.  While not quite ready for "Dancing with the Stars,"  we have learned a thing or two about dance which informs my consideration of the "dance of the Trinity."

In ballroom dance there are two partners: a lead and a follow.  Convention has it that the man is the lead and the woman the follow but the gender of the lead and the follow are not important.  What is important is - as they say - it takes two to tango.  More specifically, it takes a lead and a follow to tango. 

When the two are properly positioned  ("in frame" to use ballroom dance lingo) they really then move as one.  This is the magic of ballroom dance: that two bodies become one - they move as one.  There is a lead who initiates the movement and a follow who responds to the movement but they move as one unit.  They are two in one.

Now in my mind, God is the lead in this dance of the Trinity and Jesus the follow.  Jesus talks about his relationship this way, especially in the gospel of John.  For example in the 10th Chapter when speaking of his work in the world, Jesus says: "The Father and I are one" (v. 30).

If "it takes two to tango," how can a dance represent the Trinity?  Well,  you can't really have a dance - and you certainly can't have ballroom dance - without music.  In this way you need three parts to make a ballroom dance: you need a lead; you need a follow; and you need music.

The Holy Spirit is the music, the beat the pulse by which the Trinity moves.  The key element of this image of the Trinity - the reason that a dance is a good picture of what God in three persons is like is -  that it depicts God as a movement.   God is not anything if not on the move.  Consider how God moved over the waters in Creation (Genesis 1) or how the Spirit drove Jesus into the Wilderness (Luke 4)  and how the Spirit appeared as tongues of fire moving the reluctant disciples to witness (Acts 2). 

While ballroom dance is certainly a wonderful spectator sport, it is much more joyous as a participant. How do we participate in the "dance of the Trinity?"    It is through our participation in Christ.  Paul teaches us that through baptism we die to sin and rise to new life in Christ (Romans 6).  Paul provides an enduring metaphor for our participation in the resurrected life of Christ when he declares in 1 Corinthians 12: "You are the body of Christ and individually members of it" (v. 27).   In the dance of the Trinity, then, we participate as Christ's body, following God's lead.  God indicates to us to do those moves that God has led throughout the ages: moves of justice, mercy, peace and love.  It all moves to the music of the Holy Spirit who provides the inspiration, the pace, the occasion and the heart of the dance.

 There is hardly a greater joy than when I and my wife are moving purposefully and gracefully as one while we listen to the beat of the music. With God in the lead and we, as we live in Christ, in the follow, moving to the beat of the Holy Spirit, the joy of the dance of the Trinity is ours as well. 


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