Thought for the month
In her sermon on Trinity Sunday, in order to describe the relationship at the heart of the Trinity – the three persons of the Godhead relating with one another – Helen Jenkins used the illustration of the distinctive Greek way of dancing called perichoresis, where there are not two dancers, but at least three, weaving in and out, and going faster and faster until their individual identities become part of a larger dance.
“The early church fathers and mothers looked at that dance (perichoresis) and said, ‘That’s what the Trinity is like.’ It’s a harmonious set of relationship in which there is mutual giving and receiving. This relationship is called love, and it’s what the Trinity is all about. The perichoresis is the dance of love.’
“Any image like this for the Trinity will only ever be a metaphor, but the beauty of this metaphor of dance is that it is one that can draw others in. The dance isn’t one that is exclusive to the Godhead, but instead they reach out to draw us into it. We too can be part of that beautiful pattern of interweaving dance partners; we too can get caught up in the energy, the rhythm, the passion. We can find in it a place of transformation.
“And the dance isn’t just for us here in the church, it’s for the whole world. For God so loved not ‘the people in church on a Sunday’ or ‘the people who live blameless lives’ but God so loved the world, kosmos in the Greek, everything and everyone. This is a party that everyone’s invited to. …
“But for others to join in, they need an invitation, and they may need to hear that invitation over and again before they find the courage to put a foot in the dance and risk being swept up. “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” God asks Isaiah. Do we have the courage to join Isaiah in responding “Here I am, send me!” Will we allow our lives and words to be an invitation to others to join the dance. …
“Today, whether you have been immersed in the dance for many years or whether you feel like you’re only dipping your toes in the edges, whether you hear the rhythm and know all the steps or are worried about tripping over your own feet and getting it wrong, whether your pace is fast or slow, will you come and join the dance of the Trinity, and as you join it will you hold out your hands to others and invite them in too to a place where everything can be turned around as we live and learn in community with each other and with God.”
You can read the whole of Helen’s sermon, and see its context, at this link.
What exactly happened at the first Christian Pentecost? The honest answer is that we don’t know. The wind, the fire, and the tongues defy scientific explanation. We are dealing here with extraordinary phenomena which defy description. But ultimately these supernatural phenomena are not important. For the key question we need to ask is not so much ‘What happened?’ as ‘What does it mean?’ This was the question asked by the crowd: “Amazed and confused, they kept asking each other, ‘What does this mean?’” (Acts 2.12). As Peter went on to explain, this was the day when God poured out his Spirit on young and old, men and women, people from every race and nation. There was nothing monochrome about the new community which the Spirit created – instead there was rich diversity within the new fellowship of the Spirit.
The final paragraph of Paul Beasley-Murray’s blog.
… and it’s Ascension Day, the day of the ‘acted parable’ through which Jesus demonstrated to his disciples that he was going to the Father, recorded by Luke in Luke 24:50-53 and expanded on in Acts 1:1–11. As Paul Beasley-Murray continues in his blog, the Ascension is “three chapters in one day”:
- It marked the end of a chapter – the end of Jesus’ resurrection appearances to those who loved him.
- It marked the beginning of a new chapter in which the risen ascended Lord Jesus is seated “at God’s right hand” – another way of saying that he was exercising power delegated to him by God himself.
- It also anticipates a final chapter when Christ will return.
We don’t know when that final chapter might be, but we do know that Christ told his disciples that they should get on with the work to be done on earth. “The times and occasions are set by my Father’s own authority, and it is not for you to know when they will be. But when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1.7–8). As Dr Beasley-Murray says: “The mission of Jesus may have ended with the Ascension, but for us, the ascension marks the beginning of our mission. We have a world to win and a world to serve.”
[Our composite image – three contrasting stained-glass interpretations of our Lord’s Ascension – can be seen in context at this link]