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Title: There is only the dance
Preacher: Canon Victoria Johnson, Precentor
Date: 4 June 2023 Trinity Sunday
Readings: Psalms 93 and 150, Isaiah 6:1-8, John 16:5-15
Do you remember the final of Strictly Come Dancing 2021? You might deny you watch it, but I know you do really!
To re-cap: The actor, Rose Ayling-Ellis and her partner Giovanni Pernice performed a routine which wowed the nation and won them the glitterball. Part way through their routine, the music stopped. But there in the stillness, there was movement. The dance carried on. All you could hear was the sound of bare feet on what seemed like holy ground. To see Rose dance through the silence, was incredibly moving. Silence, for her, was her daily experience of the world, because she was profoundly deaf. The ten seconds of quietness in the middle of the routine came to an end as the music launched back in and Rose and her partner hadn’t missed a single beat.
Faith is sometimes a bit like a dance that keeps going. Faith does not stand still. Faith is a moving thing, it is like someone on a pilgrimage, like fish swimming in a river, like a bird flying through the air, it’s like the joining of human hearts in love, it is like the comings and goings of life itself, from birth to death. Faith is about movement, about growth, about evolution, about spinning, and whirling, and circling, about being drawn in and then being sent out. When faith stops moving it becomes brittle and fragile, its energy and life is in the dance.
Our two readings pick up on this sense of movement, Isaiah is called into a vision of worship as he is stood in the temple. A seraph flies towards him, touches his lips with a coal from the altar, and commissions him in the name of the Lord. Whom shall I send, says the Lord, and who will go for us? Here am I, says Isaiah, send me. Isaiah is drawn in and then sent out.
Then Jesus articulates the movement between himself, the Father, and the spirit of truth: the dance between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus is returning to the one who sent him, but the Spirit of truth will come. In the persons of God, there is always a coming and going, a giving and receiving. It’s sometimes easy to think of religion as static, and concrete and still. Unchanging and immovable. Perhaps we are sometimes reluctant to take a leap of faith, or be open to what God is calling us towards, or where God is moving us to. It’s easy to think of Christians as stuck in their ways, and their views as set in stone but Christians have always been people ‘on the move’.
The God we believe in is also a God of movement and transformation, the God of a pilgrim people: turning hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, the God we believe in brings water from a rock, makes rivers in the desert and causes the wilderness burst into song. The God we believe in, cracks open the tomb and brings out new life, turning nights of sorrow into mornings of joy. The God we believe in is all about transformation and change. We are called to travel even when we are standing still, we are called to keep dancing even when the music stops. At the heart of God there is movement. There is energy. The God we believe in, is a community, ebbing and flowing, giving and moving, spinning, dancing together in perfect unity and concord, the moving heart at the centre of the universe.
At the still point of everything, says TS Elliot, in his Poem ‘The Four Quartets’, there the dance is and ‘there is only the dance’. The nature of God, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, has long been interpreted as a movement, as a dance. This is how the earliest christians in the second century came to describe God: as a perpetual movement, entwined and embracing, an eternal dance of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The word they used was a Greek one: perichoresis, which means to go or come around. The word implies an all encompassing movement and relationship. It is in the midst of this movement, this dance, that God is, and this is where God calls us all to be: in the dance which orders the universe, in the movement of faith, in the drawn-in and being sent-ness of our calling, to speak, to share, to care, to tend, to grow, to love, to approach the altar like Isaiah did, and be sent out from it day after day after day. All is movement with God. And even at the still point there is the dance, and only the dance.
We so often fall into the trap of imagining God into a box, of wanting God to be predictable, when God is there on the dancefloor, spinning together as one, drawing the whole of creation into their self, and drawing our stubborn hearts and heavy feet into the music and movement of their love.
This is God as Trinity, God as Unity, God as one, and as children of God’s love, we are invited in. Are we brave enough to step onto the dancefloor with God? God takes our hand, calls us to put on our dancing shoes, and says, dance then, wherever you may be, I am the Lord of the Dance, and I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be, and I’ll lead you all in the dance.
To the one and only living God, who dances for all eternity as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen
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