We like to move it, move it
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
I wonder how you have experienced God. In what small moments and grand waves have you encountered the divine in your life?
I know I have come close to God in the wind the scatters seeds of vibrant wildflowers across the plain or a breeze that offers refreshing relief on a hot summer day. I have experienced God that fills the lungs of my screaming 6 pound daughter at the beginning of life and received the last breath of my grandfather to graciously greet him at the end. This is a God that speaks and whose word is powerful enough to create out of nothing, to conjure up the towering redwoods and the soft petals of a bloom that pushes its way through the cracks of an urban sidewalk. Perhaps you have experienced God in the phone call of a friend who just wanted to say “hey”, but their timing was somehow just what you needed. Perhaps you have experienced God in the voice of bystanders who stand up to bullies with their off-color jokes, their rants, or their chokeholds and say, “that is not how you treat a child of God.”
It is God who inspires the voice of prophets and caring friends, who is present in our inmost being and the heart of those who forgive us our shortcomings. This is a God that stirs us up and gives us courage beyond our own hope.
The Gospel writer is reflecting on this question of how we have experienced God. We can’t fully wrap our minds around all that God is, but we know that we experience God as Father, as Son, and as Holy Spirit…as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Throughout the arc of time and place, we experience one God in three. Words fall short of capturing the profound truth in this vast mystery. We come up with metaphors to try and expand on and quantify its meaning, but they can’t measure up. Our analogies are anemic. Maybe you have heard some of these.: The trinity is like water which can take on three forms: gas, liquid , and solid…but that doesn’t quite fit. The trinity is like a star where you have the object, it’s light, and the radiant heat…but that doesn’t really work either. The best I could ever come up with is that the trinity is like a 3-in-1 shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. I mean, technically, it is all three at once but it’s not actually good at any of those three functions. All of these analogies miss the mark. These are all feeble attempts to contain multitudes. But aren’t you glad that God is bigger than a single metaphor about an apple?
The questions we get to wrestle with alongside the disciples today are big ones. Who is God? And what does that mean for us? What does that mean for us as people created in God’s image?
The nature of God who is three in one is not an object we can nail down, but an event that continues to unfold. While the doctrine of the trinity is static, the nature of the trinity is dynamic. The nature of the trinity is community, communion, relationship. The nature of God is relational, is moving, is love. The nature of God is this flowing, in and out and in between. What the great commission points to is God as an event - an ongoing event; a happening - a happening right now. Some thinkers have invited us to imagine the trinity, to imagine the nature of God as a dance.
What an intriguing way to respond to the question of who is God? God is a bachata, a waltz, a haka. God is responsive, moving with the fullness of life and the intimacy of shared love….in community.
Somehow all of God is distinct, yet fully one. Each dances in their own way, and yet it is one dance. They are distinct and they do not lose their uniqueness and yet they are completely a part of each other.
This gives us a glimpse into the God who is bigger than we can hope. This gives us an image who God is by how God is. This is the image we were created in. This is the way of being that grounds our commission, our life together as children of God and as God’s church. This is what we are called to baptize others into. Because we find our rest and our roots in the God who rules over all of creation, therefore we baptize in the name of this expansive three in one. We baptize in God’s name. We baptize in the name of the trinity, not in our name. We point to hope in the relationship of God, not just in our limitations. In baptism we are invited into the dance, the mystery, into the abundant wonder and joy.
We are not baptized in the name of John, not in the name of one congregation or a particular denomination, not even only in the name of Jesus, but in the name of the fullness of God who is life-giving life in community. When we baptize, we baptize in the name of a dynamic dancing God.
We are baptized into the dance. It’s like we are compelled to join in that song that our body can’t resist moving and shaking to. You know the one. For my daughter it’s “oh don’t you dare look back, just you’re your eyes on me, I said you’re holding back, she said…..shut up and dance with me! Can’t stop the feeling so just dance dance dance. The rhythm is gonna get ya. Let the rhythm take you over, bailamos. It’s like that scene in Sister Act where the soulful songs of old are given new life and the sound is pouring out of the church, beckoning passersby to take a peek and see and discover…this is a song that reaches me, moves me, gives me life.
It’s the dance of the dawn of creation, a dance of defiant wonder, a dance that announces freedom to the captives, that comforts those who mourn, a dance that binds up the brokenhearted. It’s a dance that moves with authority, a powerful pirouette that proclaims promise, new life. Baptism, then, is not a benign rite of passage but a “welcome to the dance party.”
It’s also true that dances can also be sorrowful and there’s room for that. Life within the triune God does not mean that we live without pain or hurt. But there is healing in the promise that there is also something more and that we do not experience this alone, nor do we wait without hope.
This glimpse of God reveals her nature as inherently both communal and loving. One God in three persons whose shared, mutual, and sacrificial love spills out through the world and all its inhabitants. And I think that, ultimately, we are called to be church in a similar way. Loving, respecting, and caring for each other in a way that spills out through our neighborhoods and communities in tangible, empowering, and compelling ways.
The disciples follow Jesus’ direction to Galilee. They came, they saw, they had various reactions and feelings about the whole thing. The disciples are imperfect and unsure people, and yet they are also made in the image of God. They have their flaws and yet God uses them to bring forth God’s promises among us. They are just a handful of 11 people, but they will make disciples of all nations. Jesus declares that this is who they are, they are rooted in the authority of the creator of the cosmos. They are baptized and it compels them to invite others into that same baptism. They have new life which is marked by the triune God whose nature is community, relationship, love. Their own being is a reflection of this dynamic God. They get to share the good news of that gift with the whole world. They get to say to others that this is who you are too. Come and see what God commands – a way of being in which we love our neighbors and where God is cherished above all else. Come and dance with us! How can we keep from singing?
At the heart of every authentic and nurturing relationship, is a promise. A promise that is an echo of Jesus’ promise, “I am with you, I am for you, let’s see what we can do together.” God, the three in one, is creation and is the end of the age, the alpha and the omega, and everywhere in between. Everywhere you go, God is there with you. That's the promise. Promises create relationships and possibilities.
So what if we really believed that we bear God’s image? What if we really believed God is with us? How would we be? What would you dream, dare, and do if you believed that Jesus is with you, no matter what?
Among KINDRED, it’s one of the reasons we gather for worship the way we do. If our God is one of mutual relationship and community, how do we reflect that in the way we gather and interact? For us, it means worship happens in circles rather than rows. The triune God is what happens around the tables of DINNER CHURCH as we share our lives and our being with one another, as we are revealed to be people who are distinct and diverse, as we wrestle with how to be one community without demanding assimilation or conformity. The nature and the promise of the triune God shapes the way we engage each other when we realize that God is already a part of the being of everyone we encounter.
Our call is to live under the banner of the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sustainer. We are promised that God is with us. So what if it’s really true? What would you dare to dream? What would our ministry look like, our lives look like, our way of being look like, our congregations look like?
Words fall short of capturing its truth. Our analogies are anemic. This is why we need the arts in the church. Last night, together, we put paint to canvas to create something as one. What if you gave yourself 15 minutes to create? To color, sing, dance, conduct a poem, or craft. Do not worry about it taking any particular form, but allow it to be what it will be.