A Circle Dance

Trinity: Week 1

A Circle Dance
Monday, February 27, 2017

You become the God you worship. In other words, your image of God creates you. If you get the image of God wrong, everything else that builds on it is going to be rather inadequate. That might seem like an overstatement, but let’s recognize how that’s been true in Western Christianity in particular.

The operative image of God for most Christians (except for the mystics) is a powerful monarch, usually an old white man sitting on a throne. It’s no accident that the Latin word for God, Deus, came from the same root as Zeus. At the risk of shocking you, let me say that Christianity hasn’t moved much beyond the mythological image of Zeus. Yet this is not the image of God revealed to us by Jesus—a vulnerable baby born in an occupied and oppressed land; a refugee; a humble carpenter whose friends were fishermen, prostitutes, and tax-collectors; a political criminal executed on a cross. In other words, Jesus shows a vulnerable God much more than the almighty one Christians often assume.

God’s “continually renewed immediacy,” [1] as Thomas Kelly put it, is too intimate and subtle for our dualistic and rational minds to grasp. Two thousand years after the revelation of God in Christ most of Christianity is still quite immature in terms of its ability to process what Jesus taught and demonstrated.

The Creation story in Genesis gives us a wonderful insight into God’s character by using plural pronouns: “Let us create in our image” (Genesis 1:26-27). Of course, this is problematic for monotheistic Judaism and Christianity. It took centuries to develop the doctrine of the Trinity. The Cappadocian Fathers (including Gregory of Nyssa, Basil of Caesarea, and Gregory Nazianzen) of fourth century eastern Turkey finally turned to a word from Greek theater, perichoresis—circle dance—to describe the foundational quality of God’s character: relationship and communion. In the beginning was relationship.

God is not the dancer but the dance itself! God is much more a dynamic verb than a static noun. God is constant flow. You don’t even need to understand it intellectually or theologically to participate in the flow of God. You are already there. Within your heart, body, and mind is an implanted flow toward life, goodness, love, communion, and connection. “Sin” is quite simply any resistance to that flow.

Trinity is saying, “In the beginning is the relationship.” When we start with God as relationship, we begin the spiritual journey on a very different foundation. This foundation is not static but continually evolving and creating new forms of communion and interdependence.

Gateway to Silence:
God for us, God with us, God in us

References:
[1] Thomas R. Kelly, A Testament of Devotion (New York: HarperOne, 1996, © 1941), 5.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Divine Dance: Exploring the Mystery of Trinity, disc 1 (CAC: 2004), CD, MP3 download; and
Living School symposium, unpublished talk, August 2016.

Image credit:  Möbius Strip (detail), Photograph by David Benbennick, 2005.

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