There were many, many things I could have purchased at the annual Plowsharing Fair Trade pop-up store hosted by Peter’s UCC, Washington, Missouri, more than a decade ago. But a soapstone carving of three figures dancing was the only one to capture my theological imagination: it made me think of God.
With Jews, Christians, and Muslims around the world, I believe there is one and only one God. (We make gods of many things – but that is a thought for another day.)
As a Christian pastor and teacher I wrestle with the historic doctrine of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. One of my favorite teachings about the Trinity has to do with ideas of fellowship, community, and dance. Theologian Shirley C. Guthrie introduces it this way:
John of Damascus, a Greek theologian who lived in the seventh century, developed this understanding of the Trinity with a concept called perichoresis (perry-ko-ray’-sis). This Greek word is worth learning because it gives us a lovely picture of God. Peri (as in perimeter) means “around.” Choresis means literally “dancing” (as in the choreography of a ballet). Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are like three dancers holding hands, dancing around together in harmonious, joyful freedom.
(Shirley C. Guthrie, Christian Doctrine, Revised Edition (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1994), 91)
Guthrie goes on to say that the “oneness of God is not the oneness of a distinct, self-contained individual; it is the unity of a community of persons who love each other and live together in harmony.” (p. 92)
“The unity of a community.”
Isn’t that a lovely image? One is not whole without the others. The others are not whole without every single one. One might dance alone. But whether we are speaking of God or of a fellowship of believers, only in community is the dance made whole.
May you dance with God today.