Modern Trinitarian thought uses a word spoken by Gregory of Nazi-anzus and Maximus the Confessor to describe how three can be one. These ancient thinkers referred to the inner life and the outer working of the Trinity as peri-co-reses. It means literally in the Greek, “to dance,” suggesting a dynamic, intimate relationship shared by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
C. S. Lewis once wrote:
All sorts of people are fond of repeating the Christian statement that ‘God is love.’ But they seem not to notice that the words ‘God is love’ has no real meaning unless God contains at least two Persons. Love is something that one person has for another person. If God was a single person, then before the world was made, [God] was not love…
And that, writes Lewis,
is perhaps the most important difference between Christianity and all other religions: that in Christianity, God is not a static thing—not even a person—but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost a kind of drama. Almost, a kind of dance…
And now, what does it all matter? It matters more than anything else in the world. The whole dance, or drama, or pattern of this Three-Personal life is to be played out in each one of us: (or putting it the other way around) each one of us has got to enter that pattern, take his [or her] place in that dance. There is no other way to the happiness for which we were made.
I want to assert that the the problem with most churches today is that there is just not enough dancing. For some reason, maybe it is from our Puritan roots, church people are too reserved and rigid. Most of us prefer to keep our faith personal, private, than let it all hang out for others to see.
There’s a great dancer in our Bible that I believe the church could learn a thing or two from. We read about him in 2 Samuel 6.
After David led a great army to get possession of the Ark of the Covenant to return it to Jerusalem, David and his army were so overcome with what was going on that they engaged in festive rejoicing and dancing. They were seized by what James Newsome, New Testament professor of Columbia Seminary calls “a spirit of prophetic ecstasy.”
The scriptures say that David sang and danced before God “with all his might.” He sang and danced before God with all that he had and with all that he was.
You might say that David was God-intoxicated. And when you become God-intoxicated, so filled with the Holy Spirit of God, there’s just know way you can keep it private.
When David and his wife Michal arrived home from the party and began preparing to turn in for the night, David, if he was anything like me, was probably hoping to hear some words of affirmation from his wife. Something like, “Honey, you were so wonderful today. As I listened to you sing and watched you dance in the streets, you just don’t know how proud I was of you! You danced your heart out! And why shouldn’t you have, you brought the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem where it belongs!”
However, the words David hears are something like: “David, you looked like a drunken fool.”
Perhaps David did act like an intoxicated fool. Uninhibited and unrestrained, he lost all self-control. Seized by “a spirit of prophetic ecstasy,” David held absolutely nothing back. David surrendered to the Spirit which had filled him.
David danced, charged by the rule of God. David danced, electrified by the justice of God. David danced a dance of total self-surrender. David danced, holding nothing back. David danced giving all that he had and all that he was to God. And there was absolutely nothing personal or private about this dance. This dance caused a scene. This dance created a fuss. This dance got people’s attention. This dance challenged the status quo. This dance disturbed the peace.
And Michal despised David for it.
This is what happens when one drinks what Paul calls in Ephesians “huge draughts of the Spirit of God.” This is what happens when one becomes God-intoxicated. There is no way to control it, temper it. There is no way to conceal it. There is no way to regulate it to two hours on a Sunday morning. When one becomes drunk with the rule of God, the love of God, one’s feet will inevitably move to the dance of the gospel, and one will be despised for it.
The truth is: the dance of the gospel is a dangerous dance. The dance of the gospel is a disturbing dance. Because the active affirmation the rule of God does not set well with the Michals of the world.
The dance of personal, private piety are easier steps to follow, aren’t they? The message of false prophets watering down the gospel of Christ as nothing more than a little dose of “chicken soup for the soul” is much easier to swallow. If we just get ourselves right with the Lord, if we pray right and live right, if we are good moral people, if we don’t drink, dance, smoke or chew or go with girls who do, then God will bless us and one day send us to heaven.
The dance of the gospel is radically different. The dance of the gospel are steps to the beat of a different drum. If we get right with the Lord; if we pray right and live right; if we lose all inhibitions and all restraint; if we completely surrender ourselves to the rule of God; if we love others as Christ loves us, unconditionally, unreservedly; if we question the status quo, if we disturb the peace; if we dance to the beat of this drum, then we will invariably upset some folks.
That’s a good question for all of us who are attempting to follow Jesus, is it not? In your walk with Jesus, are you getting any push back?”
The answer should always be “yes,” for the dance of the gospel is a dance of self-surrender to a radical beat. It is a beat of sacrifice. It is a beat of selflessness. It is a beat of self-expenditure. It is a beat of a scandalous love and an offensive grace. And to world, as the Apostle Paul warned the Corinthians, if we let go and dance to this beat, we are certain to look like fools.
And as Luke warned us in Acts chapter 2 last week, when we are filled with the Holy Spirit of God, we may even be accused of public drunkenness, even if it before 9am in the morning.
We will be called drunken fools when we offer our friendship and our food to a group of people on a late Sunday afternoon who can offer us nothing in return.
We will be called drunken fools we spend valuable time volunteering at the hospital, visiting a nursing home, serving lunch in a soup kitchen, or spending a week of your hard earned vacation as a counselor at church camp.
We will be called drunken fools when we offer love and forgiveness to our enemies, when we give the shirt off our backs to complete strangers in need.
We will be called drunken fools anytime we love anyone with the self-expending love of Christ—whenever we love someone without inhibitions, without restraints, and without any strings attached.
We will be called drunken fools when we continue to challenge the status quo, question immoral systems of injustice, and disturb the peace.
For the Michals of the world despise this dance. And they will do everything in their power to stop this dance.
We have all heard their voices: loud echoes which discourage such dancing. “Don’t get too close to him. Do not give your heart to her. You will be sorry. They will only let you down.”
“Don’t love that man. He has done absolutely nothing to deserve it and will never reciprocate.”
“Don’t love that woman. She is too needy. She never does anything to help herself. She will demand too much.”
The voices of Michal say: “The system is not that broken. The poor get what they deserve. Most minorities have it pretty good in our country, and they are the real racists. Public education is not worth fighting for. Healthcare is not a right.”
The voices of Michal say: “Keep your faith private, personal. Keep it between you and God. Don’t stir up trouble. Just sit on a pew and look forward to going to heaven. Sing behind stained glass. Forget about being missional. Don’t worry about your neighbor. Don’t waste your time giving yourself away to strangers. Loving like that is crazy. It is too risky. It leads to too much pain.”
However, there is another voice, a Divine voice that was heard by David: “These are serious times, so let’s drink large draughts of the Holy Spirit, until we are all God-intoxicated! Let’s sing and dance in the streets with all we have.” It is a voice which says: “Let’s Dance! Hold nothing back. Give yourself away. Surrender yourself to the beat of the heart of the gospel. Love. Love honestly and deeply. Love courageously and graciously. Lose yourself. Empty yourself. Pour yourself out. Question the systems of injustice. Defend the powerless. Stand up for the marginalized. Challenge the status quo. Disturb the peace.”
Will this love cause pain? It will cause enormous pain. But the joy of God which will consume you will be so immense the suffering will be well worth it.
You’ve heard me quote the great Oklahoman theologian, Garth Brooks’: “I could have missed the pain, but I would have had to have missed the dance.”
Dancing the dance of the gospel will inevitably bring pain. However, never truly following in the steps of Jesus to avoid that pain is never really living. There is no joy being a wallflower on the wall of life or being a Sunday morning pew-napper.
So, let’s get our backs up off the wall! Let’s drink huge draughts of the spirit of God, and let us dance! Let’s go out and dance in the streets of Enid and have seizures of prophetic ecstasy!
Now, be warned! We will look like drunken fools, and we will suffer for it. But the immense joy of God, the joy of abundant life, now and forevermore, is well worth it.