The term perichoresis—coined by Early Church Fathers to describe how God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are ONE while still three—comes from “peri” (around) and “choreio” (dance—the root of “choreography”).It is a “dancing around” as in ballet, where all movements are planned and executed in such a way that a story unfolds.
The perichoretic nature of the Trinity is indeed a beautiful story; one we must each see unfold—if we are to ever understand it as The Story we find ourselves in.It’s a story of community, Eternal Community, where all act continually for the other’s benefit.Giving and receiving that which is needful—with no need unmet—as a manifestation of the Kingdom of God.This community is the space-time where the Will of God is continually being accomplished.
Humans (God’s image bearers) have been invited to join the Triune God in their interpenetrating, perichoretic Eternal Community.And unless we understand the nature of this dance, it won’t seem like a glorious story-telling dance at all.Rather, it will seem more like, um, the nervous and stifled dancing at a shotgun wedding.Because to really dance one must be free.And to know true freedom in Christ is to dance uninhibited before (with!) God.[Think of David in 2 Samuel 6.]
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.Stand firm, them, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”Galatians 5:1 (keep reading)
There are those, however, who believe that the Triune God (Father-Son-Holy Spirit) exists in a hierarchy, rather than as co-equals.It seems they must believe this about the Eternal Community in order for them to proclaim hierarchy as the Divine intention for the structure and functioning (like a yoke?) of the Covenant Community—the Church.
I have come to believe that these folks don’t fully comprehend either community or covenant—and definitely not covenant community!Community is where a diverse group chooses to manifest their unity and exercise their influence together.Covenant is a binding agreement concerning how the parties are going to relate to one another.But the Church as New Covenant Community goes beyond these simple definitions.It is the coming together of all those who have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, who have accepted the terms and conditions (which include the benefits for faithfulness as well as the consequences for unfaithfulness) of the New Covenant Jesus mediates between humans and God:adoption.
Faithful covenant keeping is conveyed with an important Hebrew concept centered on the word chesed: looking out for the best interest of the other, according to the covenant.cHesed loves with deliberate affection—responding with submission.It shows spontaneous, unmerited grace—responding with service.It extends mercy as kindness mutually owed—responding with the proper initiative to guarantee their success.[For a closer look, see these posts at my blog.]Friends, this is not about power over the other, but power for the other’s ultimate benefit.
Covenant breaking is conveyed by the archery concept of missing the mark (“sin”)—the result of losing focus, aiming poorly and failing to execute well.When this happens, it is best to admit it quickly, ask forgiveness and reconcile.It is no longer about law and guilt and punishment, but about learning from the Spirit how to dance together as the Bride of Christ—in order to dance flawlessly with our beloved Groom at the great Wedding Banquet the Father is preparing.
That’s why Covenant Community is about perichoresis—it just cannot be about hierarchy or power…because freedom is at the core of community.The Eternal Community that is God exists as Father-In-Son and Son-In-Father through the Holy Spirit.It is the Spirit that leads The Dance, as Divine Choreographer.Not assigning the steps, but inspiring and empowering them—in and through all dancers.The Spirit sets the music and rhythm in our hearts—our bodies and souls become entrained to its resonance….
Hierarchy in relationships is a human construct to make sense of complex groupings—people, tasks, things, etc.Reality is a bit more of a swirling affair.JSome things that don’t seem to relate to each other often have unexpected and very dynamic connections—if one has the freedom to see and the courage to embrace them.Power, simply, is the ability to affect change.It is neither good nor bad, in and of itself.Whether power is good or bad has more to do with the kind of change being affected, as well as the means used to do it.
When hierarchy uses power to compel, stifling freedom and courage, it, um, misses the mark.When the Church rejects the gloriously creative responsibility that accompanies freedom in Christ by grasping for the security (irresponsibility?) that comes with hierarchy or power, the Bride of Christ becomes quadriplegic…She cannot get up and dance with the Groom.The members of the Body are just not properly connected to each other—they have not allowed the Holy Spirit to inspire and empower them to dance together.
I’m fairly confident that Christ is not content with a quadriplegic Bride—so why is the Bride not looking to get out of that chair?She’s taken her eyes off of Christ.Gulp.There I said it!
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This Dance is the Eternal Ballet.God’s covenant making is his way of bringing their perichoretic reality into human relationships—so that we may be one as they are one (John 17). The Holy Spirit provides the “virtual” connection. As we “dance” together (loving God and loving others) we are called to help each other “dance” without stumbling.We focus on our steps and with those who dance with us.The longer we stay in The Dance, the better we are at keeping our focus. Steps become surer and more natural; the rhythm smoother, with more depth of feeling and nuanced movement.
Remember, the point of the “mark” as target in the Hebrew mind-set is not the “bulls-eye” of perfection, but rather the active restraint of proper focus.If we are focusing on and participating in The Dance, we hit the target (even if only the outer ring). If we are not focused on The Dance, it is impossible to hit what is not in our sights.
The “mark” is unhindered flow of The Dance, and so “missing the mark” is whatever hinders that flow. We must continually be aware of The Dance and our part in it. If we get out of step, those around us will be tangled with us. So we watch our step and follow the Spirit’s lead—mindful of those with whom we dance…gracefully “leading” each other when we lose focus.
The image of unhindered dancing keeps the reality of sin ever before us–only a step away–instead of filed away in ugly categories that “good” people don’t normally relate to.When we see sin as being out of sync with God’s dance—our “eyes” on our own self-interest—we recognize this as breaking covenant with God and with our neighbors.We must not turn a blind eye; out-of-sync dancers throw off the entire dance. To look away and not acknowledge the lack of focus impacts us all, throws off our steps, and ridicules The Dance itself.Those who are out of step and unwilling to follow the Spirit’s steps, must be lovingly asked to sit out until they are ready to repent and return.And when they re-join The Dance, we slow down to let them in and ensure they are in step before we pick up the pace.
Freely engaging in The Dance, doing our best to keep our focus and step and rhythm, helping each other do the same—all empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit—this is our spiritual service of worship (Romans 12).And there is nothing quite as enticing to an on-looker as a beautiful song inspiring a joyous dance.Pretty soon they’re moving…entranced by the resonance of the Spirit…waiting to be offered the freedom that dances.
Freely you have received; freely give.(Matthew 10:8)
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I write as “M.A. Brown”, live as “Peggy”, “Aunt Peggy”, “Mom” and “Mrs. Brown” and blog as “AbiSomeone” at The Virtual Abbess.My 43-year-long journey in The Way of Jesus currently finds me 2 ½ years into preparations for the launch of a neo-monastic discipleship community called CovenantClusters—where the Bride will definitely be seen dancing.
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