Perichoresis: The Divine Dance

perichoresisThere’s a Greek word that’s used to encapsulate the relationship between the three persons of the Triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). That word is perichoresis. It’s a compound word often simply defined as “rotation” or “a going around.”

The literal makeup of the word is peri (around) and chorein (to give way or make room). The idea (in relation to the Holy Trinity) is that each person of the Trinity moves around and makes room for the others. Some refer to this as the “Divine Dance.” The same term is often applied to the two inherent natures of Jesus (human and divine) as well as God’s relationship with creation. Simply put, there’s a never-ending dance going on, and the Lord is always a part of it.

I don’t mean to dazzle you with fancy terms here (I, too, had to look it up). However, I ran across this term recently and its definition sparked a whole different train of thought for me.

This past week, five policemen were shot dead in Dallas, Texas. If you haven’t heard about this, you are about as far off the grid as one can get. It’s an understatement to say that it was a horrific crime and a despicable act. I won’t attempt to add to the thousands of words written and spoken about it except to say I am numbed by the news.

At the memorial service for the five policemen, former President Bush delivered blackofficera six-minute oration. It was one of the best six minutes I’ve heard in a long time. In it, he made this statement. “Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions.” He, accordingly, received a goodly amount of applause for this particular sentence. He did so, I’m sure, because it hit the nail on the head and put a lot of things in a nutshell (if I may mix metaphors).

The violence in Dallas (as well as what’s been happening in many related incidents in this country), is a result of our failure as God’s creation to join in the dance. We have neglected our partner in the perichoresis if you will. God has asked us to dance, and, for the most part, we have refused.

This, of course, is nothing new. Adam and Eve got us off to a good start (or maybe I should say a bad start). Cain later killed his brother, Abel, and we’ve been headed down that path ever since. Dallas is another chapter in our long story of sin. (Whoops! I used the “s” word. At least it doesn’t have four letters.)

DANCE OF GRACEIt is sin that brings about sagas like the Dallas murders. Our sin is our refusal to “dance with the one who brung us.” If we continue to refuse his invitation, we will undoubtedly see more violence, brutality, and out and out madness.

We’ve been RSVP’d to the perichoresis. We might want to respond while the offer still stands.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

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