Historian Lester Ruth, a scholar whose work every worship leader should pay attention to, recently spoke to the National Worship Leader Conference this year in Washington, D.C.. He gave the most marvelous talk on what Trinitarian, Christ-mediated worship looks like and what its liberating implications are. In his talk, he gave one of the best illustration of how worship, in the moment, works Trinitarian-ly. Check this out:
Ancient Christians had a great image for describing this relationship of Jesus Christ and God the Father and the Holy Spirit. They said the relationship between the Three was like a big dance. The technical word was perichoresis. Like a lot of useful words, it’s a combination of two other words: peri meaning around and choresis meaning dance. We know these words: think periscope as something that allows you to look around and choresis as related to choreography. With respect to the Trinity, think of the three Persons as involved in a circle dance, moving so gracefully, so quickly, and so eternally that they seem as one although they are also three distinct partners.
And we get invited in to this dance. It’s not like one of those movie scenes about a prom where some guy goes in, taps another guy on the shoulder, and takes over dancing with the partner while the original guy heads to the sidelines. No, it’s more like what used to happen to me as a kid with my dad. When it came time to dance, he would have me climb up on his feet and hold his hands. And he would start to dance around the room. My job wasn’t to initiate the dance. My job was to stay attached to him, feet firmly on his, hands firmly in his and be attentive to this movements so I could join in with him. And we would dance around the room. When we were dancing, was it his movement or mine? Was it his energy or mine? Was it his liturgy or mine? Yes.
And so by the Holy Spirit we have been joined to Jesus Christ, we have climbed on to his nail-scarred feet and held on to his nail-pierced hands and, joined to him, was have been invited into the eternal circle dance of Father, Son, and Spirit. While we’re dancing with him, is it Jesus’ movement or ours on Sunday morning? Is it his energy or ours on Sunday morning? Is it his liturgy or ours on Sunday morning? Is it his worship of God the Father or ours on Sunday morning? Yes. Our job is not to initiate but to stay close to him, attentive to his movement, and eager to follow his every sway. And that’s the perspective that leads to liberation.
In one of my favorite posts I’ve ever written, I’ve described why this idea that Jesus worships FOR us is so liberating for exhausted worship leaders who till the hard soil of gathered worship each week. We can get so discouraged as we look out on the lifeless faces, disengaged bodies, distracted minds, and wandering hearts. And we can also get discouraged as we become honest about our own lackluster worship. It is a comforting word to know that our weak fumbling is swept up on the beautiful, strong, swift feet of our dancing Savior. O tired worshiper and worship leader, rest assured that our double-left-footed offering is perfected and beautified, each and every time we worship, by a capable Dancer who, by His grace, sweeps us up into all the joy that He eternally shares with the Father and the Spirit.