Summary: A sermon for Trinity Sunday, Series B
Trinity Sunday, June 7, 2009 “Series B”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Oh God, reveal yourself to us and give us the grace to love and to follow your self-revelation that we receive from you. Keep us open minded, always seeking to know more of your redeeming grace, revealed to us through your Son Jesus the Christ, and ever present to us through the presence of you Holy Spirit. Cultivate in us a desire to live in relationship with you, that we might at last, come to see you face to face, and know the splendor of your being. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Let me begin by saying that I can understand, that as we move into the season of Pentecost, the church has chosen this Sunday to sum up what we have learned to this point, about what God has done to reveal himself to us, and to the world. And in all honesty, I must admit that I do not fully understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity, even though I believe that we worship one God, who is known to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But then, who among us can dare to presume to completely understand God.
The only concept that makes sense to me is a cup of tea. You can take a tea bag which has a blend of Orange Pekoe and Black teas, place it in a cup of hot water, and the solution that results is tea. All three individual elements are present, but in solution, they can not be separated.
The author of our Gospel lesson for this morning also believed in the unity of the Trinity. John began his Gospel with these words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…” It was John’s way of expressing his belief that there is, and that we worship only one God, even though God reveals himself to us in three persons.
With this in mind, let us turn to our lesson for this morning. Here, John tells us that a Pharisee named Nicodemus comes to Jesus in the darkness of the night, seeking to understand Jesus’ true identity. And listen to the words that Nicodemus uses in his approach to Jesus. “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do the signs that you do apart from the presence of God.”
Clearly Nicodemus had some understanding that in order for Jesus to do the miracles that he had done to this point in his ministry, God had to be working through him. Yet I doubt that Nicodemus truly understood the extent to which God was truly present in Jesus. I believe that Nicodemus may have though that Jesus may have been a prophet, in the tradition of Elijah, who had found favor with God, and who was able to perform some miraculous signs in years past.
In answer to these opening remarks of Nicodemus, we need to turn to the concluding two verses of our text, where Jesus says to Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the word, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
Here, Jesus affirms to Nicodemus that God is not just present to him, enabling him to perform miracles. Rather, Jesus affirms that the God who created the universe, the very author and giver of life here on earth, is the God who sent him. God, the Father of all that exists, is the one whose love for us, initiated the action to redeem the world. We can not read these verses without understanding that Jesus and his heavenly Father are so united in their love for us, their desire for our redemption, that they act as one.
Yet, from these verses, we are reminded that the action begins with the Father. The Father is the one to whom Jesus submits his will, and for whom he lives his life. And to clarify to Nicodemus just how God would redeem the world, Jesus says in verse 15, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
You may remember the story about how poisonous snakes came upon the Israelites during their exodus from bondage in Egypt. God instructed Moses to make a bronze image of a serpent, put it on a pole so that the people could see it. If a person was bitten by one of the poisonous snakes, they were to look at the bronze serpent, and they would live.