Trinity Sunday - "The wonder of our God"
Sermon: “The wonder of our God”
Today is Trinity Sunday! May is full of liturgical hope in our Christian year, as we move from Ascension Sunday to Pentecost Sunday and now to Trinity Sunday! I was curious how this Trinity Sunday got named for this particular Sunday of our liturgical year. I learned that Thomas Becket, who was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury on the Sunday after Pentecost, was the source! On his first act as Archbishop he ordained that the day of his consecration be held a s new festival in honour of the Holy Trinity. This observance spread from Canterbury throughout the whole of western Christendom. And here we are today. Holy Trinity Sunday. I’m always a bit overwhelmed on Trinity Sunday—God, three in one. How am I supposed to sum up the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for you in one neat sermon package? Thankfully, today’s Scripture reminds me that I don’t have to!
Nicodemus is probably one of my favourite characters in the Bible. He’s a leader of the Jews, he’s a learned teacher. He knows that Jesus came from God. He’s pretty good with all the facts and keeping things straight. And this passage you heard read from John 3 is a glimpse into the conversation that Nicodemus has with Jesus. Thankfully, that conversation was not meant for just Nicodemus, but for us all, and we get to receive it today, just as Nicodemus did!
Now, Nicodemus is perplexed. And as we come into this Trinity Sunday, you might be, too. A fun fact is that the word Trinity is never found once in the Bible. It is inferred---we know that there is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This beautiful Rublev icon shows the image in a lovely way. This icon represents the three visitors who came to visit Sarah and Abraham. This icon is called “The Holy Trinity.” The Trinity is a mystery, not meant to be understood fully, but absorbed throughout our very being. In today’s passage, Nicodemus is trying to understand the details of what Jesus is telling him. But it feels like there’s more than he can see, and that’s precisely what Jesus is trying to help him grasp.
I remember one time when I was a school-teacher, I attended a workshop on Creative Thinking. I signed up for this particular workshop to gain some insight on how I might help my students think outside the box, so to speak. I was about 25 at the time, and I have never forgotten this day. The speaker was the most creative person I think I’ve ever heard. I was mezmorized. You know how it is, though, when you go to these conferences, or whatever trying to help you better yourself in your field, and you see something so magnificent, that you know you can’t replicate it. It’s just not you. I was feeling that. BUT, I still wanted to replicate his creative mind in my teaching space. I cornered him after the talk—“HOW are you like this? HOW did you become so incredibly creative in the way you see things and do things? Tell me, Sinsei. His reply: “Well, I don’t know. I grew up in a house where you had to be creative. I was one of 10 children, and there was only one couch. So, if there was a good show on TV, you had to creatively maneuver your way on the couch or on top of the couch, or however, in order to see the TV. My dad was also the kind who would start to paint our house green, then decide to paint it red, without actually going to the first side and re-painting it, and then later he’d decide he’d really like it be yellow. So, then each side of the house was a different colour, and he moved on to another task.”
My only thought was how I would not be able to handle that all sides of the house were not the same colour. It’s like playing a scale….da, da, da, da, da, da, da, and STOPPING!
So, you see, I like Nicodemus. He wants to know more. He climbs out of his house in the middle of the night to reach Jesus. And, he’s got some questions. How can we be born again? I’m already born. This doesn’t make sense. I need an answer I can share with my friends.
It’s not that simple. And neither is the Trinity. Forgive me for quoting my own husband today, but look! He’s written a book on the Trinity! J I tease him every year, that I’m going to make him my guest preacher on Trinity Sunday. Honestly, if he didn’t have another preaching post today, I might’ve done it! But he and other theologians have indeed poured over this idea of the Trinity. What does it mean for our lives? How do we explain it? Jason writes “What the Trinity does, properly speaking, is tell a story about the true God who saves in Christ.”
Jesus is telling Nicodemus that there is a birth born of the flesh, and a birth born of Water and the Spirit. Both are necessary. The birth from above, has two-sides: both involving a community of followers—where we share and show visible signs of water-baptism which gives new life, and then the Spirit—where we have a river of life flowing in us)—a spirit-baptism. When we baptize we baptize with the words: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In v. 8 Jesus says “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.” Same with the Spirit of God. The Spirit surprises us—moves us—in ways that we didn’t expect, nor may we fully understand.
Nicodemus may be like us—a little over-focused—like me being focused on the different coloured walls of a house that should make sense, but doesn’t. Yet, he’s also intrigued by the mysterious beauty of it all. He asks one final question “How can these things be?”
Nicodemus is a literal thinker. We can appreciate that. He gets that he’s born, but he doesn’t understand what it means to be born from above. And truly, how can we be re-born when we’ve already been born.
NT Wright tells of a story about the time he lost his birth certificate. It was during a move! If you’ve moved recently, or have vague memories that you’ve stuffed down deep, you remember how chaotic it is. You neatly begin packing boxes…labeling them carefully, listing in detail items enclosed, and which room it will be neatly placed in so you can unpack exactly. And the days roll, and the move date nears, and you start tossing hot pad holders in a random bathroom box, and toothpicks tossed in the sheets and blanket box, tucking things here and there that you’ll have no memory of. Wright says, well, I’ve got my passport, so that works for now. But if he can’t find the birth certificate, he’d need to eventually go to his hometown and pay to request another official copy. Why? Does he really need to prove he was born. He’s standing right there!
New birth in Christ—is essential. It’s necessary, even if just to get a glimpse of God’s kingdom.
And, there’s more to the story! More to life after new birth in Christ. Nicodemus gets stuck in his questions to Jesus. It’s easy to do. “Wait, what about this? And how can we do this? And, I’m already born, why born from above….” And Jesus stops and says, it is true no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. And, there’s more…Look for signs of life…not just the moment of new birth, but all that God brings through it. When we’re baptized with water, and then with the Spirit, the wind blows…and we can’t control the colours it paints on our lives…like a young artist painting outside the lines, urging us to see the painting in a different way.
It’s more important to feed and nurture these signs of life than to spend so much time going over and over what happened at the moment of birth. We’re invited to trust in the new life given to us, and allow God to move through us as we see God’s world in new ways. We can’t do that without God, the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It’s a mystery. I get it. And, I don’t. But, I trust the one who is the giver of life.
Did you listen this past Tuesday at 1:00 pm to BC Government’s restart plan? I was joking with some folks that it was the moment when “BC stood still!” as we eagerly listened. I found the whole announcement quite moving. Dr. Bonnie Henry clearly emotional. Minister Adrian Dix recognizing the incredibly difficult journey we’ve been taken on, yet the resilience of the people inspired. And then when Ravi Kahlon spoke, giving the time-frame for how long we’ve endured through this pandemic, and ending with a stark reminder of systemic racism and discrimination that still pains are world today. Finally, Dr. Bonnie Henry is proposing that we might just need a BC-wide HUG Day in July!! I’m ready. Yet, can we really do that? I’m not sure. As we begin to re-start our lives together again, may God help us to be focused on all the things God intends for us.
In all of today, I have not even begun to talk about the verse in this whole passage that is the most famous across the world: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” John 3:16. So famous, that you’ll see sign-posts on the sides of Highways, posters at sports events, and even a local Vancouver restaurant is called John 3:16—Malaysian food—God has good taste!
That Scripture encompasses the Trinity, and concludes with the words that we hold close, and that Nicodemus can finally grasp: “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Holy Trinity.
Lord, give us all of you. We, like Nicodemus, may not fully understand…but we yearn to. Give us new life, new birth, and eyes to see even a glimpse of your kingdom to come.