The Trinity 2012


Romans 8:12-17 and John 3:1-17
SMAS 2012

A gorilla sat in a zoo holding a Bible in one hand and a book about evolution in the other. He was looking confused, so someone asked, “What are you doing?” The gorilla answered, “Well, I’m trying to decide if I’m my brother’s keeper or my keeper’s brother.”

Today is Trinity Sunday and it’s our turn to sit looking confused. The doctrine of the Trinity Is a hard concept to get your head around.  It’s not actually spelled out in the Bible but there are many passages where it is present – as in both of our readings today that mention of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Our first reading from Romans speaks the Spirit enabling us to call our Father God ’Abba’ (daddy). Both passages are speaking of our being invited into this truly wonderful close relationship with God.

In the gospel reading, we had the story of Nicodemus who comes to Jesus in the dark of night to discuss a few things.

We can only speculate why Nicodemus came at night – perhaps the night symbolizes the darkness that surrounded Nicodemus’ heart & soul – maybe confusion?

Nicodemus was a religious Pharisee, a leader of the Jews. His life was committed to studying & obeying the law but somehow in all of his teachings & religion, he had missed the message. He certainly had ‘head’ knowledge, but he was lacking ‘heart’ knowledge.

Nicodemus came seeking answers about religion and Jesus told him, “It’s not about religion, it’s about relationship.” Even today there are many who get involved with church, but not with Christ. Lots of religion – but no relationship with God. And it’s particularly pertinent today to be thinking about that sort of a relationship because it is Trinity Sunday. The day we think about our God who is ONE but at the same time THREE. Three persons in one. If ever there was a close relationship it’s that! And that is how God is. God is all about relationship. Not about religion or church or buildings or liturgy. God is about relationship.

We can see this from the very beginning of the Bible. In the story of creation God says ‘let US create people in OUR image’. The Spirit of God was there right from the start of Genesis chapter 1 sweeping over the waters of chaos to create and bring order.

Jesus said, “No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born again.” Being born again is not about human efforts, it’s not something we do. It’s a wonderful thing God does through the power of the Holy Spirit. Being born as a child of parents of flesh and bone is a miracle in itself. But being born as a child of God is something else again!

The phrase ‘be born again’ also means ‘be born from above’ and Nicodemus didn’t understand this: ‘how can this be?’ he says. Jesus tells him that it is not about physical rebirth. It’s not about something we do, it doesn’t even come from a decision by us. Think about it – how many babies have been born that decided for themselves to enter the world? No they come about because of the parents decision, because of what the parent does to make it happen.

And it is the same with God. He will us into being and wants us to come to new birth. It doesn’t happen because we are religious or good. So in some ways it is all a lot simpler than we imagine.

I read a story about an instant cake mix that was a big flop… The instructions said all you had to do was add water & bake. The company couldn’t understand why it didn’t sell – until their research discovered that the public felt uneasy about a cake mix that required only water. Apparently, people thought it too easy. So the company altered the formula and changed the directions to add an egg in addition to the water. The idea worked & sales increased.

Unlike the cake mix manufacturer, God has not changed His “formula” to make salvation more marketable. The gospel we proclaim has nothing to do with being good enough. We’re worried about being good enough to get into heaven. We worry about our religion – do I read my Bible enough – do I spend enough time in prayer – do I do enough good deeds – do I go to church enough – do I tithe enough? Please, please, please, don’t misunderstand me, all of these things are important & none of us do enough of them. But we have been given the opportunity to leave behind this world & be born into a new world. To be born from above – to change our citizenship – and to claim our new home for all eternity.

Have you been born again? Don’t tell me how good you are and don’t tell me about your religion. John Wesley would always ask the question, “How is it with your soul?” That’s the real question we need to answer. How is it with your soul? What we have this morning is a hard lesson to learn. The lesson is that salvation is easy – but we make it hard. Salvation is not about us – it’s about God.

Many of us are so worried about what we’re doing, that we forget what God has done. We make it hard, God makes it easy. The message that Jesus had for Nicodemus was the Gospel in a nutshell. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Jesus spoke those words out of concern for a very religious man but whose soul was lost.

Many people are fearful of the Spirit, but think of it being like the mid-wife bringing us to birth as children of God. The phrase ‘to be born’ is written in a way that means it is not a one-time experience, but an ongoing process in which God continues to reveal himself and his saving grace to us.

Jesus tells Nicodemus, and us, that the action to redeem the world began with the Father. Out of his love for us, He came among us in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ, who revealed God’s love through his life, teachings, death and resurrection for our redemption. And through the gift of the Holy Spirit, God is present to us to enable us to grow in faith and understanding of God’s redeeming grace.

That growth in faith is evident in the life of Nicodemus. He appears three times in John’s Gospel. In this reading, Nicodemus comes to Jesus as a Pharisee with an open mind.

But he leaves confused, not truly understanding Jesus’ true identity, or what God is about to accomplish through him. Later (ch7) Nicodemus courageously speaks out in defense of Jesus. Then, at the end of John’s Gospel, Nicodemus helps to prepare Jesus’ body for burial.

Nicodemus’ coming to faith was not a one-time event but a process of deepening and growing faith. And that is how the Spirit works within each of us. We’re not zapped with the Holy Spirit at our baptism to become instantly aware of our salvation in Jesus. It begins the process of walking with the presence of God in our lives, as we live in fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ’s church.

We may not fully understand the mystery of God, who has revealed himself to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But He continues to reveal himself to us through His Spirit and assures us of our eternal life.

It’s easy to look for the love of the Father, and ignore the Son, who said that anyone who wanted to follow Him must take up a cross of pain and suffering, forgetting their own plans and desires to come and follow him. We may want the moral teaching of Jesus, but forget the justice and holiness of the Father. We might want the power and excitement of the Holy Spirit, but not want to submit our wills to the Father and Son.

None of this works. To have any part of God, we must have the wholeness of the Godhead. The grace and forgiveness of Jesus is meaningless without the righteousness, holiness and wrath of the Father and neither can be applied to our lives without the Holy Spirit working in us.

Being born again is not about religion – it’s about a relationship. That’s the best part of being a Christian – a personal relationship with the Father who made me, the Son who saved me and the Spirit who motivates and sustains me.