Isaiah 6 1-6
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’
The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’ Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.
John 3 1-21
Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.” 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. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
‘Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And 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.
‘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.
‘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. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.’
Mention Advent, Christmas or Easter to most Christians and they will light up – these are well known Festivals – mention Trinity Sunday however and most will glaze over and in churches today it will pass unnoticed.
When it comes to the doctrine of the Trinity we are out of our depth and struggling with concepts that are beyond us – for how can it make sense to talk about three persons who are wholly distinct yet wholly one. It is incomprehensible.
I wonder how many of us have ordered a piece of furniture and waited excitedly for it to be delivered only to find that we are faced with a mystery when it is delivered. The catalogue picture showed a lovely cupboard with two doors lots of space and drawers to match. How come the delivery man deposits a large flat box? We open it up to find a ‘Nice and Easy’ instruction sheet’ with either miniature pictures to follow or instructions translated from Chinese which don’t make any sense.
Of course what we had seen originally was a three dimensional splendid picture and most of us find it difficult to understand how the pile of pieces in the box could ever be our lovely cupboard. It takes a lot of imagination, giant leap of faith, or a person who ‘can’ to bring it into being.
On Trinity Sunday especially we try to make sense of how different aspects of God fit together into an image we can comprehend, but for the most part the Trinity is still a mystery – still incomprehensible. But that is the very reason why Trinity Sunday is so important. God is beyond our human intellect, a mystery, greater than we can begin to conceive.
We encounter God as a sovereign mystery and like Isaiah we run out of words – in trying to describe God he said, ‘I saw the Lord, he was high and lifted up and his train filled the temple.’ There were no other words – and we have no idea what he saw.
We encounter God as a loving Father/Mother protector and guide. We encounter God as a human being in Jesus living and dying, who rose from the dead and is exalted at the Father’s right hand and we encounter God as Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts by faith, filling us with peace, joy, hope and power.
We cannot explain how this all fits together but we know that it does, and if we could unravel the mystery then we would loose God altogether.
You will not find the word Trinity in the Bible but we will find the Trinitarian mystery in evidence from Genesis to Revelation; and here in the gospel of John Jesus is talking to Nicodemus about the mystery that is Trinity.
John tells us that Nicodemus came to Jesus by night; it might have been because he was scared of being seen, or perhaps it was because he was dark on the inside, and felt more comfortable in the dark. Jesus was very firm with him and said; ‘Very truly I tell you,’ – in other words, listen very carefully, this is not an anecdote that you can add to your list of favourite things to say in the synagogue. This is vital. You must be born from above in other words you must be born again.
Nicodemus, this Jewish leader and teacher who is sure of himself and his theology now opens up and asks Jesus – How can these things be? Jesus seems a bit shocked at his question; ‘Are you a teacher in Israel and you do not understand these things?’ How could you, Nicodemus, forget all the promises of God revealed through the prophets?
What made him cling to his religious ways and his theological certainties, which were devoid of the wind and breath of the Spirit and made him blind to the new ways of God?
More importantly, what makes us blind to the ways of God, and maybe to new ideas as well?
What makes us cling so desperately to our own ideas and plans, to our form of religion which are too often devoid of the wind and breath of the Spirit? What makes us think that we can be overly pally with an Almighty God – and refer to him upstairs?
Jesus revealed that that he had come to fulfil the promises of God; and give us this new life in the Spirit. This rebirth into the kingdom of God begins at our Baptism or when we come to faith, then we become the people of God, Easter people, the church, the bride of Christ. Little by little as we are cleansed from our sinfulness, as we let go of our old ways, our certainties our securities, we will gradually die to our self-centred ways of life, we will begin to live by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In this conversation with Nicodemus Jesus tells us that if we believe and trust in him we will have eternal life. Eternal life does not refer to something we will live after death, it is the life of God given to us today.
It is the very life of the Eternal God that is in each of us, flowing through us, given to us as we are born from above through Baptism and through our trust in Jesus. As we increasingly recognise the Holy Spirit within us, we will find ourselves less attracted by the idols of the world. We will begin to see people as Jesus sees them; we will begin to love them as Jesus loves them, and to see and love ourselves as Jesus sees and loves us. Listen again to the post communion prayer that we say each week; ‘through him we offer you our souls and bodies to be a living sacrifice; send us out in the power of your spirit to live and work to your praise and glory’ in other words transform us so that we can do things that humanly speaking we cannot do by ourselves:
Love our enemies, forgive, be compassionate reach out to the marginalized.
Let us ensure that we don’t keep God flat packed in a box, but share with others the height and depth and breadth of his three dimensional love.
Trinity Sunday then is the day to accept the limits of our knowledge and simply to glorify the Holy Trinity – Father Son and Holy Spirit
Trinity Sunday, is the day to accept the imperative of the Trinity – and to work for all that heals and unites, and reject all that divides and destroys.
Trinity Sunday is the day to marvel at the mystery of the Trinity at work within us. God, the one who is high and lifted up, Jesus the Son who gives us life Eternal, and the Holy Spirit who empowers us each day.
Trinity Sunday is the day to make sure that each one of us is born again from above.
Blessed be God.
Father Son and Holy Spirit,
Blessed be God forever.