Sermon for Holy Trinity, AD 2021

John 3:1-15

Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity! While every other feast of the church year refers to an event – Jesus’ birth, baptism, resurrection, etc., the day of the Holy Trinity is one where we commemorate a doctrine. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is that we worship one God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is the reality of God which Scripture reveals to us, but we cannot rationally understand, because it means that 1 equals 3. In the Trinity we see how God is much greater than us and beyond our understanding. If we could fully understand him he would not be much of a God. As St. Paul declares, “How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
           
Many times we can understand complex ideas, or even the concepts of faith, with analogies from nature. This is not true with the Holy Trinity. The Trinity is not just different masks or phases of God, like water, ice, and vapor. Unlike phases of water, God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at all times and all at the same time, as we see at Jesus’ baptism. There the Son is baptized, the Holy Spirit descends like a dove, and the Father speaks from heaven “This is my beloved son.” Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are always distinct persons, which is important for our salvation. They are also one God, so symbols like the three-leaf clover don’t explain the Trinity correctly. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all fully God, while each leaf of a clover is not a full clover. No analogy to explain the Holy Trinity is faithful to Scripture, either the oneness is lost or the three-ness is lost.. We must simply confess that with God, 1 equals 3.
           
Do not worry that this is difficult to comprehend. Our Father does not require us to figure everything out. Christianity is not only for those who are especially wise or intelligent. If you look at man-made religions, there are often levels of knowledge, things some people hide from others. Often people will claim to be more spiritually enlightened than others, and it is assumed that only those who devote their lives to enlightenment are truly religious. This is not the case for Christians. C.S. Lewis once made the argument that a sign of Christianity’s truth is that it is for everyone. You don’t have to be the smartest, the strongest, the most spiritual to be a Christian. There are things to be learned, to be sure. St. Paul speaks about the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God - there is no limit to how much you can learn from Scripture. The Word of God is an ever-flowing fountain of knowledge and grace. Yet as Jesus says, you must become like a little child to enter the kingdom of God. It is babies who are most suited for Christianity. In faith, even the great of this earth must become like them.
           
This is what Nicodemus did not understand. He came to Jesus in the night to find out what was behind Jesus’ teaching and miracles. He knew Jesus was important because only one from God could do miracles like him. Nicodemus figured there was some kind of teaching he was missing out on. Unlike the other Pharisees, Nicodemus did not come to try to trap or deceive Jesus. He truly wished to know what Jesus was teaching about the kingdom of God. You could say that, before men, Nicodemus was probably the most righteous man of his time. He did not attack Jesus, and later asked for him to get a fair trial. He was known as extremely wise in the way of God’s law, and was well-respected and well-regarded by everyone. He had made it to the ruling council so was no doubt very intelligent. Yet we see without the Holy Spirit, without the true change of heart brought by faith in Christ, he is afraid. He does not come to Jesus boldly, but fears retribution from the others. And he does not understand the kingdom of God.
           
For Jesus answers him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Here we are back on babies again. Nicodemus is expecting Jesus to be like the other teachers, to give some new teaching he can add to his personal philosophy. Nicodemus expects “Jesus and…” “Jesus and…” is the position your flesh takes naturally when it wants to feel good about itself. For Nicodemus, it was Jesus and his own moral righteousness. For others it may be Jesus and your career, Jesus and your family, or Jesus and your politics. Jesus becomes the secondary thing, the flavor to who you are separate from Him. Jesus does not allow “Jesus and.” One must be born again of water and the spirit. Jesus is not something you tack on to what you were already doing. In Jesus, you are totally new. This kingdom of God is not old men who re-enter their mother’s womb. It is for little children, and those who become like them.
           
It is the new birth of water and the Spirit that happens in baptism which brings sinners into the kingdom of God. You see it most clearly with babies as there is nothing they can do for themselves, they do not even bring themselves to the font. So the new birth is like the first birth – the one being born has no control whatsoever. In baptism, that child, or adult who has become like a child is given faith to believe in Christ by the Holy Spirit. His sins are forgiven, yes, and he also receives all the merit of Jesus Christ. God now sees him as He sees His own Son. The new birth is also an adoption, an adoption into Christ as a son of the Father.
           
So you hear the name of the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, put on you in baptism. That is what Christ commands, but it is also the relationship that you are brought into. The Son of God has died and risen for you. He has redeemed you from all your sin. In baptism He saves you and gives you His righteousness. The Father adopts you as another one of His Sons. And the Holy Spirit brings all this to you and continues to strengthen you and make you holy throughout your life. Three in one, all the Trinity works together to save you and keep you in the faith, because your salvation, wanting to be with you, flows from who God is.
           
The Trinity is more than any of us can imagine, yet who God is has been completely revealed to us. Nicodemus wanted to know more about God, but didn’t realize the very revelation of God was right there speaking to him. If you want to know who God is and what He thinks about you, figuring out how the Trinity works will not help you. God has become man, revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. Jesus shows that the Father desired for the world to be saved. The Father sent the Son to be lifted up, to die on a cross, that all who believe in him would have eternal life. That is how God is disposed toward you.
           
Abandoning “Jesus and” means believing in the one who has been lifted up on the cross alone for salvation. No work of reason, spirituality, or riches will bring eternal life. Even being known as the best person around, as Nicodemus was, will never reach Christ’s righteousness. Instead like little children, cling to the promise in your baptism, that Christ has died for you and washed you from all sin. You have been born again in him and made new. This is the eternal life – the very life begun by water and the Holy Spirit with no work on your part. Remember this whenever you think on the Holy Trinity – the name which was put on you in baptism, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.  

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