Sunday, June 3, 2007

Trinity Sermon 07

Trinity Sunday – June 3rd, 2007 – John 3:1-15

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +

And so Nicodemus comes to talk to this Jesus who is preaching and teaching. Nicodemus is a well respected man, a leader of his people – a Pharisee – a well respected laymen, most likely a pillar of his synagoge. And Nicodemus comes to Jesus – comes at night, comes privately, he’s a bit unsure about Jesus and if it turns out this Jesus is a crack pot he doesn’t want to be associated with Him – but nevertheless Nicodemus comes to Jesus and says, “Rabbi, we know that you are from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” You’re from God, Jesus – but I don’t understand what is going on. I’m not sure I get it.

And Jesus replies to Nicodemus – “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Seems sort of a strange answer for Jesus to give, doesn’t it? Nicodemus finds it strange as well – born again, what are you talking about? Nicodemus doesn’t understand. Dear friends, we shouldn’t be surprised that Nicodemus doesn’t understand because Christ’s Word teach us something very important. Christ’s Words teach us something that we can forget. They teach us of the depth of sin.

We are a very proud people here in America. We are proud of what we do, what we accomplish. We believe that if we just put our minds to it, we can accomplish anything. We teach our children that if you just work hard, you can be whatever you want to be. And to a certain extent, this may be true. If you work hard at school, you can go to college and study whatever. If you are willing to put in the hours working, you can pretty much get whatever job you wish – effort sells in America, and one of the biggest compliments we can give is to call someone a hard worker. But what we must remember is that while hard work and our own efforts are fantastic for this life here on earth – as regards matters of religion and faith – it’s not about our effort or works. Hear again what Jesus says to Nicodemus. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Jesus there describes two implications of sin.

First, let’s talk about blindness. Jesus says unless something happens to a person – he can’t see God’s kingdom. Of ourselves, left to our own devices – we are spiritually blind. Can’t see, can’t understand what’s going on. Nicodemus knows something strange is at work, but he can’t make sense of it. Jesus here explains why – you have eyes, Nicodemus, but they only see the earthly things, they don’t see the spiritual things. Likewise, dear friends, how often do your eyes see only the earthly things? How often does the old, evil nature stir up in you, and your eyes – well, they see wickedly. How often do your eyes look with lust and greed? How often do your eyes look down upon your neighbor? How often do your eyes even see the things of God and despise those very things of God? By nature we are blind – we don’t see the things of God on our own, they don’t make sense.

And there is a good reason for this. By nature, we are dead. Jesus says, “Unless one is born again.” Born again. That first birth, that birth you had from your mother, that one isn’t good enough. By nature, we are fallen, we are born sinful, in sin my mother bore me. And as such, by nature, we don’t see, we don’t understand – in fact we have no life. By nature we are dead, dead in trespasses. We need to be born again, we need to be given true and spiritual life.

Do you see, dear friends, what Jesus is teaching Nicodemus and us? Do you see the implications of sin? Sin blinds us – sin takes away life – not just this life here on earth – oh, look, I’m breathing life – but our spiritual life, our life with God, our understanding and knowing that the world is about more than just the desires of my flesh, more than just what I want and what feels good to me. Sin cuts all of that off – and because of sin by nature we are isolated and alone, greedy, needy people blind to God, blind to true love to others, left by sin to strive and strive to satisfy hungers and desires that are never filled and sated. Sin is a horrible thing, and it does horrible things to us – and we can’t get out of it on our own.

No indeed, we cannot do anything about this problem on our own. Just as none of us here had anything to do with being born of our mothers, neither do we have anything to do with our being born again. For us to be born again, for us to have life, God must act. And indeed, on this Trinity Sunday, we are taught by Jesus that it is indeed the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who acts on our behalf and causes us to be born again, causes us to see Him and His Salvation, and gives us life.

The Father is involved in your salvation. The Father sees and understands sin, what sin means, what sin has done to His creation. And so the Father makes the plan of salvation. He sees that we sinful men have no righteousness within us, so He sends His Son to be righteous for us. Indeed, the Father says that He will lift up His Son, lift Him up upon the Cross so that there is no more punishment left for man. Indeed, the Father would send the Son to this world to fight against sin and death.

The Son is involved in your salvation. The Son comes down from Heaven and takes on human flesh, takes on a human Body. He becomes Man. And as a Man He suffers, He shares in all the effects and problems and burdens caused by sin – He even takes in full the punishment for sin – He takes death. And because He bore for us the full burden, the full punishment of sin – by His death and resurrection He was able to win for us salvation. Salvation is accomplished by the Son.

The Holy Spirit is involved in your salvation. The Spirit takes what the Son has done and applies to you. Since we of ourselves cannot see, the Spirit gives us eyes to see. Since we are by nature dead, the Spirit breathes into us New Life by the Word of God – that is why we call Him the Giver of Life in the Nicene Creed. The Spirit takes that which Christ has done, and applies to us – takes that life and Salvation which Christ earned and makes it yours, applies it to you.

No where is this working of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit seen more clearly than in Baptism. In fact, it is in Baptism, in the washing of Water and the Spirit where you were born again, where you were born of the Spirit. And how is Baptism done? Note this, dear friends. Baptism isn’t some wild and harsh rite where we must do tons and tons of things to prove ourselves to God – we can’t make ourselves worthy to God. Baptism isn’t about the efforts and works of the person who is being Baptized. Rather, God comes, bringing His Word attached to Water – and what is that Word of God? I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. The Triune God Himself gives New life. God acts in Baptism, and we are born again – The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit apply their own Name, claim you as Their own, and give you Their own life in Baptism – and we are indeed born again.

And this all is done by God, so that you might believe in Christ Jesus – that you might believe that He is the Son of God, and that believing in Him you might always hold and possess, that you might always have life in His Name. God’s great desire, the will of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is that you believe in Christ Jesus, that you repent of your sin, that you struggle against your sinful nature, that you flee to Christ for forgiveness and delight in His life. And so the Triune God works for your salvation – The Spirit giving you Christ’s own Life so that you may be with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit for all eternity.

This is what our God does – this is who the Triune God – the One God in Three Persons and Three Persons in One God whom we confess reveals Himself to be. He is the God who created mankind, and the God who redeems mankind from sin, the God who gives salvation. Indeed, our worship is all about God giving us salvation. It is the Triune God who calls us to His House – not to work – but to have a Sabbath, calls us to rest from our labors and receive from Him the blessings of Life and Salvation. It is the Triune God who calls us His own children and heirs, adopting us in the Waters of Baptism not to be His hirelings, but to be the heirs of all that is His. It is the Triune God who calls us to the Table of the Lord, so that we might receive the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus and receive in the Supper once again the benefits that Body and Blood won upon the Cross, to receive again forgiveness and to have that Life which He gave nourish us. The Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, has had mercy upon you and has accomplished your salvation for you. And He calls you to His house to bless you richly. All thanks be to God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for the love He shows us, and the tireless care He gives us. Amen.

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