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31/5/15 year B Trinity Sunday : John 3:1-17

3 1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him." 3 In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." 4 "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" 5 Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, `You must be born again.' 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." 9 "How can this be?" Nicodemus asked. 10 "You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus, "and do you not understand these things? 11I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven--the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. 16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Brigitte Bardot; “I am greatly misunderstood by politically correct idiots.”

Taylor Swift “Songs are my diaries; they always have been. You have to put your trust in everyone because putting down those real, personal details and thoughts that make a song authentic also opens you right up. I am constantly misunderstood; a lot of people just don't get me.”

I guess there are times when we feel people don't understand us. And there will be times when we don't understand. We may not understand a mathematical formula. We may not understand how people think. This can vary from being amazed at the way someone has invented something, to being astounded the way people think that run FIFA!

Today is Trinity Sunday. Most special church days celebrate an event, Christmas, Easter Day, Ascension, Pentecost... On Trinity Sunday we celebrate a doctrine!

If Brigitte Bardot and Taylor Swift feel misunderstood, how do you think God feels?! On Trinity Sunday we think about understanding God. God is beyond our understanding. He is so other, the literal meaning of holy. He is so vast and powerful, all knowing, being everywhere at all times, loving, that we cannot fully understand him because our brains are so limited in comparison. But just because this is difficult, if not impossible, doesn't call into question His being or validity. For example, we may not understand fully how an internal combustion engine or a computer works, yet this does not stop us using cars, computers, mobile phones...

God is a mystery, before whom humanity should kneel in awe and worship. This was shown in u first reading from Isaiah (6.1-8) We can start to understand God by humanity's experience of him, sometimes called The Economic Trinity.

Humanity can experience God the Father, mainly revealed in the Old Testament to be Creator, Lord, Father, and Judge.

God the Son, Jesus, lived on earth as a human, revealing what God is like, what humans should be like, and paying the price for the sins of the world, opening the way to God for those who trust Him.
God the Holy Spirit, who brings new life by the free, undeserved gift of faith, who gives power to live for God, be more like Jesus, and serve God.

So, in today's gospel, we have Nicodemus, a decent, devout, senior Jew. A Pharisee, rooted in the Old Testament. Convinced that God had created everything, chosen and redeemed God's people, revealed His will through the law which had been rejected by so many Jews throughout history, but which was obeyed by Him and the Pharisees. His birth and adherence to the law would put him right with God. Yet his security is threatened by the very presence of Jesus. By his miracles, his teachings and, at the end of Chapter 2, from verse 12, as John records that Jesus had cleared the temple of those who were using it for their own profit.

We don't know if Nicodemus might have been approaching Jesus with a view to gently correct him about the confrontational way he was going about things. He certainly starts off in a respectful way... "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him."
Jesus sidesteps this compliment 3 In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." The phrase “born again” has unfortunate connotations for some today. Literally, it means “born from above”

We need to understand that if you were a Gentile at this time, and wanted to become a Jew, you would be baptised, representing cleansing, and be considered by Jews to be like a new born child.
Perhaps Nicodemus was being sarcastic rather than stupid when he suggested he couldn't crawl back into his mother's womb. Even though he is a high ranking Pharisee he doesn't get it. Jesus is talking about Spiritual things, not the physical. He is saying that people can only be put right with God the Father, through Jesus' death on the cross, brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit.

We can back this up though two verses. The first, probably the most well known verse in the Bible. 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life

Eternal life is a life lived in a right relationship with God (John 17.3). This can only be known through Jesus' death on the cross. Jesus compared this in verse 14 to the way God gave life to those who had been bitten by a deadly snake but looked up at a brass snake made by Moses and put on a pole (Numbers 21.9).

Jesus sacrificial death is ineffective, useless, without the work of the Spirit to bring life. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. The Bible says that we were spiritually dead before God gave us life (Ephesians 2.1). Someone who is dead cannot raise themselves, cannot move, or think. So the Spirit was needed to raise Jesus from death and is needed to raise anyone to new life or birth. This is in Romans 8.11, the verse that precedes our Epistle today. 11 Moreover if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his Spirit who lives in you.

To summarise this teaching, God the Father brings people to know Himself, through the life, death and resurrection of God the Son, and freely and solely gives this through the work of the Holy Spirit.

The doctrine of the Trinity helps us to understand something about God and how He relates to people. In history, in the Bible, in our own lives.

It helps us start to understand the complexity, depth, otherness and mystery of God.

It helps us understand ourselves, we are made in the image of God and will reflect something of His nature.

It helps us understand what our relationships should be like, mirroring the relationship of one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, united in love, justice, grace and purpose.

It helps us to understand our salvation, which is a free and undeserved gift from God, involving Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We should rely on His Holy Spirit to offer ourselves completely back to God as living sacrifices (Romans 12.1). The Trinity should inspire us to give ourselves totally and completely back to God! Our whole lives should be an act of worship to God. Showing what He has done for us, and what He means to us. This should include our public worship, which reflects our worship of God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. One God and three persons.

95% or so of this Parish will have little or no comprehension of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Let us live our lives as individuals and as churches that we may reflect who God is and what God has done for us, that it may speak to them through the work of God's Spirit.


15/6/03 Trinity Sunday : John 3:1-15