John 3:1-17Today in the Church's Year of Grace we celebrate a doctrine, a teaching, rather than an event. Scripture strongly implies God as triune or three-in-one, but scripture never uses the word "trinity." In our readings we've had at least two explicit theophanies or revelations of the Trinity: the Baptism of Jesus and the Transfiguration. In the year 325 the Council of Nicaea articulated the doctrine of the Trinity with the Nicene Creed we often recite during worship as a testimony of faith. Orthodox Christians in mainline denominations like the ELCA, PC(USA), United Methodist, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox churches are formally and officially Trinitarian. Some others–Disciples of Christ, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints confess Jesus as Lord and speak of the godhead (a term we also use), but don't claim to be Trinitarian.
1Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2He 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." 3Jesus answered him, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above." 4Nicodemus 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?" 5Jesus answered, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not be astonished that I said to you, "You must be born from above.' 8The 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." 9Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?" 10Jesus answered him, "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 11"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. 12If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16"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. 17"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.
Trinity Sunday is the Octave of Pentecost. The church long has celebrated important events in octaves of eight days (similar to an octave of eight notes in music). Rather than attempting an analogy that never ever approaches the essence of the godhead, Early Church Fathers and Mothers frequently talked about the perichoresis of the Trinity. "Peri" refers to in the vicinity of, around, nearby. "Choresis" has the same root as the familiar choreography. Father, Son, Holy Spirit interact with each other, interpenetrate, share similar functions. Hymn of the day will be "Come, Join the Dance of Trinity," as the Trinity models our interactive and cooperative lifestyles and ministries. Though happily no one at all attempted one of the too many analogies of the Trinity, Sara mentioned Irish Christians noticed the shamrock plant with its three equal leaves and made it a famous trinitarian symbol.
Next week we'll begin counting Sundays after Pentecost as the Church moves into its own in the long, green, and growing season of Ordinary Time. We'll very consciously continue walking the talk as we follow Jesus into worlds around us as his presence in the power of the Holy Spirit of Pentecost each of us received at baptism in a special way.
Today's gospel reading again is from the community gathered around John the beloved disciple. We meet the religious leader Nicodemus coming to Jesus, the light of the world, in the dark of night. John's gospel brings us Jesus' seven "I am" sayings; although it's not one of those, in this passage Jesus essentially announces "I am the Snake" that heals, saves, redeems, brings us eternal life. [Check out Moses in Numbers 21:9.] With his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, in a sense Jesus' "lifting up" is triune. Today's gospel reading includes John 3:16 quite a few of us read in many different spoken languages last week on the Day of Pentecost.
In John 16 we meet this same Nicodemus as he and Joseph of Arimathea anoint Jesus' body for burial and lay Jesus in the tomb, their form of burial since they didn't dig graves in the ground.
This gospel reading has a unique feature with its use of kingdom/reign of God in verse 3. Synoptic gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke say Reign of Heaven / Kingdom of God literally all the time, but John doesn't.
Good discussion of the less familiar verse 17, "God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." We talked about stereotypes and mistaken ideas many people have about God and church. Pastor Peg told us we can help proclaim and be the good news that God loves, God saves, God does not condemn.