Sermon for May 30, 2021 Trinity Sunday “Truth, Heart and Spirit”
Let me start by saying that I do not think trinity needs to be so complicated. Theologians and biblical scholars have for centuries have promoted the idea that Trinity is complicated, mysterious and beyond the grasp of mere folks in pews. To be perfectly honest, I did buy into that ethos mostly because It allowed me to defer any conversation about the nature of God as being too lofty and the Trinity just out of my and our minds grasp. After all, the scholars could not get it so how can I…is the logical conclusion.
Maybe what would work on this Trinity Sunday would be to come with questions, to come seeking to know, to experience God in all God’s fullness. To come and share stories, encounters, glimpses of God, all the while pointing to a larger truth beyond our images and stories. What does it mean to be born of the Spirit, redeemed by the Messiah and loved by the Creator? How does that affect my life day to day? How does this fit into our discipleship path? What is it like? Bring your honest questions and lay them before God. And then relish the conversation.
That’s what Nicodemus did in the shadows of the night. He came to Jesus with questions. The scene is delightful…the great Nicodemus, the teacher of teacher, a leader of the Sanhedrin coming to radical Rabbi Jesus seeking answers. Who is God? What is the nature of God? And Jesus answers; God is Spirit and Truth, God is about getting out of your head and into your heart. Knowledge is good but Jesus comes to open our heart with spirit, so you must allow the spirit room to be birthed again in your heart so you will live.
Nicodemus and many still today want to know the how and why, they want to stay in their heads where it is comfortable. But Jesus says it is like the breeze, the wind, it blows from there to here and beyond and we just accept it as truth. Just accept spirit and heart as truth and you will begin to understand. Jesus goes on to share a story that Nicodemus would know well. The story of Moses and Joshua and the people of Israel in the desert when after complaining to God they were overwhelmed by snakes. God told Moses to fashion a snake and place it on a pole, hold it up before the people and all who looked upon it would be saved. So too, all who look to the Son of God lifted up on a pole will be redeemed. Two stories that we all too often forget between benediction and call to worship. And yet are essential for life.
Nicodemus wasn’t leaning into Jesus, nor do we lean into Jesus the way Jesus wants us to lean into him. He wasn’t hungry for Jesus the way Jesus wants us to be hungry. I am the bread, I am the gate, I am the way, the truth and the life. He wants to be all for all—our light in the darkness, our hope in the midst of the world’s despair. He doesn’t want to be a side show, or a sometime friend. He wants to be the center of our lives and hopes and dreams.
How can these things be? That, of course would be Nicodemus’s reply. I’m sure, because it is often ours. How can these things be? How can we hold on to Jesus when the path gets slippery and the light grows dim? We must be born again. Has there been a phrase more divisive in the body of Christ than that one? Maybe. But this one has been misused and misunderstood since Nicodemus stumbled over it one night. Born again? “Anothen is the Greek word. Anothen. It means again and anew and from above.” All wrapped up there together. But not again as in repetition – same thing over again; that’s what Nicodemus missed. But neither is “born again” a badge of honour or an entrance certificate. That’s what many modern-day users miss. Rather, it is an invitation to join in the dance with Jesus—whoever believes; whoever takes him by the hand and says, “Lead me”; whoever says, “I find myself in you”; whoever leans for repose as the old hymn says, shall have life, abundant, eternal life.
How can these things be? They just are. Start leaning. And learning.
Lest, on this Trinity Sunday, I leave you with the impression that questions are somehow bad, forgive me. But no. Questions, dumb ones and smart ones, irritating ones and time-wasting ones, earnest ones and honest ones, are good. We need to ask to learn. But then lean as we learn. Trust as we seek. Believe as we wonder. How can these things be? Believe. And ask. And live. To be born of the Spirit is to ask your questions and seek God in truth, heart and spirit.