Readings: Isaiah 6.1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8.12-17; John 3.1-17 (view all)
I wonder whether you’ve ever had one of those deep, late night conversations. The kind of philosophical conversation that takes place, usually after a few drinks, where you and those with you put the world to rights together.
I can remember plenty of those kinds of conversations when I was studying — sometimes we would end up reaching a place of agreement and deeper understanding, but often we would end up with our thinking even more tied up in knots than when we started!
When speaking of the Trinity, that Christian doctrine we’re celebrating today, it’s so easy to get tied up in knots, as if our faith is a kind of abstract puzzle to be solved. But of course, even though at times it may seem like it, the Christian faith isn’t just an intellectual problem to solve — it is a way of life we are invited to live out.
So, on this Trinity Sunday, what can we learn about our God — Father, Son and Spirit — to equip us for the reality of our lives today?
In our gospel reading, in their own late night conversation, Jesus and a very confused Nicodemus, share an intriguing dialogue. He has come to realise that Jesus must be from God, but what would have been completely new to Nicodemus was Jesus’ response that, having been already ‘born of the flesh’, someone could also be ‘born of the Spirit’.
And yet, it is this new birth in the Spirit, which lies at the heart of Jesus’ purpose in John’s gospel — to restore us once again as ‘children of God’. For as Paul writes in our epistle, the Spirit is a spirit of adoption — the ‘very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God… and joint heirs with Christ.’
And so the Father, who created us, sends the Son to save us, and the Father and Son together send the Spirit to live in us, and enable us to live out our new identity, following Christ’s example to live as God’s children.
But for Paul, this isn’t just some sweet, rosy metaphor — in case we are in danger of being lulled into a false sense of security, he makes clear that being co-heirs with Christ means being part of the family business. As he concludes, ‘in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.’
Being co-heirs with Jesus means continuing the mission that he, himself, began — making the same sacrifice that he made — the giving of our whole lives for the good of God and his world. It is this mission of sacrifice and service that Jesus will call his followers to continue, and the Spirit calls us to today.
So, I wonder: As we hear the Spirit saying, ‘who will go for us?’ will we, like Isaiah, respond, ‘Here I am, send me’? Will we live out our identity as God’s children in the way we serve, suffer and sacrifice for the good of our friends and neighbours?
How can we, as God’s church in this part of our city, ensure that we exist not for ourselves alone but that God’s glory might be revealed in us and through us?
The renowned modern theologian, Jurgen Moltmann, wrote:
“The church’s final word is not ‘church’ but the glory of the Father and the Son in the Spirit of liberty.”
As the Church, we don’t exist for ourselves alone. Church isn’t an end in itself. But we, as God’s children, exist to glorify the Father and the Son in the Spirit of liberty and freedom.
God calls us, through the gift of his Son, to continue his mission for the good of our friends and neighbours. May we, empowered by his Spirit this morning, respond with our lives through service and sacrifice.
Almighty and everlasting God,
you have given us your servants grace,
by the confession of a true faith,
to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity
and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity:
keep us steadfast in this faith,
that we may evermore be defended from all adversities;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.