“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.
All working together
Here today in just these few verses we are given an insight into the workings of God and that which is important to him; and this then has an impact on who we are and what we are on about as well.
Now here in this reading we are reminded of how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; the three members of the Trinity are at work in our world today. The thing that strikes us very strongly is that they are all working together, from their different positions and roles within the Godhead. That is they are at work making known to us that which is of God and which is important for us: that which is all truth. Very clearly, however the point is made that this knowledge has to do with Jesus and what he has said and done for us as he lived on this earth.
Now here Jesus begins by telling us that The Spirit of truth is come to guide us into the things that are important for us to know: the truth. This Spirit, we are told elsewhere, proceeds from the Father and the Son, and will make known to us only that which he hears from them. His sole purpose is to lead us to faith in Jesus Christ, which in turn brings glory to Jesus. He therefore, is sent to us, to make known to us all that Jesus said and did through his life, death and resurrection. The things yet to come, are a reference to Jesus death and resurrection which was yet to come, and which were of great importance for our salvation.
In that regard the Holy Spirit has often been regarded as the shy member of the Trinity. His focus is not on himself and what he does, but has come simply in order to make salvation through Christ, by grace through faith, known to us: to bring us to this knowledge and to help us to trust in this message, so that glory may in turn go to Jesus Christ and from there to the Father. He does not speak or act on his own behalf; as an independent agent, but only of that which he has received from the Father through the Son.
This then highlights the work of Jesus whilst he was here on this earth. God himself come to us, so that he might save us from the hell we have brought on ourselves through our rejection of God and our failing to live under his authority and Word. He took the punishment we deserve, on himself, so that we in turn might be forgiven and assured of life and salvation. Then he was raised from the dead so that we can be assured that he is for real and that eternal life is now there for all who are in Christ.
All this is from the Father. Everything Jesus had and gave he had in common with his Father. The divine love and power is reflected from the Father through the Son, and then made know by the Holy Spirit. All are working together to bring forgiveness, life and salvation to us all. There we have the greatness of our God, and that which we truly thank and praise him for.
But this work and cooperation has continued on from there. This Good News of Jesus Christ has been proclaimed year after year ever since. It has brought life and salvation down through the ages to many, many people. Through the Word and Sacraments, the Spirit has made known all the truth that surrounds Jesus’ death and resurrection that we need to know. Around the world, people have come to faith in Jesus Christ. And glory is going to the Father for all the goodness that he has extended to us.
This goodness and work even now goes on here. The Spirit of truth is still at work, seeking to guide us into all truth. Salvation by grace through faith is still being proclaimed. The emphasis of Christ alone, grace alone, scripture alone and faith alone are still held up in some quarters as vital. Jesus death and resurrection is still the focus in preaching and teaching. The Triune God is continuing to work together to ensure that this message of Jesus continues to go on.
This is surely then also where we join in this important work of God. As we allow the Spirit of truth to work in our lives we too will be focussing all that we say and do on Jesus Christ and the importance of his death and resurrection for our salvation and life. Like the Spirit, we will not act as independent agents, but will act under the guidance of the Spirit and under the authority of God himself. We too will only speak of what has been passed on from Christ as of first importance. As we do, we can be sure that God’s work will go on and continue to bear fruit.
So today, we are reminded again that God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all working together with one purpose in mind: Each in their different roles and priorities, all with the same end in mind.
The Spirit of truth is sent to lead us into all truth: The truth and importance of Jesus Christ and all that he has done for us through his death and resurrection. In this, the love and power of the Father is extended to all people.
So also then, when we focus on that same message we know that we too are being joined into that work of God himself. We also know that where that message is, and is proclaimed, that it will bring blessing. But more importantly, glory will go to our Lord Jesus Christ. That in turn will bring glory to the Father. Here again as I conclude this message let us remember that to God alone, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, belongs all glory and honour, now and always.
In an age where we always want to look to the future and create something new and remarkable, the church insists on looking to what happened in the past. This seems so counter-cultural and many might think what we do is irrelevant for our contemporary society!
Take for example our Old Testament reading for today…what has a prophet’s vision from 740BC have to do with us here and now?
A man named Isaiah has a vision of our Lord God sitting on his throne in the temple in the same year King Uzziah died, which was over 2700 years ago. But why is this important for us to know about this date and this King?
Well, this King Uzziah [pronounced: you-zy-ah] was one of the few kings who did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. He reigned over the kingdom of Judah from the age of only 16, for 52 years; a reign that is recorded in the second book of Chronicles, chapter 26. Uzziah was instructed in the fear of the Lord by the prophet Zechariah. As long as he did the right thing by the Lord, God made him prosper. God helped him against Israel’s enemies the Philistines.
But King Uzziah also failed. This great and faithful King had failed to obey God because of his pride and he was unfaithful to God. He entered the holy temple to burn incense.
We might wonder what the matter with this is. What’s wrong with a king entering the temple to burn incense?
Well, it wasn’t his job. It was the priest’s job to offer incense and administer the sacrifices to God. The king’s job was to rule as God’s right hand and ensure the people worshipped God rightly. King Uzziah had overstepped his God-given authority, and he was afflicted with leprosy.
Because of his leprosy he was considered unclean and unholy, which meant he wasn’t allowed anywhere near the Temple. He was no longer welcome into God’s presence because of his leprosy, but had to live in a separate house. In fact, his son Jotham had to rule for him.
Soon there would be no King to rule over Judah as the people would be taken away into exile…at least until the promised Messiah came to rule over God’s people once again.
It’s in this context the prophet Isaiah had this vision, knowing if he failed the Lord in any way like King Uzziah did, he was likely to taste God’s judgment. Not only this, but he knew no-one was allowed to see God and live. God was holy, and unholy people would perish in God’s presence. Isaiah realised he was impure in a place which demanded perfect purity.
So, as soon as he saw this vision (and realising he wasn’t perfect, pure, or holy), he cried out in fear for his life because his lips were unclean and he lived in a land where the people also had unclean lips. He was terrified and thought he was going to die in the presence of such holiness!
The word ‘holy’ means ‘to make separate’ or ‘to put something aside for a special purpose’. Therefore, if God makes something or someone holy, he’s setting it, or them, aside for a special purpose and not for common use. A contemporary example of ‘holiness’ would be a pure white wedding dress which is set aside for that special wedding day. This means you wouldn’t do the gardening in it! Similarly, if God makes us holy, this means we’re set aside to live according to his holy ways.
Also, in regard to holiness, note the threefold repetition of ‘holy’ as a description of God.
When something is repeated in the bible, the emphasis is increased, but also the worth of that being spoken about. An example of this is when a child writes a letter to his or her mother saying ‘I love you very, very, very much’, every ‘very’ would increase in value; doubling and doubling again.
So God is holy, holy, holy…but Isaiah isn’t. God is perfectly pure; Isaiah isn’t. As a result, Isaiah is terrified of God and fears death. But then one of the seraphim flies toward the altar. Scripture tells us a seraphim is described as a creature having six wings. In Hebrew, ‘saraph’ describes burning or cauterising, so you could argue these winged creatures were glowing or alive with fire.
One of these flying creatures called a ‘seraphim’ went to the altar of incense to grab a burning coal, and then touched Isaiah’s lips with it saying, “This has touched your lips. Your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for”. Through this small yet highly significant act, Isaiah was forgiven, purified, and made holy so he could stand in front of a holy God without fear.
Next God asks whom he can send to his people. Who will go to be God’s holy presence and holy mouthpiece among a people of unclean lips?
Amazingly, Isaiah; this man who was only seconds ago shaking in his boots out of fear and trepidation, sticks up his hand and says: “Send me!”
What we don’t hear today is the message he was to proclaim. It wasn’t going to be easy!
The words he was to speak at this time in history was very critical and condemning of the people he was to preach to. The people were hearing, but not understanding; seeing, but not perceiving. It seemed like a futile and thankless task. And how long was he to preach to this stubborn people of unclean lips? Until the land, its cities, and its people lie in waste and they’ve been taken away into exile.
It seems proclaiming God’s word was to be a total waste of time, but this previously frightened prophet, made holy by God, went and did what he was told.
Now, what’s this got to do with us today? What can we learn from the past to inform our present situation?
Well, today we’ve come into the presence of God almighty who is holy, holy, holy. We’ve already called on the name of our holy God and he’s giving us his full attention. As we come into the presence of our holy Triune God, some of us may be afraid.
Some of us may be afraid of God’s anger or punishment. It could be we’ve fallen short of his expectations. We’re not perfect, even though God demands our perfection. Even one slip-up deserves God’s righteous judgment.
It could be our lips have become unclean because of dirty jokes, abusive words, put-downs, or lies. Similarly, our hands are unclean because you’ve taken what isn’t yours to take. Our feet have walked the ways of the world instead of walking the ways of God. Our eyes may have willingly looked upon sexual content. Our mind is corrupted by impure thoughts. Whatever it is, we may feel unholy, unworthy, and unwelcome by a holy God!
It could also be some of us might be afraid to come into God’s holy presence because we feel unclean. In this case it may not be what we’ve done, but what’s been done to us. For victims of abuse, particularly sexual abuse, this feeling of uncleanness and unworthiness is very strong. Not only are our lips unclean, but other parts of our body feels like it crawls with self-disgust. How can we come into the presence of a holy God who demands purity when you’ve been defiled by others?
Well, no matter how afraid we may be, we stand in awe of a holy God and declare God’s holiness along with the seraphim. We join their chorus as we say or sing ‘holy, holy’, holy’, magnifying praise to our almighty God.
Our holy God also comes to us, his church of today and makes us holy through the waters of baptism, through hearing and believing the Word of God made flesh, and through our eating and drinking in faith at the Lord’s Supper. This is how people with troubled consciences can come into God’s holy presence to be forgiven their sin, and to be cleansed from the impurity of others. Here we meet the God of holiness and we’re forgiven, cleansed, refined, and purified!
Then, surprisingly, God sends us back out into this unclean world to live holy lives and speak holy words of grace and forgiveness to others who are afraid and defiled!
As people made holy by God, we try not to live the ways of a dirty world, or speak their lies, but with the Holy Spirit’s help we attempt to live the ways of God.
God calls us to be holy messengers to others around us, no matter how foolish and stubborn they are, so that we can show and tell them what we’ve seen, heard, and experienced; so that we can tell them of his enduring and eternal holiness, goodness, mercy, forgiveness, and love.
Don’t let the shame of past sins or fears silence you! God has purified us and made us you holy to serve those around us in word and deed. Amen.
Genesis 1:1–2:4aGod creates the world through his Word
1 1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
2 The earth was empty, a formless mass cloaked in darkness. And the Spirit of God was hovering over its surface.
3 Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that it was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.” Together these made up one day.
6 And God said, “Let there be space between the waters, to separate water from water.” 7 And so it was. God made this space to separate the waters above from the waters below. 8 And God called the space “sky.” This happened on the second day.
9 And God said, “Let the waters beneath the sky be gathered into one place so dry ground may appear.” And so it was. 10 God named the dry ground “land” and the water “seas.” And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the land burst forth with every sort of grass and seed-bearing plant. And let there be trees that grow seed-bearing fruit. The seeds will then produce the kinds of plants and trees from which they came.” And so it was. 12 The land was filled with seed-bearing plants and trees, and their seeds produced plants and trees of like kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 This all happened on the third day.
14 And God said, “Let bright lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. They will be signs to mark off the seasons, the days, and the years. 15 Let their light shine down upon the earth.” And so it was.
16 For God made two great lights, the sun and the moon, to shine down upon the earth. The greater one, the sun, presides during the day; the lesser one, the moon, presides through the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set these lights in the heavens to light the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 This all happened on the fourth day.
20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.” 21 So God created great sea creatures and every sort of fish and every kind of bird. And God saw that it was good. 22 Then God blessed them, saying, “Let the fish multiply and fill the oceans. Let the birds increase and fill the earth.” 23 This all happened on the fifth day.
24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth every kind of animal—livestock, small animals, and wildlife.” And so it was.
25 God made all sorts of wild animals, livestock, and small animals, each able to reproduce more of its own kind. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, “Let us make people in our image, to be like ourselves. They will be masters over all life—the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the livestock, wild animals, and small animals.”
27 So God created people in his own image; God patterned them after himself; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and told them, “Multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.
Be masters over the fish and birds and all the animals.” 29 And God said, “Look! I have given you the seed-bearing plants throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. 30 And I have given all the grasses and other green plants to the animals and birds for their food.” And so it was. 31 Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was excellent in every way. This all happened on the sixth day.
2 1So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. 2 On the seventh day, having finished his task, God rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from his work of creation. 4 This is the account of the creation of the heavens and the earth.
John 1:1~14 God reveals his Word as Jesus
1 1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. …
9 The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. …
14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
Matthew 3:16-17 Baptism of Jesus witnesses the Trinity
16 After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” 
Matthew 28:16-20 Our Baptism witnesses the Trinity
16 Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” 
2 Corinthians 13:11-13 Apostolic Blessing witnesses the Trinity
11 Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet each other with Christian love.
14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 
 Tyndale House Publishers. (2007). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (3rd ed., Mt 3:16–17). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
 Tyndale House Publishers. (2007). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (3rd ed., Mt 28:16–20). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
 Tyndale House Publishers. (2007). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (3rd ed., 2 Co 13:11–14). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
Sermon for Holy Trinity Sunday
The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Let’s join in a word of prayer: Loving triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, today, in our homes and small groups, we gather to worship You and to celebrate with great joy the gift of the revelation of Your presence in our world. Guide us today that we may share the joy of knowing Jesus Christ as our Saviour and embrace your plan for our lives in the power of the Holy Spirit. Gracious triune God, hear our prayer for the sake of our risen Lord and Saviour, Amen.
The Psalmist witnesses to our desire to praise the Lord our God, ‘I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. I will boast only in the Lord; let all who are helpless take heart. Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt his name together. I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. 
Luke writes in the 2nd Chapter of Acts, that after the day of Pentecost, ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. … Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.’ 
While these believers praised the Lord at all times, and constantly spoke of his praises, the Lord was adding to their number daily those who were being saved. I am certain that it was the praise and passion of the believers for Jesus Christ which invited the power of the Holy Spirit to work in their community. And the Kingdom of God was extended among their neighbours.
I am also certain that it was the passion of the believers for their relationship with each other that brought them together. And they shared with each other the Lord’s greatness and exalted his name together with glad and sincere hearts. That it was the praise they shared which freed them from all their fears and replaced the shame of the cross with the radiance of joy in the resurrection that could not be suppressed.
It was a choice they made to live with praise on their lips and sincere smiles on their faces. Rather than continue living in the captivity of drudgery. It remains a choice for every Christian and every Worshipping Community whether we adopt an attitude of praise or just continue to be satisfied with the hard slog. Today this challenge becomes mired in isolation from COVID, but this challenge is overcome with a choice to hold onto our faith, with hearts joined with praise of our Saviour.
But we should be prepared for the joy and the unity that active praise results in. And we should be prepared to make our praise personal. Nobody can praise God for someone else. Here in Port Macquarie, with our unity of praise, even in our isolation we are joined together. But if we resist the attitude of praise, it is possible that we will remain alone, even after we are reunited in Congregation worship. We can be surrounded by people who are praising God, but if we aren’t allowing the Holy Spirit guiding us in the exaltation, our Lord will be denied of the glory He deserves from each of us.
This is because we all praise Him uniquely, with our own style, our own voice, our own actions expressing our unique attitudes. Our praise is built on our own unique circumstances. As David proclaims in the beginning of Psalm 34 , ‘I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises.’ And yet, our personal praise is joined in a symphony of praise that is pleasing to our Father in heaven.
We should be prepared to make our praise a prayer. We express and grow our relationship with God our Father, our Saviour, and our Comforter through dialogue in prayer. It’s like my relationship with my dearest Sherry. She knows that I love her. But I have a sense that she wants to hear me to say it, even though she already knows I love her. It seems to me that is how it is with our God.
We should also be prepared to praise God continually. Praise that will become second nature to transform our lives. Praise in good times and bad. When we are celebrating life and when we are challenged by life. As David wrote, ‘let all who are helpless take heart. Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt his name together.’ Praise the Lord!
The world will tell us that it just isn’t natural to praise God in every circumstance of life. And that’s true, it’s not natural, it’s supernatural. With God, all things are possible, and God created us in his image, to accept the supernatural, to expect his power revealed in our lives.
We should be prepared to be filled with the desire to praise God with joy in our heart. As David wrote, ‘He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.’ Praise leads us to victory over all that holds us back from experiencing life more abundantly than we can imagine now. Both for ourselves individually, and also for our Worshipping Community. When we look beyond ourselves to praise God our Father, we gain a perspective of living in the victory we seek.
It’s like the little girl staying with her grandmother overnight. On one wall was a mirror and on the other a picture of Jesus. Laying in bed the little girl could see in the mirror the reflection of Jesus. She wanted to see the picture better but rather than move toward the picture, she moved toward the mirror, but as she did she got in the way of the reflection and couldn’t see it. Her grandmother asked what she was doing. “I’m trying to see Jesus, but I keep getting in the way!” When we trust in Jesus Christ, God sees us, but Jesus shines through our eyes and hearts.
We should be prepared to be changed by the praise we offer to God. Sometimes when we turn our eyes to Christ Jesus with praise in our hearts whatever is troubling us will change. But sometimes something even better happens – God’s Holy Spirit changes us.
God doesn’t need our praise. Jesus knows that we need to praise Him, we need to trust Him more and rest in Him and lean on Him. We need to look to Him and He knows it.
Dr. David Osborn at Denver Seminary once wrote, “Too often we try to use God to change our circumstances, while He is using our circumstances to change us.” (Compass, April 2003)
You see, God is right now in the process of making us like Christ. More than just the image of God in which we were created. God reveals himself clearly as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus describes in Matthew. And David seems to have understood this even before the first advent of Christ Jesus into humanity.
David chose two triangles inverted upon each other to build the six sided star of his signet. I was once told by a Jewish friend not to put too much into the shape of his signet. That it was just an easy symbol to make. But I received an inspiration and I am convinced that the first triangle represents the trinity of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The second triangle representing trinity of man, body, soul and spirit. Each side of each triangle can be taken on its own, but is incomplete. Christ Jesus is the only one who encompasses the fullness of both the divinity and humanity represented in the Star of David. And God’s Holy Spirit is busy with the process of making us more and more like Christ Jesus.
A process that will only end when we receive our inheritance of the Kingdom of God in eternity with our friend, Saviour, and Lord, Jesus Christ. A process that will incorporate praise of our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that will linger in our soul and on our lips throughout all eternity. And ‘no shadow of shame will darken our faces.’
The beautiful thing is that God wants to have an intimate relationship with each of us, here and now. The same intimacy with you and me that he has within himself. Jesus said “Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (Jn 14:19 NIV)
The grace and peace of our Triune God, keep your hearts and minds in our living Lord, Christ Jesus, as we praise God our Father and live in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev David Thompson.
 Tyndale House Publishers. (2007). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (3rd ed., Ps 34:1–5). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Ac 2:42–47). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
The Grace of the Father, the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the peace of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
A young man asked an old rich man how he became so wealthy. The old guy smiled with memories and said, “Well, son, it was 1932,
the depth of the Great Depression. As a young teenager on my own, I was down to my last nickel. I invested that nickel in an apple. I spent the entire day polishing the apple and, at the end of the day, I sold the apple for ten cents.
The next morning, I invested those ten cents in two apples. I spent the entire day polishing them and sold them at 5:00 PM for 20 cents. I continued this system for a week, by the end of which I’d accumulated a fortune of $3.50. By my mid- twenties, I owned a fruit stand, and continued to build my small nest egg. Later on, I met the love of my life, and we worked together building our own small store. (pause) Then in 1957, my wife’s father died and left us ten million dollars.” (Source: Unknown)
There’s a lot to be said for hard work, perseverance and wisdom, but in this man’s case his vast wealth had less to do with his own character than with the generosity of his wife’s father.
The reality of the Trinity is not received with worldly wisdom or pristine character. It is not even directly revealed in the Scripture. It is discovered by intuition from the generosity of God through the Holy Spirit. It is received by faith in God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit.
Solomon received the gift of wisdom. Once again, it was less a matter of his hard work, perseverance and character. It was a gift of God. When we think of wisdom, we face up to the reality that the wisdom which comes from God is often in conflict with what the world considers wisdom. Believers in Christ Jesus seem so often to be out of step with the world around us. A world that promotes self-interest and political correctness, while it ignores common sense and blends right and wrong into a state of confusion. Proverbs 9:10 encourages us that “Reverence for the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’.
In our reading from Proverbs, Solomon in all his wisdom, revealed an intuition from God. Solomon, with poetic license, personifies wisdom in the appearance of a woman. Almost an angelic being translated from the Hebrew word Sophia. This personification, speaks of one of the attributes that are common between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God in trinity. That of wisdom.
The creation of the heavens and the earth, and ultimately human beings, were a matter of God’s wisdom in action. Not an afterthought, or chance, or natural selection. With wisdom, received from God, through the Holy Spirit guiding our human spirit, we stand out against the wisdom of the world. We hold firm in our agreement that God is one. One perfect, eternal, powerful essence, with three distinct persons. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A trinity in unity: Described in our Lutheran tradition as our Triune God.
I am convinced that Jesus deeply wanted us to know the Trinity of God. He spoke to the disciples before he returned to his place of glory at the centre of God’s Kingdom. He confessed that He had “much more to say to [them], more than [they could] bear.” He promised that “when the Spirit of truth [would] come, he[would] guide [them] into all truth”. (Jn 16:12 NIV).
Luther confessed in his explanation of the third article of the Apostles’ Creed, “by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith’. (The Book of Concord p.355)
Jesus sent the Holy Spirit so that we can come to a better understanding of God, as He reveals himself to us. Even though our understanding of God is at best incomplete, God reveals himself to us as Triune God.
The first appearance of the Triune God is at the very beginning of creation. Just like the quality of wisdom, the Holy Spirit was active in the creation of the universe, along with the Father and the Son.
The Triune God is present with us today. The Godhead fills our universe and our lives. God who helps us make sense of our lives and understand God’s purpose for us. Who gives us the courage and confidence to live God’s purpose for our lives. Who helps change the way we feel about all that happens to us in our everyday lives. And who gives us the courage to confront the corrupted wisdom of the world around us.
John begins his Gospel, revealing our Saviour in the Trinity “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him.”
Just as Moses began his testimony of Genesis revealing the presence of the Trinity in creation, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.’ (Genesis 1:1–2 NLT)
In the great commission, God revealed Himself to the Apostles and to us in trinity, through the words of Christ Jesus. “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in a the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. (Mt 28:19 NIV) …
In the wisdom of God, given to us by his Holy Spirit, we can accept Martin Luther’s thesis: “The Holy Scriptures teach that God is absolutely one and that He is also three persons, absolutely distinct.”
Paul writes in his letter to the Romans: ‘There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.’ (Rom 8:1-2)
Paul also wrote what we shared today, ‘since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’
Luther, called this “the article upon which the church stands or falls.” Justification by faith alone. To Luther, wherever this reality is believed and preached, we find the true church! A church ceases to be Christian when it fails to declare that each person, revealed as both saint and sinner at the same time, is reconciled to God by no other way than by faith.
And so, we stand today united with every Christian in the world, proclaiming our faith in one God in three persons, celebrating our unity, and stepping out in a shared mission to proclaim a common heritage. It all begins with what our Saviour Jesus Christ did for us. We worship our ascended Saviour, we praise God our Father, and we honour the Holy Spirit. And like the earliest church, we devote ourselves to the teaching of the Apostles, to fellowship, to prayer, and to breaking bread together in Holy Communion – one body in Christ.
There is an old saying, “There but for the grace of God, go I”. In the trinity of God, we discover that grace. We are not just forgiven, but we are changed. By faith, we are made new and we become precious children of God.
We come with confidence to God the Father who created us, because of the sacrifice of God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. God the Holy Spirit was poured out upon all believers, to give us the will and the fruit of the Spirit to live Christian lives. And we give thanks to God for both the spiritual wisdom and the common sense that we have received.
And so, we give thanks and praise to our Saviour, Jesus Christ, God the Son, to our precious creator, God the Father, and to the ever present Spirit of God.
It is quite common for pastors or secretaries in church offices to get phone calls from telemarketers. Often they will ask a question like, “Are you the owner of this business?” How does one respond to a question like that? Try to enlighten them by saying that the church is not a ‘business’? Tell them if they want to speak to the ‘owner’ they can do that anytime they wish – it’s called prayer? Such conversations highlight how different the ways of God’s kingdom are from the ways of the world.
Nicodemus, a member of the ruling Jewish council,discovered that too when he came to Jesus at night and wanted to discuss the ways of God’s kingdom. The ways of God’s kingdom cannot be described in human terms, but must be comprehended, believed and received in Spiritual terms.
Nicodemus was not antagonistic toward Jesus like other members of the Jewish ruling council were. There were things about Jesus and his ministry that genuinely intrigued him and drew him to Jesus, like the miracles Jesus had been doing, which Nicodemus could only conclude were ‘from God’ (v.2). However, in the ensuing conversation, Jesus gently corrected Nicodemus and guided him toward some deeper spiritual blessings of his kingdom.
While Nicodemus had learned and taught that ‘the kingdom of God’ was the nation of Israel, whom God promised to rescue from their enemies by means of a Messiah king, Jesus spoke to him of an eternal ‘kingdom’ that did not belong to this world (v.3, 16).
While Nicodemus was proud to have been born as a child of Israel, Jesus spoke about being ‘born again’ by a spiritual rebirth ‘from above’, very different from a natural birth, which would enable him to ‘see’ and ‘enter’ God’s eternal, spiritual kingdom (v.3-7).
While Nicodemus concluded that Jesus had ‘come from God’, and recognized that ‘God was with him’, Jesus spoke to him about the divine mystery of a God who makes himself known as three persons of the one God.
As the Father in heaven, whose love for mankind is way beyond the bounds of human capacity and comprehension (v.16).
As the Son who comes down from heaven, speaks to people about ‘heavenly things’ (v.12), and offers his divinely-human nature to be ‘lifted up’ on a cross for the world’s redemption (v.14-15).
As a powerful and life-giving ‘Spirit’ whose ways are more mysterious and mighty than the wind that blows in this world (v.8).
Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about the divine purpose of an ever-loving God, who does not want to ‘condemn’ sinners to ‘perish’ eternally, but rather wants all people to ‘believe’ in Jesus and what he has done, and ‘be saved’ to ‘eternal life’ (v.16, 17).
Jesus showed Nicodemus that God is truly gracious, in that he makes his divine mysteries known to people through tangible, earthly means; things we can see, hear, taste, touch and experience; things by which ordinary human beings can receive the spiritual blessings of God’s kingdom.
Here is what Jesus told Nicodemus:
Even though ‘the Kingdom of God’ is an eternal, spiritual kingdom, Jesus said that it is also something that people can ‘see’ and ‘enter’ through a spiritual rebirth (v.3, 5).
Even though the second birth is a spiritual rebirth ‘from above’ (v.3), it is something that people can know and experience here below. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again” (v.7); then you can ‘see’ and ‘enter the kingdom of God’. Jesus said that this new spiritual birth is available through the earthly element of water, applied with the audible Word of God in baptism. The earthly means of Word and water convey the mighty working of God’s Spirit in us.
Even though the ‘love’ of God ‘for the world’ is beyond human comprehension (v.16), it is graciously shown to the world through the earthly means of His ‘only Son’, born of human flesh and blood; and given to live and die for the sins of the world. This saving act was foreshadowed by an earthly event many years before, through a visible bronze serpent that Moses ‘lifted up’ on a pole in the desert, so that people who were bitten by snakes could look to it and live. God’s love is remembered and received anew even today in the same flesh and blood given in and with the earthly elements of bread and wine. The good news of God’s love is told to the world through the visible and audible Word of God, printed on the pages of a Bible, read silently or aloud, proclaimed, explained and explored, or sung in psalms, hymns or spiritual songs.
Even though the concept of an ‘eternal life’ beyond this world, free from the condemnation that our sins deserve, is not something we can believe – let alone receive – on our own, Jesus promises to give and nurture a saving faith through those same earthly means; words in a book, on human lips, joined with water in baptism, and with bread and wine in Holy Communion. These earthly means graciously convey to us, in very tangible ways, the spiritual blessings of God’s kingdom.
As Jesus led Nicodemus toward the goal of saving faith in him as the Suffering Servant Saviour, it seemed that the challenge for Nicodemus was to learn to see beyond life in this world and to comprehend things from a ‘heavenly perspective’. In many ways, that is our challenge too. We live in this world, as human flesh and blood, with a naturally sinful human nature, surrounded by worldly things and worldly ideas. So, it is very easy for us to be found thinking about things – even spiritual things – from a purely natural, human perspective. In fact, the more we become immersed in life in this world, the opinions of others, the ideas constantly put forward in media, and our own life-experiences, the more foreign the ‘heavenly things’ of God can seem to be.
It’s hard to stay focussed on a ‘Kingdom of God” that is not actually visible, when the pressure all around us is to be busy building and securing our own little kingdoms on earth with house, money, employment, possessions and a good superannuation.
It’s hard to walk in the ways of that kingdom revealed in God’s Word when the world around us seems to be marching to a completely different set of values and ideas.
It is hard to see ourselves as new people, ‘born of the Spirit’, when we all we can see is our earthly life with its weaknesses, temptations and failures.
It is hard to comprehend a ‘God who loved the world’ when people around us – and our own sinful natures – want to blame him for the things that go wrong in the world.
It is hard to live our lives in view of a time of ‘divine judgement,’ a time when God will ask, “What have you done with the life that I gave you?”; or to believe in the reality that without faith in Jesus, people will ‘perish’ eternally, when the general line of thinking in the world around us is that we are all basically good people and will therefore all go to heaven – or to nothing at all – when we die.
It’s hard to keep ‘believing’ in and seeking God’s ‘only Son’ – and his forgiveness – as the only way to be set free from sin’s eternal consequences and to secure our eternal future, when the devil, the world and our own sinful natures keep on telling us that there are more urgent and important things with which to concern ourselves in life.
Like Nicodemus, Christian people can even find ourselves asking, “How can these things be?” in relation to the spiritual truths of God’s kingdom (v.9).
The first challenge for each of us is to ask, “Where am I getting my thinking from?” Is it from the Spirit or from the flesh? The second challenge is to come to Jesus, like Nicodemus did, and learn of the divine mysteries that bring us ‘new birth’ and ‘eternal life’:
to open our hearts and minds to understand the ‘heavenly things’ of his kingdom;
to learn that we can indeed ‘see’ God’s kingdom and ‘enter’ it when we are ‘born of water and the Spirit’ in Holy Baptism;
to open our hearts and minds to the ‘wind’ of the ‘Spirit’ so that it may blow through his Word and daily renew us in heart and life;
to go daily and prayerfully to God’s Word, so that we can grow in the grace and knowledge of our loving God and of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ;
to make use of the visible, audible and tangible earthly means that God gives us in this world to nurture our saving faith – his Word, revealed in the Scriptures, and added to the water in baptism, and the bread and wine of Holy Communion.
Then, even as we live in the natural world, we will be able to comprehend and receive ‘heavenly things’ through the earthly means that God so graciously gives us. Amen!
And may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.