Pastor Michael Frye:
A priest had been called to administer last rights to a man who had collapsed due to an apparent heart attack.
As he was accustomed to doing, the priest asked the man:
“Do you believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit?”
The man opened his eyes and said to the priest:
“I am lying here, I may be dying, and you ask me a riddle.”
The Holy Trinity is somewhat of a riddle to many people.
One God in three persons?
How does one explain that to people are used to seeing things in physical terms?
Beyond saying that it is a mystery, one must take such things on faith.
In our gospel lesson, Jesus is confronted by a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a man of strong faith and religious principles.
Nicodemus was an eminent teacher of the Torah, who knew and followed all the commandments, but there was an emptiness that he couldn’t fill.
He had heard Jesus teach, and there was something in his teaching that caused him to want to hear more.
He came to Jesus at night because he didn’t want other religious leaders to know that he was speaking with him.
Jesus could tell that Nicodemus wanted more in his life than what adherence to the law had provided.
“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.”
Jesus’ response was baffling to Nicodemus:
“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”
“How can anyone be born after having grown old?
“Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?”
Jesus’ answer resonates with all who follow him today, as well:
“Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.”
Kingdom of God, Spirit, and the Son, all are there in Jesus’ conversation, and all are present in our lives through our baptisms.
At our baptisms, we are born again through the Spirit into lives of faith and service to God in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
One Sunday afternoon Timothy was bored, and his father was ready for a nap, so he decided to create an activity for Timothy to keep him busy.
In the Sunday newspaper he found a large map of the world, so he took a pair of scissors and cut the map into a lot of irregular shapes like a jigsaw puzzle.
He gave them to Timothy, saying “put this together, and don’t disturb me until you have completed the puzzle.”
He settled in for his nap, thinking he had about an hour, but Timothy was tapping him on the shoulder fifteen minutes later.
“How did finish that so fast?”
“It was easy, Dad.
“There was a picture of a man on the other side.
“When I got him together right, the world was right.”
A person’s world can never be right until the person is right, and that requires the miracle of new birth that Jesus was talking about with Nicodemus.
Through Jesus, our lives are changed in such a way that others will notice and will want to know what has been so significant and transforming.
And there is that passage again at the end of the gospel that we have heard so many times and even committed it to memory:
“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.
“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.”
One can never hear that too many times, because we know that we don’t deserve such a gift.
Yet God gives it freely because he doesn’t want any of his children to suffer the consequences of falling short to repentant sin.
Donald Hall, once the poet Laureate of New Hampshire, was helping his grandmother clean out the attic one day.
They found a mountain of boxes that his grandfather had stuffed with items over the years.
He was intrigued by one box that was marked “String Too Short to be Saved.”
“Why,” he asked, “would grandfather have saved string too short to be saved?”
Then it occurred to him:
His grandfather just couldn’t let go of something for which he one day might find some use.”
Have you ever in your life gotten the feeling that you were like a string too short to be saved?
Well, don’t worry, because no one is ever lost to God: not a single homeless person, not an estranged child or spouse, not someone who has lost his or her way.
No one will be lost to God; and neither should they be lost to us as God’s ambassadors in the world.
Isaiah learned that lesson in his encounter with God in our first reading for today.
In Isaiah’s vision, an angel from God comes to him and touches a coal from the sacrificial altar to his lips as a sign that his sin had been blotted out.
Then God speaks:
“Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”
And Isaiah responds, “Here am I; send me!”
From that moment forward, Isaiah never looked back upon his life prior to God’s rather convincing call.
Isaiah knew that he was standing in the presence of God, so he responded with eagerness and some trepidation.
He knew that God would not leave him alone in his mission!
He was standing in the presence of God.
In hymn 574 in your worship book, Daniel L. Schutte gives a wonderful rendition of this encounter as a reminder of our own call from God:
“I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard my people cry.
“All who dwell in dark and sin my hand will save.
“I, who made the stars of night, I will make their darkness bright.
“Who will bear my light to them? Whom shall I send?
“Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
“I have heard you calling in the night.
“I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
“I Will hold your people in my heart.”
Is it I?
Is it you?
Is it us who are corporately being called by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to be God’s voice and hands and feet to move among God’s people encouraging, admonishing, inviting, feeding, sharing God’s word, spreading God’s love and tender mercy with a world that has gone dark from the lack of the True Light of Christ to light their way?
Is that not what God wants from us?
What God needs from us as ones who have been called through our baptisms to “live among God’s faithful people, to proclaim Christ through word and deed, to care for others and the world God made, and to work for justice and peace?”
“Growing Disciples – Making Christ Known” are written on the bulletin cover.
Is that not our call to mission?
Is that not our call to faithfully witness to the Love of God, the amazing grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the communion of The Holy Spirit?
Remember the words of St. Paul in our second lesson for today, and hold them in your hearts:
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.
When we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”
Our glory is in fully accepting and living a life in Christ, regardless of the suffering, trials, and tribulations that may bring upon us.
By standing in the presence of God, we find peace in knowing that we remain faithful to the one who sacrificed everything so we might inherit eternal life and everlasting joy in God’s presence.
Let us pray:
“God of grace and God of glory, on your people pour your pow’r; crown your ancient church’s story; bring its bud to glorious flow’r.
“Grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the facing of this hour, for the facing of this hour.”