John 3 and the Trinity
2009-06-05 by Paul Wilson

When we as preacher employ Trinitarian ways of speaking, speaking of God in all three persons, we enrich the ways people have of relating to God. So for instance in relation to our John 3 text, we could say something like the following in a sermon: "Just as God was at work when Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness and healed those bitten, God is at work today in Christ through the Holy Spirit. On this day Christ says to you from the cross, “I take the sin out of the soul, the venom out of the snake-bite, the toxin out of the sting, the poison out of the remarks, the anxiety out of the confusion, the anger out of the heartache, the bitterness out of disappointment, the contamination out of the relationship, the fear out of faith, the greed out of the greedy, the hunger out of the hungry, the need out of the needy, and the mortality out of death itself.” 



Why isn't the Trinity mentioned in the Bible?
2009-06-05 by Paul Wilson

Some folks defend their own difficulty with Christianity in terms of the Bible not mentioning the Trinity. True, the Bible does not use the word Trinity. Neither does the Apostle's Creed, though its both its structure and confession is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Rather what we find in the Bible are ample references to each person of the Trinity. Among the most common textual references to the Trinity, dating back not least to the Second Helvetic Confession of 1561, are Luke 1:35, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God"; Matthew 28:19, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; and John 15:26, "When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf".





Trinity
2009-06-04 by Paul Wilson

The Trinity is a difficult topic on which to preach, in part because it may seem to respond to no felt need on the part of the congregation. The preacher can be seen to be scratching a spot that is not itchy. Instead of addressing a felt need, preachers might speak about the Trinity because the people "need to know" certain things about the Christian faith. However a felt need is here, if we listen to our people. They express a need to know God, to know that God cares, to know that God is not a mere voyeur of human pain but actually is involved in human affairs, and that what we see around us is not all there is. Any one of these can be the basis for speaking of Trinity, and can help transform what might be a dull lecture into what is experienced as a vibrant and relevant Word of God. --Paul Scott Wilson





The God of Isaiah 6 in the Manger
2009-06-04 by David von Schlichten

Thank you to guest blogger Paul Wilson for his contributions so far this week, as well as to Stephen Schuette for his thoughts on Nicodemus. I especially value Paul's note that we tend to personalize the Isaiah 6 passage when, in reality, that call is not necessarily our own.

I might make the first half of the sermon a meditation on the terrifying greatness of the Triune God, as we hear in Isaiah 6, and then spend the second half underlining the point that this same God approaches us with great, sometimes tiny and great, intimacy and tenderness. Amazing.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





Empathy for Nicodemus
2009-06-03 by Stephen Schuette

In the exchange Nicodemus identifies Jesus as “a” teacher (vs. 2) while later Jesus acknowledges that Nicodemus is “the” teacher in Israel (vs. 10).  The definitive article is present in the Greek in vs. 10 although it is not indicated in translation.

This shatters an assumption I had always brought to the text.  Since Nicodemus came at night, under cover, I assumed that Nicodemus is already acknowledging his inadequacies and recognizing Jesus as a superior teacher.  But is it reasonable that such a transformation should take place in Nicodemus simply through a second-hand report?  Do settled power structures and the people enmeshed in them shift that easily?  If there is a transformation wouldn’t it be through a direct encounter with Jesus?

The ability of Nicodemus to see Jesus for who he is (The Teacher) hinges on his ability to identify himself correctly in relationship with Jesus (no longer even “a” teacher, but a student).  So in the ministry of Jesus the reordered Realm of God requires a letting go of structures and positions so that something new might be born.

I have a new empathy for Nicodemus.  His being born anew will only come about when he lets go of everything that has defined him, his whole identity.  Jesus is asking a lot of him, and of us ­ to see through the total reorganization of our lives and to recognize the surpassing worth of such a transformation. (See Phil. 3:8)

But as one in our study group this morning suggested, this is not about just a little polishing up of who we already are.  It is more like the journey of an addict through a 12-step program with the same acknowledgement of our inability to heal ourselves.

As with so many stories we don’t immediately know how it ends.  We know that Jesus is in the role of Teacher.  His words, his lecture, move forward to the close of the chapter.  Nicodemus reappears chapters later as a follower (7:50, 19:39).  But here, at the close of Chapter 3, the question may not be so much about Nicodemus as it is about us, and who we are, and who Jesus is to us.




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