Based on Psalm 29
Praise the Lord, you angels of his; praise his glory and his strength.
Praise him for his majestic glory, the glory of his name. Come before him clothed in sacred garments.
The voice of the Lord echoes from the clouds. The God of glory thunders through the skies.
So powerful is his voice; so full of majesty that it splits the giant trees and shakes the mountains.
The voice of the Lord thunders through the lightning.
It resounds through the deserts and the wilderness quakes.
The voice of the Lord spins and topples the mighty oaks, it strips the forests bare. They whirl and sway beneath the blast.
But in his Temple all are praising, “Glory, glory to the Lord.”
At the Flood, the Lord showed his control of all creation. Now he continues to unveil his power.
He will give his people strength. He will bless them with peace.
O Holy God,
like Isaiah the prophet, we stand in awe of Your glory,
feeling tremendously small and polluted by our sin,
and the sin of our society.
Even so, You touch us with Your burning presence,
and we are made clean and whole.
O God, our Creator,
continue to build this household of faith into what You want us to be.
O Christ, our Savior,
lead us to do as You will.
O Spirit, our Power,
strengthen us for the work of the Kingdom,
a worship and a service which is ours today as well as tomorrow.
O Blessed Trinity,
fill this place and these people with Your presence.
For yours is the Power, and the Salvation, and the Creation,
now and always.
The Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Nicodemus is mentioned three times in the gospel of John (the only book of the bible he does appear in) and this story happens to be the first mention of him.
The other two times he appears we see him once when he is reminding his colleagues in the Sanhedrin that the law requires that a person be heard before being judged, this is in response to the other chief priests angrily demanding Jesus’ arrest after hearing stories about him spreading through the region. And the other time is when he came, along with another secret disciple - Joseph of Aramathea, with burial spices after the death of Jesus to carry out the traditional customs to prepare the body for burial.
Nicodemus is part of the ruling rabbis, he sits on the Sanhedrin, the temple council of elders. He is expected to follow the accepted jewish traditions, but he is curious. It is no wonder that he waits until the cover of darkness to pay Jesus a secret visit. This is dangerous for him.
But he is curious. He has questions. There are things he can’t understand. He wants answers to the strange things that Jesus has been preaching - the topic of conversation that we are presented with in the passage is the notion of being born again - what does this mean? He does not have the benefit of two millennia of hind-sight to understand what this means as we do today, to him it is a new concept.
So in this passage we are eavesdropping into a 2000 year old conversion about a mystery. But still 2000 years later mysteries still exist now as they existed then. We still struggle with mysteries of faith.
The Trinity: The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit is an enduring mystery. Do we really understand this? There is only one God but there is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who are distinct but are and one.
I wonder how you have tried to explain this; how were you taught to explain this, especially to younger people.
Let me share with you my brief reflection on how I relate to the Trinity:
Imagine the waters that cover the earth. The oceans make up over 70% of the surface of the earth and contain over 95% of all the earth's water.
The waters are vast. The pacific ocean on its own, at its widest point, is wider than the moon, by quite a lot - it’s actually more than five times the diameter of the moon (apparently)!
The oceans are unknown, less than 5% of it has ever been explored.
The oceans give life with almost all (over 70%) of the earth's oxygen being produced by marine algae.
It sustains life with 94% of all life on earth being aquatic.
When you stand on the shore and watch it stretch out for hundreds and thousands of miles in front of you you are in awe of its size. Did you know it takes water 1000 years to do a complete circuit of the globe in what is known as the global ocean conveyor belt.
As you gaze upon the ocean you are in awe of the power of the waves as they smash against the shore and shape the very land we live on.
The waters of the oceans and seas are big and powerful; sometimes angry, sometimes calm; sometimes warm and sometimes icy cold; sometimes transparent and clear, sometimes obscure and mysterious; it produces life, we could not survive without it.
Imagine now that you are at the beach on a hot summer day. You have set up your deck-chairs, towels and beach bags on a prime spot. You decide to get up and walk to the edge of the sea and you wade into the water about 10 or 15 meters. You have a small bottle with you and you dip it into the sea and draw it back out full of water which you then carry back to your spot on the beach.
You look at your bottle of water and you consider what you have done.
You have captured the seawater in a small vessel, You have encapsulated some of the ocean in a container so that it can be taken away from its original environment. The water you have in your bottle is still the same water that is in the ocean but you can now have it with you and take it about with you as any other bottle you have. The water is no no longer part of the sea, it is an object of the dry land that you can touch and manipulate.
It is now time to leave the beach. It is late in the afternoon and the temperature is getting cooler, you are packing away your beach paraphernalia and getting ready to go home. But before you go you want to clear away all of the stuff you don’t want to carry back home with you. So you eat the last few crisps and snacks you brought with you and swig the last bottle of water before heading back to the car.
It is at this point that you realise that the mouthful of water you just glugged was not the refreshing Evian mineral water you thought it was (other mineral waters are available!) but the bottle of sea water from earlier on in the day.
It is too late now, you can’t untaste what you have just tasted - it is unique. The bitter saltiness, the fishy (pungent) marine odour you can taste in your mouth, the stinging on the sensitive parts of your mouth and the instant drying effect on the lips.
You will never forget this taste, you may not be able to describe it well to someone who asks you but for sure the sensation will be with you for the rest of your days.
Whenever you see, talk or think of the ocean its essence will always follow you.
So, I wonder if that made sense, in my analogy:
God, represented by the ocean, is vast, mysterious and powerful. Filling all corners of the earth and creating and sustaining life.
Jesus, represented by the bottle filled with seawater, is the same substance as God but contained in a body that can be taken from the source in a tangible and fragile form which can can be touched and interacted with.
The Holy Spirit, represented by the taste of the ocean, is the essence, character and presence of God that remains with. It is a reminder that the ocean is always there even though we may not always feel that close to it.
I don’t think any description of the Trinity will pay it sufficient justice in all facets of its wonder. After all, the point of a mystery is that it is indescribable!
So returning to the conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus it is interesting to see that the reading concludes, after the to-ing and fro-ing, with a more simple statement and one of the most famous bible statements in John 3:16:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
After all is said and done however much we understand of the ways of God or not, we can take comfort and be sure of the fact that:
God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Credits: Prayer posted on My Redeemer Lives website. http://www.myredeemerlives.com/prayers.html Created with images by DeltaWorks - "flower field flowers field" • cocoparisienne - "dove bird flight"