GRACE, MERCY AND PEACE are YOURS this day from GOD our Father through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN.
The text for our consideration – John 3 – where we hear again those mysterious words of Jesus, “You must be born again.” In the Name of Jesus. AMEN.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus – God has intended great things for humanity. Far above the beasts and the animals, He has created us to know of Him and to be in fellowship with Him. And because of this, we live we live amid the seeming chances and changes of this world with an insatiable desire for an existence free from the trials and troubles of this life. We strive – we struggle – and we strain to see fulfilled all the goodness, grace and mercy God intended for us when He had created all things and declared, “Behold, it is very good.”
One day, God will return the world to that pristine condition. In that day, we will know and understand His mysterious nature. We will clearly see the changes and challenges of this life from His perspective. We will understand His will and His leading in our life.
This is God’s desire for us. That we be received into His Kingdom to enjoy this perfect bliss for which He created us to live – that we would forever rejoice in His goodness and perfection without the snares and trials and troubles of this world. That we would truly love and praise Him, serve Him and Worship Him without end.
But as we live our days in this fallen creation – corrupted as it is by mankinds rebellion, all seems cloudy, mirky. We see now only dimly, as looking through a cloudy mirror.
Yet He has not left us to wallow in our condition as sinners. He has given His promise and provided for our rescue so that one day, we may see Him and be with Him as He desires – He gives us hope so that we can eagerly expect the day when the temporary conditions of this world give way – and all things are made new. We wait for that day when “death shall be no more, nor suffering, nor weeping, nor pain,” We look forward to that day when this world passes away and all things are made new because in that day, all the troubles that have pressed in about us and all the complaints we have uttered will also give way to praise and eternal rejoicing and exultation.
Would it not be a great and glorious thing if every one of us – and not only us – but every one of our friends and family members, every distant relation and every acquaintance joined us as citizens of that day? Imagine – all mankind – of every tribe and nation and language – standing before the throne of God – praising God and receiving the mercy of the Father who sent His Son to redeem us, working faith in us by His Holy Spirit!
In that day, All the pleasures that we experience and all the good things that we enjoy in this life – all of them will fade into the background. They are a merest foretaste – a drop in the ocean – of what our good and gracious God has in store for us in the life to come. We may marvel at the vastness of the universe – the beauty of the heavens – the glorious majesty of the natural world around us – but this will all give way to a new heavens and a new earth. The lights and excitement of our human cities – will give way to that one golden city of Jerusalem which shall come down from heaven – radiant and as beautiful as a bride prepared for her groom.
In that city, the springs of living water will flow and give drink to the tree of life. The fear of death will be banished. Imagine a world without poverty or sickness or any sort of misfortune or trouble. Imagine an existence of perpetual joy and celebration as the world assembles in the eternal feast of salvation in the Kingdom of God’s glory.
Can you imagine it? Of course you can, for God has placed within all of us a desire to live in such fellowship with Him. And He has implanted within us an insatiable desire to dwell in that land. And He desires to exclude nobody from participation. Rather, He has opened the entrance to all – you, me, and all persons. And this entrance He reveals to us in our reading from St. John.
Now, you may wonder – as I did as I began to prepare for today – why this familiar passage is read on Trinity Sunday. The simple answer is that we do our finite minds cannot comprehend the great mystery being expressed. We can confess this mysterious teaching of the Trinity as we read the high-sounding words of the Athanasian Creed. We can speak clear words concerning who God is and we can avoid error in our thoughts and speech about Him. And, it is important to do so, for, as we confessed whoever does not believe in this way will without doubt never enter His Kingdom.
But the fact is that we can only do these things because God, Himself, has taught us these truths by revealing them to us in Holy Scripture. So we can confess His teaching – declaring that He is one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, and we know that we must neither confuse the persons nor divide the substance of the Godhead. But we will never be able to conceive of what it truly means that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God and yet we worship not three Gods, but One God. This knowledge is too great for us in this life.
For the truth remains that the Triune God whom we worship cannot be known or understood by us apart from what He has done – how He has worked redemption and how He continues to operate within creation to rescue us from this world that is passing away.
So in our text we hear of the sublime mystery of the Triune God – the Father who sent His Son. The Son, who descended His throne in order to be lifted up as Moses lifted up the snake in the Wilderness – and the Spirit – who blows here and there in order to lead us to look upon the Son – so that we would trust and believe in the work of our Savior, Jesus, for eternal life.
And we are told, in order for us to enter His Kingdom, we must be born again – born from above.
Now, each of us has been born of our parents and, so, we have received the first birth into this world. From that, we receive certain traits from our parents – we receive our eye-color, our hair color, our height – some of our personality also. Some may be of a more keen intellect – others more able to work with their hands. But none of this has any bearing with regard to your citizenship in heaven.
And this fact is of importance to us all – and especially important to our young people [and perhaps most important to our graduates] – as they consider how they will participate in this world as they await the promises of God that are to come. In the end – what happens to you and what YOU accomplish great or small in this life is not going to matter. Whether you have made something of yourself – acquired great learning – amassed great wealth – helped many or few along the way. None of it will be of lasting consequence – because this world will pass away. And along with this world, all your work and your accomplishments – great or small – for good or for ill – will be blotted out. In that day, only that which God accomplishes, only those things worked by Him will last and endure into the world that is to come.
And this highlights our greatest need – our need to be born again from above, as Jesus says. Because it is only through such a second birth, a birth from above that we are able to participate in the work that God is doing in this world as He prepares for Himself a people to dwell in His presence forever. We must first be made new, we must be born of God’s Spirit if we are to do those works that God has prepared for us to do. Otherwise life is meaningless – a chasing after the wind. Without this Spiritual birth we remain blind and unhearing and unable to understand the things of God – as Nicodemus was – we will not even comprehend the earthly things that God is doing in the world – and we will never understand or believe in the heavenly mysteries – because these are only known and understood by means of His Spirit who dwells in those who are given this new birth.
“If anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation, the old has passed away, behold, all things have become new,” says the Apostle Paul. “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, that we might walk in them.” “God has born witness according to His Will, through the word of truth, so that we might be the first born of His creatures.”
These and many other passages speak of this need for us to be born anew – given new birth from above – and made wholly different. “For that which is born of flesh, is flesh, and what is orn of the Spirit, is spirit,” and “Unless one is born again from above, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.”
And how can it be otherwise? Are we, of ourselves, in any condition to inherit that Kingdom? Can we claim any good work? Are we really able to claim that we have lived a perfect and blameless life – with our heart so good natured – knowing and actually enacting the very will of God in all of our thoughts, words and deeds? Dare any one of us claim that he can keep his own feet from stumbling and his own heart from sin? God reveals that such is impossible for us. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. All have turned, every one of us, each to his own way. Do you not look at the world and question God’s love and mercy? Do you not wonder at His goodness and graciousness when we see the turmoil and difficulty in our lives and the lives of others? Do you not look at this world and easily forget God’s promises of the world to come – and so pursue and seek to hold on to worldly wealth – presteige – power and all that God declares is temporary and vanity.
And now, I ask, Can such sin in any way stand in the presence of a Holy and Righteous God?
We see, then, how in need we are to be born again – to have this natural way of thinking and our natural desires put to death – and to have God unite Himself with us so that we may enter into fellowship with Him and receive from Him the inheritance that He has promised.
And this is what our Triune God accomplishes for us. This new birth is not accomplished by our works our our actions – it is worked for us and upon us by God – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is a work begun in your baptism when the water was poured upon you and the name of our Triune God was spoken – there the wind of the Spirit blew according to His Will and His plan and His purposes. Thereafter you grew in wisdom and stature and favor in the eyes of God and of man. Yet, the natural man is not so easily put down. To this day, no doubt, you feel the war within – your own thoughts and desires fighting against what God has revealed to you of His will and purposes in His Word. The word of His law confronts you – do not covet – do not lust – do not murder – and it reveals to you that not only do you have those desires, but you frequently act upon them. And in so doing, you expel from your life the Holy Spirit which God has given to you and you return to live as a worldling under your own knowledge and power.
See, then, how needy we are to receive over and over again the seed of God’s word – planted into our ears – embedded into our hearts – so that GOD may return us again and again to the purity of our baptism and enliven us once again by His Spirit that proceeds from the Father and the Son so that we may once again be brought into fellowship with Him. See how, of ourselves, we cannot set aside the works of darkness and how we need God to put to death the natural man with his earthly vision and his desire for the temporary things of this life so that we would grow more and more into the new creation that God strengthens and matures by His Word and Spirit.
Each and every time God’s Word hits your ear, the Holy Spirit implants the seeds of truth in your heart. Initially, just as the seed that is planted in the ground disturbs the dirt in which it is planted, our heart stirs and is disturbed as we recognize how far we have drifted away from God – how dead and lifeless we are. As His word begins to work in us, we see plainly the sin that has corrupted our lives. But this is merely the awakening of faith. These are the pains of the new-birth that God is accomplishing within us.
God, by His Word works anxiety and fear in our hearts over our sin and He prepares us to receive the mercy and grace He has worked for us by Christ Jesus.
For no has ascended into heaven except He who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so was the Son of Man lifted up – to pour out His blood and rescue and redeem you from your sins – working forgiveness and salvation for you.
For God the Father so Loved the World that He sent His only-begotten Son, that who-so-ever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life. That same life that He took up when He rose from the cold dark tomb into which He was laid.
And the Son has sent forth His Word – and with that word , the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son in order to work in you a new birth – so that you would not perish, but you would inherit the blessed kingdom which He has prepared for you.
And thus we see the work of the One uncreated and infinite God – Father – unbegotten , the Son, neither made nor created but begotten, and Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son – co-eternal, co-equal, almighty and everlasting – rescuing and redeeming you to take you to be with Himself forever.
As you have heard His Word again today, it is clear that He wills to work this in you. Therefore, put down your opposition – cease resisting the Holy Spirit. Be found frequently where His Word is proclaimed and taught in its purity so that He can continue this work in you. And having been given new birth from above, cooperate with Him as He puts to death the old natural man with it’s desires for the things of this world. Kneel at the Lord’s altar – eat His body, drink His blood for the strengthening of your faith and the purification of your conscience, and in all things, do not become weary or tired in the battle and strife of this world. For it is God who works in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure as He carries you through this life to life everlasting.
In the Name of Jesus. AMEN. Now, The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and keep your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. AMEN.