|Pentecost 21, Year B||October 17, 2021||Pentecost 21, Proper 24, Year B 2021||Psalm 91:9-16|
|Pentecost 20, Year B||October 10, 2021||Pentecost 20, Proper 23, Year B||Amos 5:6-7.10-15. Psalm 90:12-17, Hebrews 4:12-16, Mark 10:17-31|
|Pentecost 19, Year B, Season of Creation 5||October 3, 2021||Feast of St Francis, Pentecost 19, Year B||Jeremiah 22:13-16, Matthew 11:25-30|
|Pentecost 18, Year B, Season of Creation 4||September 26, 2021||Pentecost 18, Year B, Season of Creation 4||Numbers 11:4-6,10-16,24-29; Mark 9:38-50|
|Pentecost 17, Year B, Season of Creation 3||September 19, 2021||Pentecost 17, Proper 20, Year B, Season of Creation 3||Psalm 54, Mark 9:30-37|
|Pentecost 16, Year B, Season of Creation 2||September 12, 2021||Pentecost 16, Year B, Season of Creation II||Mark 8:27-38|
|Pentecost 15, Year B, Season of Creation 1||September 5, 2021||Proper 18, Year B Season of Creation 2021||Isaiah 35:4-7a, Psalm 146, James 2:1-10, 14-17, Mark 7:24-37|
|Pentecost 13 B – Rev. Amy Turner||August 22, 2021||Pentecost 13, Proper 16||John 6:56-69|
|Pentecost 12, Year B||August 15, 2021||Proper 15, Pentecost 12, Year B||John 6:51-58|
|Pentecost 11, Year B||August 8, 2021||Pentecost 11, Proper 14, Year B||John 6:35,41-51|
|Pentecost 10, Year B – Rev. Bambi Willis||August 1, 2021||Pentecost 10, Proper 13, Year B||John 6:24-35|
|Pentecost 9, Year B||July 25, 2021||Proper 12, Pentecost 9, Year B||2 Kings 4:42-44; Ephesians 3:14-21; John 6:1-21|
|Pentecost 8, Year B||July 18, 2021||Proper 11, Pentecost 8, Year B 2021||Psalm 23, Jeremiah 23:1-6, Mark 6:30-34|
|Pentecost 7, Year B||July 11, 2021||Proper 10, 7th Sunday after Pentecost, Year B||Amos 7:7-15, Psalm 85, Ephesians 1:3-14, 2: 11-22, Mark 6:14-29|
|Pentecost 6, Year B||July 4, 2021||Pentecost 6, Proper 9||2 Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13|
Trinity Sunday, Year B
Sermon Date:May 30, 2021
Scripture: John 3:1-17
Liturgy Calendar: Trinity Sunday, Year B
“Christ and Nicodemus” – Matthias Stom (1640-1650)
The Pharisee Nicodemus is a fitting Trinity Sunday companion.
Nicodemus is a leader of the Jews, someone whose life has been steeped in knowing about God, learning more about God, teaching about God, and worshiping God.
And he has started to wonder about how Jesus fits into his understanding of God.
Jesus already has quite a reputation. A group of followers has gathered around him. At Passover, Jesus has come to Jerusalem and gone to the temple, driven out the livestock and the money changers and has said in no uncertain terms to stop making his father’s house a marketplace. Scripture tells us that many believed in Jesus during this Passover festival because of the signs that he was doing.
So Nicodemus, wondering about how his visit to Jesus might be perceived by his peers, the other Pharisees, decides to visit Jesus under cover of night.
For you fans of the Gospel according to John, maybe one of John’s opening verses pops up in your mind here.
“What has come into him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
Nicodemus was drawn to the light of Jesus. I can just imagine this scene—Nicodemus passing at night through the dark streets of Jerusalem, with only the faint glimmers of light cast by oil lamps visible here and there, the pause before a dark entranceway, a knock, a greeting, a door swung open, and Jesus standing there in a pool of light cast by the oil lamp he is carrying to light his own way to the door, and then the echoing steps as the two go, maybe to an inner room, or to the rooftop, where they can speak privately and enjoy the coolness of the evening, both leaning into the glow of the lamp placed between them.
That light shining in the darkness, the light encircling and holding them both.
Nicodemus opens the conversation.
“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.”
And Jesus responds by saying that no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again from above. Nicodemus instantly gets caught up in the physical dimensions of what Jesus has just said.
Impossible! No one can be born from the mother’s womb a second time.
So Jesus explains that no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and spirit. Nicodemus understands the water part—that every human being brought into this world has grown in a mother’s womb, cushioned by the amniotic fluid surrounding it, and when the mother’s “water breaks,” the baby’s birth is imminent.
But the idea of the Spirit is something new—Being born from above involves being open to the Spirit, that, like the wind, blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.
This information is incomprehensible to Nicodemus, who asks incredulously, “How can these things be?”
And then Jesus speaks of himself. Jesus knows what he is talking about because he has come from God. He has descended from God to earth, to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us.
And his presence among us is healing.
And God has sent Jesus here out of love, so that we all might have eternal life. Jesus came into the world not to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
As he and Nicodemus sit there in that little circle of light in the darkness, Jesus goes on to say that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”
We have no idea what Nicodemus thought of this, for scripture does not record his comments or his reactions to this avalanche of information.
I imagine that Nicodemus found his head spinning as he left Jesus and walked home in the darkness.
Later, Jesus shows up again in Jerusalem at the Festival of the Booths and teaches in the temple. The chief priests and the Pharisees send the temple police to arrest Jesus, but the arrest doesn’t happen. And Nicodemus, who is one of the Pharisees in this group, (and scripture notes that Nicodemus has been to Jesus before) says that Jesus should at the very least have a hearing to find out what he is up to—for that is the law—that a person should not be judged without a hearing. This statement is a bold one on the part of Nicodemus, because now the other Pharisees wonder about him. Is Nicodemus a follower of this upstart Jesus?
Nicodemus appears one more time, at the death of Jesus. “Nicodemus, who had first come to Jesus by night,” scripture says, goes with Joseph of Arimathea to remove the body of Jesus and to bury it. And Nicodemus brings a huge amount of burial spices, an amount fit for the burial of a king.
This is the last time Nicodemus appears, and we are left to wonder what Nicodemus ended up believing about Jesus, and what finally became of Nicodemus. Ultimately, Nicodemus remains a mysterious character.
And the mystery of his story is helpful to us today as we consider the mystery of the Trinity.
Jesus presented Nicodemus with the mystery of the Trinity. Nicodemus already knew God, and worshipped God. Jesus gave Nicodemus more information. Jesus said that God, out of love for the world, sent his Son Jesus so that those who believe might have eternal life. And then there’s the Spirit, and the necessity of being born from above in the Spirit, and the Spirit leads where it will, just as those who are born of the Spirit get led by the Spirit in mysterious unpredictable ways.
We too, know God the Creator. We too, know Jesus, God with skin on. But the Spirit—the Spirit is always mysterious, more difficult to discern and understand, trickier to follow. Sometimes we have trouble being open to the Spirit. But the Spirit is wondrous, reminding us that God is constantly bringing God’s love to birth in us, and constantly renewing us.
The Spirit is constantly challenging us to enter more deeply into our relationship with Jesus, and to love God more fully. The Spirit presents us with unique ways to bring God’s love to light in the darkness of this world.
The Spirit is both our inspiration and the power we need to walk as children of the light in this world, especially we can’t be sure where we are going.
I think that Nicodemus, even with all of his book learning, knew his life and his journey through it was a mysterious process. Nicodemus knew that he did have all the answers. So he asked the questions.
Nicodemus started out in the darkness and took his questions to Jesus. Nicodemus listened. He engaged with Jesus’ mysterious words, questioned what he didn’t understand, and then let the mysterious power of the Spirit play out in his own life. The Spirit spoke through Nicodemus when he spoke up for Jesus in that meeting with the Pharisees. And the power of the Spirit gave Nicodemus the courage to help Joseph honor Jesus with a proper burial.
The story of Nicodemus reminds us that we Christians don’t have all the answers either. Nicodemus reminds us to be unafraid to ask our questions of God, to have the courage to admit that we don’t fully understand the answers, and to trust that the Spirit will lead and guide us through our uncertainties. This story helps us to trust in the mysterious, suffering love of God, and to trust that the Spirit will help us to do what God would have us do, even if we can’t see what those things are right now. May we be open to the Spirit at work in our lives.
Let us pray now, in the words of a prayer by Eric Milner-White, an Anglican clergyman from the 20th century.
O God, the Holy Spirit, Giver of light and life,
impart to us thought higher than our own thoughts,
and prayers better than our own prayers,
and powers beyond our own powers,
that we may spend and be spent in the ways of love and goodness,
after the perfect image of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.