“Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”

John 3:1-17 

Trinity Sunday, 27 May 2018

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Church


John 3:1-17






Have you ever been in a conversation with another person,

Such that both hear the same words,

But each derives a different meaning?


I once heard this story by a keynote speaker a few years ago:



People in a hot air balloon were swept up in a storm

Coming out the other side of the wind, rain, and pitched darkness

Into completely unfamiliar territory.

The pilot reduce altitude

And spot a farmer standing in the middle of a wheat field below:

“Where are we?” yelled the pilot.

“You’re in a balloon!” the farmer shouted back.

Thinking of a better way to rephrase it

The pilot shouted back again, “Where are you?”

To which the farmer replied, “I’m in a wheat field!”


Such is the case of Jesus and Nicodemus.


A leader of the Jews,

Schooled in the law of Moses,

Clandestinely approaches Jesus under the concealment of darkness.

Nicodemus is seeking understanding about signs;

The signs that Jesus performs.

Clearly in the mind of Nicodemus,

Signs which show the presence and favor of God.


The word misunderstood

Is spoken by Jesus:

You must be born anõthen.



This is one Greek adverb with multiple meanings.

Nicodemus clearly hears it as “again,”

As demonstrated by his follow-up question

“How can anyone be born after having grown old?

Can one enter a second time

into the mother’s womb and be born?” (3:4)


Jesus’ continuing commentary clearly shows

He meant it to be heard as “from above.”

“Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” (3:3)

(Considerable insight has been provided by: Sharon H. Ringe, Professor of New Testament, Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, DC, as found at: http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?lect_date=6/7/2009#)



“No one can enter the kingdom of God

Without being born of water and Spirit,” Jesus teaches. (3:5)

In other words,

The only way into our Heavenly Father’s kingdom

Is to have one foot in this world

And the other foot firmly planted in heaven.

Being born of water = think “this world,”

“Think - the great flood with Noah and his ark,”

“Think - the Red Sea parting for Moses and the Hebrews,”

“Think - the baptisms of John the Baptist for repentance of sins.”


Being born of water

Should cause one to consider

how the God of creation

has a long history of rescuing God’s people;

saving us from

our unrighteousness,

warring intent,

and sins of the flesh.


But the world is not enough.

Baptism by water is not enough.

Perfect attendance in church isn’t enough.

Attending seminary and being ordained isn’t enough.

There is nothing humanly possible,

No human effort, no righteous deed, no feat so worthy

That will, on its own, open the doors to the kingdom of heaven.


In Christ, heaven and earth kiss.



“For by grace you have been saved through faith,

and this is not your own doing;

it is the gift of God— not the result of works,

so that no one may boast.”

(Ephesians 2:8-9)


We are not saved by our works,

the apostle Paul correctly interprets the Gospel,

We are saved solely by the grace of God.”

In the post Ascension, post Messianic era,

that grace



is God’s gift of the Holy Spirit.



Being born of the Spirit = think the presence of Christ in the absence of his body.

Think wind, Jesus tells us,

“It blows where it chooses,”

(which is to say Christ’s mind is not our mind)

“you hear the sound of it,”

(our senses are aware of its presence)

“but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.”

(In other words,

don’t spent wasted time

attempting to understand what the Spirit’s next move may be.

Just let it go.

Let it be.)


Simply be aware;

Watch for the signs,

Listen for its rustling,

Follow where it leads.

Let the Spirit guide you in the here and now.


“Very truly, I tell you,

no one can see the kingdom of God

without being born from above.” (3:3)

Not “again.”

“From above!”

Baptized in this world,

Adopted by the Spirit of Christ from above!


One foot planted squarely in both heaven and earth.


Though we struggle in a world filled with sickness, sin, and death,

The apostle Paul writes in his epistle to the church in Rome,

We have not been abandoned.

In Christ, God has adopted us

As God’s very own children and heirs.



“You have received a spirit of adoption,”

Paul teaches.

“We are children of God,

And if children, then heirs,

Heirs of God and … with Christ.”

(Romans 8:14, 16b-17a)

(With thanks to Elisabeth Johnson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, Watertown, MN)


We have not been left behind simply with a historical book about Jesus.

We have been claimed and named,

Bought and paid for,

Accepted and included,

into God’s heavenly family.



The power of adoption,

Or huiothesia in the Greek,

Cannot be over stated.

Parents who have adopted children may understand somewhat.

Adopted children may understand to a point.

It is one thing to give birth,

It is something altogether different to intentional lay claim to a child,

To gather them in and make them your own.


That intentional will

Is but a taste,

Just an inkling of,

The enormous gift of love the Spirit represents.



Grace is an order of magnitude beyond our comprehension.

We don’t have to understand it,

Simply claim it,

Live in it,

Bathe in it,

Drink it in.


On this Sunday when we celebrate the Holy Trinity



Our scriptural lessons

Helps to paint a picture of our adaptive, relational, loving God;

Of a Father’s love that created us,

Made covenant with us,

Taught us how to live,

And hoped for our obedience.


We experience

A Father’s love who sent us his own Son

As a gift to humankind,

To forgive our sins

And to save us into eternal life.


We are filled with

A Son’s love

That refused to abandon us,

But is willing to abide with us, and in us,

By the presence and guidance of the Son’s Spirit.

The Holy Spirit has adopted us as God’s own,

Linking us with Christ

As fellow children and heirs of God.

We are enabled to call upon God

With the same intimacy Christ used:

“Abba! Father!”

even as he was lifted up upon a cross.


Dearly beloved,

This is a God that will not let us go.

We are His children,

Siblings with Christ,

Heirs to the divine inheritance.



Take this bread.

Drink this cup.

Cry “Abba! Father!”

And lay claim to God’s grace

Given to you.