Damariscotta Baptist Church
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

06/03/12 Sermon

John 3: 1-17

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Thy Sight O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer, Amen

 
 

Karl Barth the famous theologian who wrote massive volumes of theological reflection about the Christian faith was the kind of intellect who understood far more than the average person.

A reporter once asked him what was the greatest theological idea that he had come to understand. Was it the doctrine of the Trinity or the theory of atonement?
 
The reporter was expecting something equivalent to Einstein's E=MC2.
 

But Barth simply replied, "Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so."

In our scripture today, we read of Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus.
 

Nicodemus was one of Israel’s expert religious teachers, someone who would have been an intellectual authority on theological issues.

And here we see that Nicodemus has a desire to learn more.

He clearly knows there’s something up with this Jesus fellow because of his teachings and great miracles.  
 
And as he listens to Jesus’ responses to his questions, he had to have been scratching his head.
 
Jesus speaks about being “born again” and about the Spirit coming to those who are born again.
 
Nicodemus was used to seeing things literally so he was clearly confused.
 
Jesus goes on to tell Nicodemus that God has a Son who has been sent to save the world and that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life.
 
Now all of this would have been shocking to Nicodemus. This was a radical teaching from the Israelites doctrines.
 
They didn’t see God as having a Son or have an understanding about a Holy Spirit.
 
To the literal Nicodemus, Jesus was talking about 3 Gods which was blasphemous to the Israelites whose main distinction to the pagan religions was that there is only one God.

But Jesus isn’t talking about 3 gods. He instead was speaking about the same God, known as the triune God. 

Triune means being three in one.
 
Today in the life of the church we celebrate Trinity Sunday. We celebrate who our God is and how God is revealed to us----- God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.
 
But all too often, when we discuss the word Trinity in the church we can easily turn it into a theological or intellectual discussion like Nicodemus.
 

And when we do we miss the point of this scripture.

 
Jesus was speaking in a spiritual and personal language where God is experienced in your life.
 
And so today as we celebrate Trinity Sunday what we want to do is reflect on our triune God not in the theological way but rather in a way that is involved in our lives as a living relational Presence—a Living Trinity.
 
So let’s begin first with how we experience God as the Father in our lives.
 
Now--whenever I think about God the Father, I think about how God creates and provides.
 

When we think of God the Father we think of Genesis and how God created all things. In the apostles creed that we recite in church we say I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and the earth.

 
Of course whenever we look at how beautiful this world is, and also how complex and perfect things are made we think of God the Father.
 
Watching the alewives run up at the fish ladder and seeing the miracle and complexity of God’s creation is amazing to see.
 
When we take the time from our busy lives to take in and see God’s beauty and His wondrous creation that gives us life, we experience God the Father.
 
But we also experience God the Father personally in our lives by the way that He creates things in us that then provides for others thru us.

There are many examples of this happening in our church. God has created new ministries in this church by touching individuals to use their unique gifts to begin ministries that provide for others.

 
The Divorce Care ministry, the Shawls of Hope, the Help Your Neighbor Day, the Rice for Haiti mission, Cooking Matters and the creation of a Health Fair Ministry.
 
All of these ministries were created from God the Father who calls individuals in the church to use their God given creativity to provide for those in need.
 
We truly experience God the Father in our lives when we take the time to reflect on how He is still creating and providing all around us as well as thru us…..
 

Now---when we talk about the second person of the Trinity, God the Son, we are obviously speaking of Jesus Christ.

Jesus was God in the flesh, who came to live among us.

 
And as we read in our scripture, Jesus was given to us by God the Father that we might be freed from the separation of sin; those barriers that we have placed between us and God.
 
In John 3:16 Jesus said that God the Father gave us his one and only Son that whoever believes in him will have eternal life.
 

Now eternal life is not just something in the future; eternal life is to be personally experienced in our lives right now.

         

Yet, so many of us haven’t truly experienced that kind of freedom.

 
So many of us are still bound by guilt, by fears, by expectations and by attachments.
 
And it can be seen in the way we feel about ourselves as well as how we treat others around us.

You see, when we don’t believe in Christ and experience the grace and mercy of God the Son, we project that lack of grace on others.

A man was having a bad day where he had mishandled some things and he came home frustrated and angry with himself.
 
Now it so happened that his wife had bought him a new suit that day.
 
So he tried it on… and then complained bitterly: “I can’t believe you bought this suit. It looks horrible. The color is wrong. The style is wrong. It doesn’t fit.”
 

“OK! OK!” his wife responded. “I’ll take it back!”

The next day was a great day for the man. He accomplished a lot and corrected some of his mistakes of the day before… and he came home whistling, feeling good about himself and about life.
 

When he went into the master bedroom, he immediately saw a suit hanging on his closet door… and he thought, “Great, my wife has exchanged the other suit for this one.”

He tried it on: “Now, this is more like it. This suit looks good. It feels good and it fits great.
 

So he finds his wife and says “Honey, it’s perfect,”.

To which she responded. “That’s the same suit you tried on yesterday!!”

Now if we can project our frustrations on a smaller scale like this example, think about how we can project our sinfulness, our lack of freedom and grace that Jesus gives us on a larger scale:

The alcoholic who hates himself and abuses his wife and children.
 
The business executive who is bound by being a success who cuts corners and cheats others.
 

The insecure homemaker who gossips and is resentful and bitter.

But when we experience Jesus, the 2nd person of the Trinity personally, we are freed from our sins.
 
We believe and accept that he has forgiven us, and as a result, we change how we feel about ourselves and that projects in how we feel and act toward others.
 
So today, ask yourself, “Where do I need to receive his grace and mercy?
 
Where am I burdened and weighed down?
 

Wherever it is, Jesus wants to free us that you might project his grace on others.

This is how we experience God the Son; not as some theological, doctrine--- but rather as a redeeming Savior who wants to offer us eternal life right here, right now.
 

Now the last but certainly not the least way we experience our triune God is God as the Holy Spirit.

Last week we celebrated the birthday of the church remembering the gift of the Holy Spirit given to the Christians at Pentecost.
 
The Holy Spirit was sent to the baptized, to those who were followers of Christ to transform and empower them to carry on the mission of God.
         

In our scripture today, Jesus tells Nicodemus that we must be “born again”. Born of water and the Spirit.

Jesus was trying to explain to Nicodemus that to be born again is to experience a change; a new birth where we are different than we were before.
 
When you and I experience the Holy Spirit personally in our lives, changes are going on in our life continuously.
 

We are growing and becoming more patient, kinder, more loving and joyful, peaceful and self-disciplined, gentle and good----These are evidences or what the apostle Paul called the fruits of the Spirit.

Thru these changes we become powerful witnesses to those we come in contact with.
 
The Spirit speaks thru us in our actions and in our words.
 
But not only do we experience the Holy Spirit in this way, we also experience the Holy Spirit in those times where we need new life breathed into us.
 
For example those times when we are grieving and feel lost. The Holy Spirit is present to give us comfort and counsel in our times of need.
 

And then there are those times when we become “Nicodemuses” in our faith; where we think we’ve got it all figured out. We’re expert know it all’s.

I can attest to those times when I have gone to make visits as the expert religious person.

I can think of visiting Shirley Bigbee or Novella Winstead who were dying with cancer.
 
And as I visited them it became apparent how the Spirit lifted them up in their time of struggle. Their faith was not some doctrinal understanding; it was a faith lived out.
 

And as I would leave from those visits, I saw first hand how the Holy Spirit is present in our lives.

And it’s thru those experiences, that the Spirit breathes new life into me.
 
I’m born again---born again from being the lifeless, MDIV expert seminary theologian to witness what this faith is all about.  
 
To experience God the Holy Spirit is not some theological exercise of our rational minds. 
 

Instead the Spirit comes to us personally to grow us and change us and breathe new life into our lifeless religiousness.

We are continuing to be born again…….
 

Now, in closing this morning, as we celebrate this Trinity Sunday, we are being called to reflect and be aware of how we experience the Triune God.

God is present and wants to be a part of our lives not simply some God that we study under a microscope with a commentary and dictionary.

The Trinity is a dynamic, and ever-present Three in One God who wants to be involved in our daily lives in every way.
 
God the Creator and provider, God our Savior and Redeemer, and God the Transformer and Breath of New life.
 

Let us experience the fullness of God and receive the invitation to be in a personal relationship with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, Amen