For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.
… and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.
Once again we are blessed with a veritable banquette in our readings for Trinity Sunday. Our first reading is one of my favourites. Isaiah is caught up in the glory of worship in the temple and has a vision of God.
The sad thing is his first response, he is more aware of his sinfulness, his unworthiness to be in God’s presence. It is only after he is absolved of his sin that he is able to hear God speaking to him. We see something of that same fear in the psalm. While it is a wonderful psalm praising the majesty of God, it see a God capable of shattering huge trees and sending them skipping like young calves. Fear of God is a very real part of Hebrew faith.
Nikodemus comes at night perhaps because he is afraid of what his colleagues will say. He has enough wisdom and humility to go beyond that fear albeit in the cover of darkness to find out more about Jesus. Nikodemos doesn’t immediately come to faith when he encounters Jesus as the Samaritan woman and her village do in the next chapter. But we do encounter Nikodemus twice more in John’s Gospel. At the end of Ch 7 Nikodemus reminds his Pharisee colleagues who are keen to arrest Jesus, that the law does not just people without first giving them a hearing. And then again right at the end of the Gospel Nikodemus helps lay the body of Jesus to rest in the tomb. Faith for Nikodemus is a slow burn. There is no doubt he has formed something of a relationship with Jesus which is the basis of deep and growing faith. Perhaps like the Pharisees we should be too quick to judge our children and grandchildren when they seem to ask more questions and seem unable to commit to following Jesus.
Jesus tells Nikodemus we need a spiritual birth, not just a physical birth, we need to eb born again, or from above. While Nikodemus struggles with the concept, St Paul embraces it boots and all. Paul proclaims boldly to the Romans that when the Spirit comes into us enabling us to cry, Abba, father we have been born again and are heirs with Christ Jesus. With this Spiritual birth we can put away all our fears, that spirit of cowardice. Fears of what our colleagues might say, fear of what God might do, fear of death, fear of not being good enough in life and even for heaven all evaporate like the morning fog.
Gwenn and I have been watching a thing on Netflix over a few weeks called Sinner. In my mind it is a horrible, sad story. It is based on fear and the belief of the main character that you can choose to face fear with the help of one other person and then begin to really live. Even the police detective falls under the spell of this notion. The detective’s colleague suggests that only faith can really heal the deep pain brought about by fear. The two main characters, the detective and the “sinner” have both experienced the pain of abandonment by parents which exacerbates the fears and sense of never being good enough to enjoy life.
I feel many Christians share many of those same fears of not being good enough, of feeling abandoned, of having no real purpose and meaning in life. Maybe we need to join Nikodemus and spend some time with Jesus in our prayer time. As we sit with Jesus allow the words of St Paul to reverberate in our minds, “you have received a spirit of adoption.” Invite the Spirit of God to witness with your spirit enabling you to call God Abba, loving parent. Breath deeply welcoming that spirit of adoption and breath out the Spirit of slavery to fear. Join with the Seraphim calling Holy, Holy, Holy. But not holy terrifying, holy loving parent. The very nature of the God we know in Jesus is a loving God who invites us into a deep relationship. In that deep relationship hand over to Jesus all the fears and hurts.
The Good News of the Holy Trinity is not only that we encounter a loving God who embraces us but we see God embracing the whole of humanity and the earth itself. And we are caught up in that love so that we see other people with that same love. As we keep Reconciliation Week we are reminded of God’s love for the whole of humanity. The indigenous people of this country are apart of God’s embrace, they are our brothers and sisters. Now as we heard last week, part of the work of the Spirit is to convict us of sin and judgement and righteousness. As such we need to be honest with the past of our country. We need to tell the truth of the atrocities, the dispossession of people from their land. When we see the “other” with respect and love and listen to their story it won’t be reconciliation as such but new birth. A spiritual birth for a nation.
So as we celebrate Trinity Sunday this week, let’s breath deeply of the Spirit of adoption. Allow the spirit to help us set aside our fears and feelings of abandonment. And as we breath deeply the amazing love with which God embraces us lets open our eyes, our ears and our hearts to see others in God’s loving embrace.
In the name of the one who spoke and the earth was created, in the name of Jesus who embraces our humanity, and in the name of the Spirit breathing life into us giving us the capacity to love and to laugh. Amen
You might enjoy reading two of David Lose’s comments on our passages for today:
Plus commentary by Cláudio Carvalhaes:
And/or listen to Pulpit Fiction to get a sense of where my ideas came from for this sermon.