How easy it is for adults to ignore, gloss over, or to block out some of the pressing questions of faith of youth? Even to say “I don’t know” is so much better than some flippant or derisive answer. Today is one of the weird Sunday’s in the church calendar known as ‘Holy Trinity” Sunday. It’s a Sunday in which we come face-to-face with a mystery; the mystery of Almighty God. Like the children who are trying to wrap their young minds around the concept of God, we too have questions about the Trinity. Who is God? Where is God? What is God doing?
Frederick Buechner, who always has something witty to say about the Christian faith, describes the Trinity in his classic book, “Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC” describes the trinity in this fashion:
“If the idea of God as both Three and One seems far-fetched and confusing, look in the mirror someday. There is (a) the interior life known only to yourself and those you choose to communicate it to (the Father). There is (b) the visible face which in some measure reflects that inner life (the Son). And there is (c) the invisible power you have in order to communicate that interior life in such a way that others do not merely know about it, but know it in the sense of its becoming part of who they are (the Holy Spirit). Yet what you are looking at in the mirror is clearly and invisibly the one and only you.”
This is one the days in the church year to ask these questions. Our appointed readings give us a sense of what God is like. You might say a glimpse of the Trinity; for we see Jesus, the Son of god, speaking of his father and of the unseen power of the Holy Spirit. For those who are interested in searching for God, John’s Gospel gives us an unusual perspective.
Meet Nicodemus. You know this story well. Nicodemus is a man whose questions may have been squashed at one time or another, but he is curious about God. He has searched for God, and went to one person whom he thought could give him a couple of answers, (or most likely more questions!) Nicodemus, a Pharisee, a leader of the Jews go to talk about God to Jesus by night. No one of his social significance would take the chance of being seen with a rebel teacher. But Nicodemus was curious, so he meets with Jesus in the dark of night.
You’ll note in verse 2 of the reading Nicodemus says to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God.” Nicodemus pointed to the signs that Jesus did as evidence of his identity. Without even asking a question, Nicodemus heard an unexpected answer about entering the kingdom of God. “No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above,” Jesus tells Nicodemus.
New birth is the entrance into the kingdom of God. And if it’s the entrance into the Kingdom, it must be pretty significant. To Christians, especially Lutherans, baptism is essential. God may have other ways of bringing people into the kingdom, but if God does, the Bible doesn’t say. Someone has said, “God has bound us to baptism, but he has not bound himself to it.”
What is this kingdom into which we are baptized? We know it’s not a place. You won’t find it on a roadmap. There are no billboards or road signs. This kingdom is instead a matter of your heart’s allegiance. God’s kingdom is found in the soul of every believer. Outwardly to the secular world, the reign of God doesn’t exist. The domain is invisible. But the people of the reign are everywhere. We are gathered here this morning into what we call the church or the body of Christ. Baptism is God’s new birth, and it changes us and makes us ready to respond to God’s will. It gives us a fresh start, a new beginning.
You and I make all kinds of new beginnings. New school, new jobs, new marriage, or merely a fresh start to an old way. None of these brings us into God’s kingdom. Only that which God provides can do it. The Bible calls it Baptism, by water and the Spirit of God, it is God’s means to enter the kingdom.
And baptism lasts forever because it is the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – the name of God in which we baptize. It is God’s grace that saves us- and that never wears thin. No matter how old we are when it happens, in baptism, we come before the Trinity and receive grace upon grace. God’s goodness comes to us, washes us clean, and saves us from death and the devil. Sometimes it’s helpful to think of the church has a large swimming pool with all kinds of kids floating around in the baptismal waters.
Because every ministry we do in the name of Christ, we do from the waters of our baptism. And our baptism isn’t a spectacle. It is a sacrament featuring God – the Holy Trinity. That means the spotlight is on God’s love and grace for us, each and every time. And each of us can be part of the lighting crew that shines forth God’s love. Thanks be to God.