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Sermon for May 26, 2024 — Trinity Sunday

Program Transcript

Trinity Sunday

In the beginning, in the quiet echoes of eternity, there existed a divine dance—
a dance of love, unity, and perfection. Today, on Trinity Sunday, we embark on a journey to marvel at the wonders of our God, a God who is both Three and One.

Behold the mystery of the Father, the source of all creation. His majesty displayed in the canvas of the heavens, where every star and every galaxy declare his glory. As we ponder the beauty of the Father, let our hearts be filled with awe and reverence.

The Son—the Word made flesh. Amid humanity, he walked, healed, and loved. The cross, a symbol of sacrifice, reveals the depth of his love for us.

And there, in the gentle whisper of the wind and the flame that dances with grace, we encounter the Holy Spirit—the breath of God. It is the Spirit who breathes life into our souls, guiding us, comforting us, and empowering us to live in the fullness of God’s love.

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—a divine union that transcends our understanding. Three distinct persons, yet one God in perfect harmony. Such is the mystery we celebrate on this Trinity Sunday.

And as we meditate on the verses of Psalm 29, let our voices rise in a hymn of praise to the greatness of our God.

Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.

The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is majestic.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.

He makes Lebanon leap like a calf,
Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord strikes
with flashes of lightning.

The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord twists the oaks
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
The Lord gives strength to his people;
the Lord blesses his people with peace.

Trinity Sunday is a celebration of the eternal dance of love—a dance that invites us to join in the chorus of praise. As we lift our voices, may our worship be a sweet fragrance, rising to the throne of the Triune God.

Today, let our hearts be stirred with gratitude and wonder as we bow before the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—the one God, united in perfect love. Amen.

Psalm 29:1-11Isaiah 6:1-8Romans 8:12-17John 3:1-17

This week, we observe Trinity Sunday, a day where we celebrate the awesome nature of our God. The three Persons of the Trinity — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit — are the one God, united in perfect love. The theme for this week is God is beyond amazing. The call to worship psalm is a hymn of praise to the greatness of God. In the Isaiah passage, the prophet is overwhelmed by a vision of God, where even the angels seem overcome with praise as they witness God’s glory. In Romans, we read how the Father, Son, and Spirit work together to make us children of God. The John passage contains a famous discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus, where the Lord had to help the Pharisee set aside his earthly understanding in order to grasp heavenly things.

The Mystery of God

John 3:1-17 NIV

When you have a moment to wonder, what do you wonder about? Perhaps you wonder about black holes and what we would find in their centers. Maybe you wonder about the ocean and the creatures that live at the bottom. Some of us may wonder how the pyramids were built or how the Vikings crossed the Atlantic. What you wonder about is less important than the fact that you do indeed wonder. We all do to some extent. Our minds are instinctively drawn to mysteries, and we want to understand. We are fascinated by the unknown and unanswered questions. Do aliens exist? Who shot JFK? Who pulled off the Gardner Museum heist? Is Bigfoot real? We are curious beings who love mysteries. Neil Armstrong said, “Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.”

Perhaps the greatest mystery is God himself. Christians believe that God has been revealed by Jesus Christ. By turning our attention to Immanuel — God with us — we can understand that God is love and that there is no evil in him. We can see that he is for us and is good beyond measure. However, even with the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, there is much about him that we do not know or cannot fully understand. Today is Trinity Sunday on the Christian worship calendar, a day where we marvel at the nature of our great God. Over the course of thousands of years of faithful people seeking to understand God, Christ-followers have learned that God is three distinct persons — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit — united in one being. They are equal, were never separate, and have always existed. God is three Persons and one Being. These are the basic tenets of the doctrine of the Trinity. I can say (write) the words, but I cannot fully understand the meaning of the words. My mind is limited, and I cannot truly understand concepts like “Being,” “eternity,” and “never created.” In the created universe there is nothing or no one like God, so there is no point of reference to comprehend God’s nature. How our God has been revealed in Jesus yet remains a mystery.

This is important because we can be tempted to put God in a box. We can be tempted to act as if we have him all figured out. We can be tempted to become too familiar with God. And, when we give in to this temptation, we begin to make God in our image. We speak for him as if he does not speak for himself. We lose our awe of him. We lose our belief in his ability to do great things. We reduce following God to an intellectual exploration rather than a life-changing relationship with a being greater than we can imagine. We get mad at him when he does not behave in a way that we would like, and we dictate the terms of our obedience to him. When we disregard the mystery of God, we rob ourselves from better understanding his majesty and greatness.

Respecting the mystery of God means that there will be things about him that do not make sense to us right now. There may be things we read in scripture that do not line up with what we think we understand about God. We know that God is good, loving, compassionate, and slow to anger, but there are moments in scripture where Jesus says or does things that seem mean, cold, or simply confusing. I believe we are supposed to mentally and emotionally wrestle with these things. We are to meditate on them and talk to God about them. We are to ask him to help us understand. When we do, God will not leave us wanting. To see evidence of this, let’s look at John 3:1-17:

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven — the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:1-17 NIV)

John 3:16 is one of the most frequently quoted passages in the Bible, and rightly so. Jesus provided a beautifully simple and elegant summary of the gospel. We quote the passage so often that it may be easy to forget the conversation that came before. John 3:1-15 captured a brilliant man struggling to understand Jesus. The young rabbi, Jesus, was a mystery (perhaps a novelty) that Nicodemus went to investigate. In the conversation that transpired, Christ challenged the things Nicodemus thought he knew. Jesus shifted his paradigms, and I imagine that Nicodemus was left shaken by the interaction. Yet, the compassionate Christ did not leave Nicodemus completely confused. In verses 16-17, Jesus stopped using metaphors. He did not offer up any more descriptions of the Holy Spirit that left one with more questions than answers. He gave Nicodemus a profound explanation of his mission in plain speech.

The truth is that in this life there are many aspects of God that will remain a mystery. How can the finite grasp the infinite? But one of the great miracles of God is that he wants to be known and rewards those who earnestly seek to understand him. We will not have all of our questions answered in this life. We will not have full understanding of God. However, God gives us enough to continue to become like Christ and love our neighbors. He gives us enough to prove that he is light and in him there is no shadow. He gives us enough to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. He gives us enough.

On this Trinity Sunday, let us celebrate the God who is greater than we can imagine. Let us celebrate the God who will captivate our imagination for the rest of our lives as well as the age to come. Let us embrace the mystery of God. Let us not be afraid to wrestle with the things we do not understand. If we do, we will discover a loving God who wants to be known. Perhaps God will reveal himself to you in a way that people will be talking about for thousands of years.

Can I Get a Witness? w/ Terry Ishee W4

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May 26—Trinity Sunday
John 3:1-17, “Born Anew”

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Program Transcript

Can I Get a Witness? w/ Terry Ishee W4

Anthony: Our final passage of the month is John 3:1-17. It is a Revised Common Lectionary passage for Trinity Sunday on May 26.

Terry, we’d be grateful if you read it for us, please.

Terry: Yeah, absolutely.

There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a Jewish leader. He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could do these miraculous signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born anew, it’s not possible to see God’s kingdom.” Nicodemus asked, “How is it possible for an adult to be born? It’s impossible to enter the mother’s womb for a second time and be born, isn’t it?” Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Don’t be surprised that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.’ God’s Spirit blows wherever it wishes. You hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. It’s the same with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said, “How are these things possible?” 10 “Jesus answered, “You are a teacher of Israel and you don’t know these things? 11 I assure you that we speak about what we know and testify about what we have seen, but you don’t receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Human One. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so must the Human One be lifted up 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. 16 God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. 17 God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

Anthony: There’s a lot there and I’m not asking for a dissertation here, Terry, but the Trinity, in my mind, so often gets reduced to some abstract mathematical conundrum instead of a relationship. And so, on this Trinity Sunday, what would you say to the listening audience about the triune God?

Terry: Yeah, this again goes into this crazy mystery of God in three persons. The way that I’ve been able to wrap my head — what little I can wrap my head around this wonderful, beautiful, mysterious thing — is that I really see it as a divine dance.

There’s this Greek term parakinesis [sic] [perichoresis] that speaks to the idea of a kinetic movement, right? And I’ve heard people refer to it as a divine dance where Father, Son, and Spirit dance in step with one another, that there’s a constant moving connection between the two.

And really the best way that I can wrap my head around this is that God in three persons speaks to us that we are to live life in community, that all of life is to be communal. This individualism which is tough in our current culture because we live in a highly individualistic society. But we weren’t created for individualism. We were created for a communal expression.

And just as Father and Son and Spirit surrender to each other, and they’re lockstep with one another as the best way to dance, to explain this kinesis, this kinetic movement is a dance that it is a free flowing, free formed version of movement. And it is the example that is on display for us beautifully for us to mimic. That as humans, as the ones created in the image of God, we are to mimic the way of God. And how are we, who are we in lockstep with in our life?

And so, the Trinity for me is a great, beautiful reminder of who am I choosing to dance with. Who’s on my dance card in my everyday life? Am I dancing with the right people? In the relationship with my wife, in the relationship with my daughter, what is that? What is the kinesis?

What is the kinetic? What does the movement, the relationship look like in that? Does it more represent the world, or would it more represent king and kingdom? The same with my neighbors and my coworkers and the people that I just spend time with, whether they are found in Jesus or not yet followers of Jesus. We choose to dance with the people around us that there’s this cosmic dance that is at hand.

And so, what does our dance card look like? Are we finding this beautiful rhythm that God has laid before us that we can be in sync with Father, Son, and Spirit? Or are we doing our own thing? Are we out of step? Are we choosing?

Are we going so freeform that it’s — I know, I love some jazz, but there are some like freeform jazz that’s just way out there. And is this pleasant to my ears? It doesn’t feel pleasant to my ears. It feels very weird. It’s all over the place. And sometimes we choose to live life where it feels so disruptive.

And that’s been something that’s been meaningful to me is looking at how Father, Son, and Spirit are interconnected with one another, one whole but relational.

Anthony: Yes. This next question I’m going to ask you, the answers can spark fighting words. And the question is this, what does it mean to be born anew or born again or born from above for you, Terry? What does this mean?

Terry: Yeah, for me in the most simplest terms, it means I have surrendered control of my life from myself or from the world, and I’ve given it to Jesus as king.

And I was, [in] 1993, sitting on a stoop at a boys’ home. I grew up in a boys’ home from the age of 12 to 18. And I had a house parent who was a giant of a human being. [He] was like six foot six, six foot seven, just a huge human being. And because he was a huge human being, I respected him because I was a big kid.

And he would do these weird things that would just like, I don’t understand this guy. This guy cries when he talks about God. That’s weird. No one that big should cry because they talk about God. It didn’t compute for me, Anthony. I didn’t get it. And he would speak so softly about Jesus, but at the same time he was a man’s man, like he was like, I like this guy.

I’m going, if I could be like him, I’d be cool with that. But man, I had so much anger, I had so much frustration, I had so much just from my childhood that was so like inside of me, it was just insanely toxic. And I remember one night we were sitting there, and Howard came up to me and said, “Are you done? Are you done being angry? Are you tired of it yet?”

And just in a weeping voice, exasperation, “Yes, I’m done. I am tired. I’m exhausted from being angry at everything and everyone.”

And he said, “You can give all of that to Jesus, but you have to surrender your life to him.”

And that’s when I was born anew. That was my moment of being born again when, in that moment, said, “I can’t do this on my own. I’m trying to figure out life and I’m just doing it miserably, but I can surrender and say, ‘Jesus, you can make me new. You can make me you can make me a new creation.’”

And in that moment, and I truly believe I became a new creation, that the old in me had passed on, that passed away and that a new, a Spirit had indwelt [sic] in me and that a new creation, a new being had taken place.

And those next two years were just a weird journey towards discipleship and really towards — when I say Jesus became my Savior when I was 15 but he became my king and Lord when I was 17. And this journey towards discipleship was lots of questions, but that’s what born again to me means this idea that I was made new in Jesus because I surrendered to him.

I allowed him to make me new and his Spirit indwells in me and has indwelt in me since then.

Anthony: As you tell the story about this giant of a human being, it reminds me of what we said earlier about testifying, telling the story, bearing witness to the goodness of God.

And I have found it’s really hard to do what you’ve never seen done, and the fact that he was willing to express to you, this is what it looks like. It’s a reminder: we all need mentors and guides in our life, right? Coaches, people that come alongside of us and say, ‘You know what? The Christ life, it looks like this. And you don’t have to carry this around anymore. You were never meant to carry that around.”

So, brother, I’m thankful for whoever that guy is. Howard, go, man And keep doing what you’re doing, Terry. We so appreciate your active participation ministry. You’ve been a blessing to me and I’m sure to many others. So, keep doing what you’re doing.

Thank you for being a part of this podcast. I want to thank Reuel Enerio, our producer, who does such a bang-up job. There’s no way we could get this out without him, and my wife, Elizabeth, who does the transcription. So, you can see every word that Terry said. It’s going to live on in infamy. And you talked about how the things we do can have an impact a hundred years from now, so there you go, Terry.

But it’s been awesome, man. Thank you. And as is tradition with this podcast, we love to close in prayer. So, if you’d pray for our audience, we’d appreciate it.

Terry: Yeah, absolutely.

King Jesus, we pause to just orient our presence on you and your Spirit as you work in and through us. Lord, wherever people may be as they listen to this, Lord, I pray a sense of an indwelling, that they would be so in key and in tune to who you are, who they are in you, Lord. And so, Lord, fill them up.

Lord, I thank you for those mentors, those guides who really exist in my life that have allowed me, as I apprenticed to Jesus, as I surrender to his way and practice his way, that they have served as guides and mentors and coaches to help me do that better. That as I spend time with you, Jesus, you have transformed me to become more like you. And Lord, that’s my prayer for everyone who is listening to this, that as they spend time with you.

Lord, that they would sense over a long period of obedience, they would be transformed. That Spiritual formation would occur, and they would walk in the likeness of who you are, and they would manifest love in every place and space that they take.

Lord, we love you. We thank you. Spirit, we ask that you would move in our church, that you would move in our world, you would move in and through every leader, that we might proclaim your goodness. We love you. We offer our lives as worship, and we give this to you. Jesus’ holy and precious name. Amen. Amen.

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