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June 03, 2012
by John Partridge Scripture: Isaiah 6:1-8 John 3:1-17 Romans 8:12-17
What would you say if I told you that there was an invisible force that would allow human beings to travel all over the world? What’s more, this invisible energy source was not only available world-wide, but abundant, inexpensive (in fact, practically free), readily accessible even with limited technology, and was derived from entirely nonpolluting solar energy. Some of you would hesitate and others would scoff that there was no such thing, that believing in non-polluting, invisible forces was just a fairy tale. It is true though and it was used extensively as a means to explore the world hundreds of years ago. Today we simply call this invisible force “the wind.” Hundreds of years ago brave men in their tall ships explored the world using only the natural energy created by God. I am sure that few of you knew what I was referring to but I am equally sure that a few of you thought that I was making the whole thing up. We often want to disbelieve things that we cannot see, and yet, as I have demonstrated, there is often great power in things that are unseen. Others will argue that wind doesn’t count because although it is unseen, it is scientifically measureable. In response, I lift up for your consideration, human thought. The mind of a human being is an amazing thing. Today with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI’s) and other high-tech medical devices we can see inside the human brain in ways we might only have imagined even twenty years ago, and yet, human thought is elusive. There is power in the minds of human beings. It would be difficult to argue that the minds of people like Albert Einstein, Jonas Salk or Marie Curie didn’t make a difference in the world in which we live. A similar and much more frightening argument can be made about the minds of Adolf Hitler, Genghis Khan, Josef Stalin or Pol Pot. What happened in the minds of these people changed the course of history and yet, what happens in the mind cannot be seen or measured with any accuracy at all. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are sometimes accused of believing in things that are silly or ridiculous because they cannot be seen nor measured. Perhaps they cannot. Perhaps they can, but our current level of technology is insufficient to do so. In either case, we already have experience with several things that have changed the world in which we live but which also cannot be seen or measured. Can we measure faith, or trust, love, or compassion? No we cannot, and yet, the existence of these things, or their absence, can dramatically alter the course of nations. This morning we celebrate Trinity Sunday and, once more we attempt to better understand one of our faith’s great mysteries. We begin in Isaiah 6:1-8… In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” 1
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” This is a well-known and interesting passage. You may note that it begins with the seraphim crying out, “Holy is the Lord Almighty,” and “the earth is full of his glory.” But at the end, when God speaks, he says “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” This is a thought provoking turn of phrase and use of singular and plural language. Does God refer to one being or more? It would be a simple thing to discount this as God using the “Royal We” and referring to himself in the third person, but this usage also appears in Genesis 1:26…
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Again, I say that this is interesting and thought provoking because God seems to be referring to himself in the plural although in the times of the Old Testament, God was never seen as anything but in the singular. The idea that we have today, the concept of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, was not then in existence and so while we find these interesting and tantalizing hints, I am not certain how ancient rabbis might have interpreted this use of plural language. When we talk about the Trinity, people will sometimes point out that this idea never appears in the Bible and, in a sense that is true, but at the same time, it is not true. The word, “Trinity,” never appears in the New Testament, but the idea of the Trinity, is certainly there. We saw hints of the Trinity in the Old Testament but see it much more clearly in many places in the New Testament. In John 3:1-17, we hear a story that we have read many times… Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 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. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 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? 11 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. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. In this passage we see that Nicodemus comes to see Jesus at night. Jesus says that no one can enter the kingdom of God, unless they are first born of the Spirit. Jesus is our savior, our rescuer, God is the ruler of heaven and earth, and the Spirit is the mover, the agent, that brings us to Jesus. We see a similar gathering of the members of the Trinity in Romans 8:12-17, where Paul writes…
Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Here, Paul says that the Spirit we received brings about our adoption and sons and daughters of God so that though the Spirit, we cry out to the Father, and become co-heirs with Christ. Paul may not have had a word like ‘Trinity’ to describe this relationship with God, but the idea clearly existed and it didn’t take long before Christians were using this new word, ‘Trinity’ and began trying to understand exactly how God can be one God in three persons and yet remain one God. We believe that God exists. We have seen him at work in our lives, in the lives of our family and friends, and in the world around us. We believe that God sent his son, Jesus, to rescue us and purify us so that we might be adopted by God and come to live with him. We believe that God has called us to live the way that he has commanded us to live and to live according to his example. Our challenge in following God’s example, or even the example of Jesus Christ, is in accepting the mission of the Holy Spirit. We cannot be like God the Father because we are not God, we cannot rule over the universe. Most of us have enough trouble ruling over our own lives let alone anyone else. We cannot be Jesus because we are not the Son of God but we must accept the mission that we have inherited from Jesus, to seek and to save the lost. This is the mission of the Holy Spirit, to bring others to Jesus so they can meet him and find salvation and rescue for themselves. How do we answer God’s call to bring others to Jesus Christ? How do we answer God when he says, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us? Our fervent prayer should be that we will hear the call of God, that we will accept the mission of Jesus Christ, and that we will follow the model of the Holy Spirit. In this way we too can answer God by saying… “Here am I. Send me!”
You have been reading a message presented at Barnesville First United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor of Barnesville First. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Barnesville First UMC at 123 W. Church St., Barnesville, OH 43713. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online). These messages can also be found online at http://www.scribd.com/Pastor John Partridge. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.
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