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Preaching Mission for the Trinity Sunday (May 26, 2024)

(Youth Camp in Cuba, with North American and Cuban Moravians)

The God Who Surrounds Us
by Bishop Chris Giesler

Scripture Text: John 3:1-17

On Trinity Sunday, we sometimes spend far too much time trying to figure out how this whole Trinity thing works when all we need to do is do what Jesus has asked us to do: start next door, go as far as the world is wide to welcome people into the kingdom of God. Love and care for them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. To teach them all that Jesus taught us. I do believe that function is far more important than form. Living the Trinity is far more important than trying to understand it.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth….and God saw that it was GOOD!

I have experienced God as creator by accompanying my wife through the birth of our two children.  Nothing is more humbling than holding a baby who has just taken their first breath.  This week, I started planting some tomatoes in our garden.  I can’t wait for that first ripe tomato!  Babies and tomato plants are all part of God’s creative power!

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.  

Not long ago, Tina and I mourned the passing of a good and faithful friend and member of our church; her name was Joellyn.  She lived a hard life raising her family and worked tirelessly to support them well into her 70s, even delivering newspapers until recently.  But she would smile, and every Sunday, you can bet that she had a prayer request, not for herself, but for some mission group doing work in Africa that she was supporting.  In the last few years, her body looked very tired; she walked with a cane, but her spirit was young. And now, through Jesus Christ, she has tasted eternity.  Good for Joellyn, and thank you, Jesus. For God so loved the world, he sent his son!  Thanks be to God.

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you.

For the last few years, the Moravian Church in Nicaragua has suffered not only through a series of natural disasters due to hurricanes and torrential rains but also through interpersonal conflicts and division among church leaders.  This has halted their ministries and, at times, has led to physical violence.  But beginning earlier this year, a reconciliation has begun.  Leaders of both sides of the conflict have been meeting to collaborate and work on shared leadership and mission. There is much work yet to be done, but I truly do believe that is the Holy Spirit at work teaching those leaders about the reconciling grace of Jesus Christ.

See God’s creative power at work in the world today, responding to the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and feeling the very Spirit of God in our midst should let us know that God’s love surrounds us each and every moment of each and every day. God’s love surrounds us from birth and through our eternities.  Whether we know it or not, each one of us has encountered God’s love surrounding us as Creator, as Redeemer, and God as Holy Spirit in the past week. I would encourage you to take time today to ponder how God’s love has surrounded you.

This week, pastors across the world have been wringing their hands over this Sunday’s sermon.  Do you know why? It’s Trinity Sunday.  It is easy to preach Christmas, it is easy to preach Easter, but it is hard to preach Trinity. The Trinity, after all, is a theological concept; it is a method of trying to understand the great mystery of who God is.  It is a theological concept that our early church fathers and mothers put together as they poured over the scriptures and saw how God had been encountered in the pages of scripture and even in their own lives.  They looked at Jesus’ bold commission to his disciples in Matthew chapter 28 to go into all the world in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  The concept of the Trinity is there – but it is a concept, a method of understanding God that has its roots in the Biblical record.  But it is impossible to have a relationship with a concept; it is not very meaningful to have a relationship with a method.

So while pastors across the country have struggled on how to preach this concept, how many faithful church attenders woke up this morning saying, “Wow, it’s Trinity Sunday; I can hardly wait to get to church and hear what the pastor has to say about the Trinity!”

Nicodemus came to Jesus in the dark of the night; something was keeping him awake!  He was a faithful religious leader; he was following the rules, but still, something was missing for him.  Something was not complete.  The rules weren’t working anymore, and he saw something in Jesus that begged a deeper conversation. I think that he saw in Jesus someone who had a meaningful relationship with God.

But here, Jesus steers Nicodemus away from his preconceived notions about faith.  Nicodemus was working with the assumption that rule-following is what makes you right with God. If you follow the law, you earn your way into heaven.   Here, Jesus is teaching him that it is about a relationship. A relationship that makes you new!  Just as if you were born from above, born for a second time, yes, born again.

So this is it:

God lovingly created each of us.  God gives us the means of salvation, new life here, eternal life in the world to come.  God comes to us each day in the power of the Holy Spirit, teaching, guiding, encouraging, and stirring deep in your gut.  Claim it! Claim the love of God that surrounds you and allows your life to be transformed, renewed, and refreshed.