Sermons by Pastor Walter Snyder plus announcements, articles, videos, and anything else that doesn’t fit Ask the Pastor or the Luther Library.

03 June 2012

Sermon: Trinity Sunday (Gospel)

Sunday 3 June AD 2012

Theme: Born from Above

Summary: Christians can end up as confused as Nicodemus when we encounter Jesus saying, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” From rightly accepting that we are deficient, defective sinners, we wrongly move on to assuming that we have some control of our spiritual rebirth.

However, Jesus’ words also mean, “Unless one is born from above he cannot see the kingdom of God.” It’s not enough to seek a “do-over” like a golfer’s mulligan. For no matter how often we might try to fix what is broken in us, when we start out as sinners, we remain sinners.

Only when God works “top-down” — lavishing His blessings on us, pouring out the blood of Jesus that cleanses us from all our sins, baptizing us in His Triune Name, forgiving us all our sins — do we find ourselves made new as children of our Heavenly Father rather than children of wrath and damnation. Only when we are born from above are we truly born again and heirs of eternal life.

Symbol of the Triune GodText: Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again* he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?”

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’

“The wind** blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”

Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you*** do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

The Bronze Serpent“No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only**** Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
John 3:1-17

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Ecclesiastical art by Ed Riojas. Graphics for the Church Year (1-Year and 3-Year Lectionaries) are available for for purchase on CD or by ZIP download from the Higher Things Store.

Audio: Click to hear MP3 of Born from Above, preached to the saints at Saint Matthew Lutheran Church, Ernestville, Missouri.

Other Readings: Psalm 29; Isaiah 6:1-8; Acts 2:14a, 22-36

Trinity Sunday: Visit Aardvark Alley to learn more about The Feast of the Holy Trinity.

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*Or from above; Jesus appears to be intentionally ambiguous, especially in the first instance, in order to engage Nicodemus more deeply. The second time is probably best understood in a both/and manner: Being born “again” reminds us that we are by nature born with fallen, sinful natures that must be undone through baptismal rebirth; being born “from above” tells us that we cannot save ourselves, it is a “top-down” birth, flowing from God.

**The same Greek word may be translated either wind or spirit, depending upon context.

***You is plural here and four times in the next verse. It applies to the Jewish leaders, probably to the Pharisees in particular, since Nicodemus was a Pharisee and because they were the main educators in Judea at that time.

****Or only-begotten.