John 3:1-17 (Message)
This has got to be the most wonderful and appropriate Bible passage for this day of celebration where we have both the occasion of a Baptism and in the church calendar the marking of Trinity Sunday.
This reading, brought to us by Gail, is on the Common Lectionary – which means it is read in Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches alike – all around the world today.
The passage begins with a conversation between Nicodemus (an educated church leader of the Jewish establishment) and Jesus – the wandering, mystical Rabbi. Jesus says that we all need to be reborn, born anew, born from above and baptised in water and the Spirit to enter the kingdom of Heaven.
Nicodemus takes this literally, arguing that it is impossible to re-enter our mother’s womb.
But Jesus is saying two things here, that nothing is impossible where God is concerned and secondly that we have to look at things with a new mindset, with a different set of eyes, if you like.
We’ve all seen the pictures, like these on the screen.
Old women or young girl, two faces or the cup.
You may see the face of an Indigenous Elder or a horse’s head or simply a waterfall.
But the other thing Jesus is trying to get Nicodemus and his followers to grasp – when he uses the words ‘we know, we speak, we testify’ (from the NIV) that God is himself (The Redeemer, the Spirit (the Renewer) and the Creator.
The Spirit (in Greek, the pneuma) – for the rushing wind is as much about him as is him being the son to the Father. The Trinity of God – what we call ‘three in one and one in three’.
God is in community with God’s self but more importantly for us, especially when we come to a day of baptism, God is in community with us.
I think it is interesting that Jesus, when he is talking to Nicodemus, says ‘you’ in verse 7 and 12 – the ‘you’ in the original Greek is plural. He is essentially talking to all people, all communities, then and now.
Jesus’ motivation in his discussion with Nicodemus is to teach or tell him that the important thing about community is love. Agape love – the Greek word used in this passage is the love that is looking out for the other.
It is a selfless love and self-sacrificial love that is spoken about in this passage, a love for individuals such as Baby Dean, for Barbara and Deans’ parents (and we think especially about her Dad George today), for Barbara and Aaron, for our Godparents, relatives, friends, the church community and the whole world and beyond (the Greek words used for ‘God so loved the world’ are ‘agapen o’ Theos ton cosmos).
A love for each other – born in the community of the Holy Trinity – is lavished upon you and me and us. Just as we need the loving community of the Trinity of God Creator, Redeemer and Nurturer, so Baby Dean also needs a human community to create an atmosphere of love, a network of people to stop him from falling into danger, or to redeem him when he does, and a family that will nurture him and grow him in body, mind and spirit.
On this day we are reminded that God the Creator is not independent of the Son and the Spirit, any more than Dean is independent of his family, friends, the community and whole cosmos. We – like God – are inter-twined and inter-dependent with each other.
So with our new set of eyes, let’s look out for others and care for all creation. Let us go beyond this place to other communities to spread the message of God’s love.