Trinity Sunday Year B

Alfred Gorvie

DIVINE MYSTERIES

John 3:1-17
Trinity Sunday Year B
Analysis by Bruce K Modahl

1Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 11“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

The Chosen – Nicodemus and Jesus  –  The Chosen press photos (press.thechosen.tv) –  From Wikimedia Commons

“In Christ we see the new creation God calls into being out of this groaning old order.” “Unshaming the shamed… is what Jesus comes to do. And the way he does it is by taking our shame upon himself.”

DIAGNOSIS: What a Shame

Step 1: Initial Diagnosis (External Problem): Under the Cover of Darkness
The poet (J. Barrie Shepherd) refers to Nicodemus as “Jesus’ night-shift friend.” I doubt he was on the clock when he came cloaked by darkness to visit Jesus. He wasn’t there to dig up some dirt. The Pharisees did that in broad daylight. And it is one thing to be a Pharisee and quite another to be also on the leadership team, a member of the Sanhedrin. Sincere he may be, but he came at night because he was afraid of being seen with Jesus and his followers, infected as they were with that embarrassing Galilean drawl.

Our household watched “Death and Other Details” on Hulu. The priest in the story wears pastel suitcoats with matching shorts and clerical collar. He is pious, an adulterer, and a cheat. The good Christian mother in the story is the same. Christ’s followers are presented to the world as clowns, hypocrites, and bigots. It’s shaming to be counted among them.

Step 2: Advanced Diagnosis (Internal Problem): Misplaced Fear
Nicodemus was afraid of his peers. We are (at least I am) afraid of being shamed by other peoples’ judgment. What or whoever we fear, love, and trust the most is our god. Depressing isn’t it, to discover we have made a god out of and are beholding to what other people think of us? It makes for an anxious existence.

Step 3: Final Diagnosis (Eternal Problem): A Proper Fear
It is more shameful to be on the wrong side of the One who sent his Son to save the world. The Small Catechism lays down the law, “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all.”

From Canva

PROGNOSIS: Called to the Table

Step 4: Initial Prognosis (Eternal Solution): Unshaming the Shamed
Unshaming the shamed is a phrase that defies the rules of grammar but has stuck in my head for all 50 years since I heard it in a seminary class. This is what Jesus comes to do. And the way he does it is by taking our shame upon himself. He bears it all the way to the grave and leaves it entombed when he rises from the dead.

Other people’s opinions are oppressive. Even the positive ones can be. How are we going to continue to live up to them? God lifts that oppression from us. God’s opinion is the only one that finally matters. And since Jesus takes our shame from us and replaces it with his righteousness, God opines over us, “You are my beloved.”

Step 5: Advanced Prognosis (Internal Solution): Fear, Love, and Trust in God above All
A song lyric sticks in my head. Julie Miller sings, “I will not be ashamed for my Savior knows my name.” God calls us by name when we are baptized by water and the Spirit. The Spirit kindles faith in us. The Spirit moves us to fear, love, and trust in God above all things. Through Christ, God’s opinion of us is that we are Jesus’ sisters and brother and therefore children of God and heirs with Christ.

As we are born from above, we wade in the water with people of every tribe and tongue. We stumble into the center aisle with hypocrites and bigots, Pharisees, tax gatherers, and all kinds of sinners. We come to the table to eat and drink Christ for the forgiveness of our sins.

Step 6: Final Prognosis (External Solution): New Life in Christ
As we live in Christ, we take our place in the Divine perichoresis, the swirling life lived between the Father and the Son in their Spirit. This is God’s true DEI initiative. In Christ we are diverse, inclusive, and equally redeemed by God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

In Christ we see the new creation God calls into being out of this groaning old order. We distinguish between what Luther called political righteousness and the righteousness that comes from Christ alone. We are secure in the cloak of Christ’s righteousness in which God clothes us. Therefore, our good works on behalf of the wellbeing of the world, the communities, and families in which we live give proleptic witness to the redeemed and new creation we see on the horizon.