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Trinity Sunday

Lectionary Preaching Workbook
Series VII, Cycle B
Theme For The Day
God as our parent, our Savior, and spiritual presence with us now.

Old Testament Lesson
Isaiah 6:1-8
Isaiah's Call

No doubt this passage was selected for Trinity Sunday because it can be considered as a precursor of the Trinity. It is the year of King Uzziah's death and the Temple was about to lose its glory -- never to return to this state. The Romans would be coming to destroy it all. In verse 2 we have the fiery guardians of the Lord's holiness. Two wings covered their faces -- in awe; two wings covered their feet -- acknowledging the lowliness of their service; two wings were used for flying or hovering. These things were continuous. Then we have the threefold Holy in verse 3.

The fire on the altar of incense and this vision caused Isaiah to utter verse 5. And there is mercy for such a repentant person. His sins were forgiven. The way was now prepared for Isaiah to deliver his message. Again the plural in verse 8 suggests the Trinity of the Godhead, some believe, and thus this passage for this Sunday.

This is often thought of as Isaiah's initial call to be a prophet. We ought note how strongly the prophet felt his commission from God. Being in God's presence he had no alternative but to accept this commission to preach a rather unpopular message to the people.

New Testament Lesson
Romans 8:12-17
Children Of God

Paul develops the metaphor of adoption as descriptive of our new relationship with God. We are adopted by God and thus become "children of God" -- a part of God's family (v. 14). It is the Holy Spirit herself which is the witness to our adoption and thus our inheritance (v. 16). Paul saw our entry into God's family like a Roman adoption. We do nothing to earn or to deserve it. God takes us into God's family because of his love and mercy. All our sins forgiven, we become inheritors of God's undeserved love and glory.

Like the Old Testament Lesson, this reading no doubt was chosen to help support the doctrine of the Holy Trinity as we have God as father (v. 15), God as savior (v. 17), and God as spirit (v. 16).

The Gospel
John 3:1-17
Nicodemus Visits Jesus

Nicodemus was a distinguished Pharisee who served in the Jewish Sanhedrin. We only meet him in this Gospel. Perhaps he was more liberal than some and open to new ideas. In John 7:50-51 he defended Jesus from prejudicial accusations and in 19:39 he joins Joseph of Arimathea in providing a decent burial place for Jesus. Notice how each man treats the other with respect as a teacher.

According to Harper's Bible Dictionary, "Legends without biblical foundation tell that Nicodemus was baptized by Peter and John, and banished from Jerusalem during the Jewish uprising against Stephen. The Apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus dates from the thirteenth century A.D."

Verses 16-17 are all this man needed to know and believe. God gave a son so he might have eternal life and that son did not come to condemn but to save.

Preaching Possibilities

Individually, there are many sermon possibilities. The Old Testament Lesson lends itself to Isaiah's call and commission and ours. The New Testament Reading will work as a rich metaphor about our new relationship to God and to each other. We are adopted into God's family and this God is our parent and we are brothers and sisters. The Gospel has three great themes: Nicodemus as a secret disciple, or at least a fair person, looking out for the treatment of some radical Jews; the "little Gospel" of John 3:16 or the assurance of John 3:17 that God doesn't want to judge or punish but to save.

After saying the above, I must remind you that this is a special Sunday in the church year. It is the only Sunday when we celebrate a doctrine rather than events in the life of Jesus and the early church and his teachings. So I think we must go with that very difficult theme of Trinity. Because the church mothers and fathers thought it important in explaining our beliefs about God, we must try our best to help our hearers come to understand this complicated belief.

Possible Outline Of Sermon Moves
A. Begin with a story about an adoption you know of or witnessed and what a difference it has made in that person's life.
B. Move to Paul's claim in the Second Reading that God has adopted us into God's family.
C. List out what you believe are the implications of being adopted into God's family:

1. We are there by undeserved grace and mercy.

2. We ought treat each other as brothers and sisters.

3. There ought be an unbreakable good will amongst us no matter what happens -- we are family.
D. Move to the fact that this is Trinity Sunday and these scriptures help us understand a little how our Holy Parent is.

1. God is one who loves us so much that he gave his son for us -- John 3:16.

2. God is spirit and wants us to be born of the spirit as well as water -- John 3:5.

3. God has a mission and ministry for us as his adopted people -- Isaiah 6:8.
E. Pull it all together by stating we have an adopted father who adopts us like a loving parent, gives his son Jesus for our sins, and is with us still in spirit.
F. Frame by returning to the story of an adoption you know of and how beautiful it has been over the years relating that to God and God's adoption of us.

A Teaching Sermon Alternative

A more simple approach to this doctrinal Sunday would be to use Luther's Catechism and the meanings to the three "articles" of the Apostles' Creed.
A. Introduction: Explain that this is the one Sunday in the year when we learn about a belief, the Holy Trinity.

1. Have the congregation say the first article of the Apostles' Creed. Tell them this is God at work with us as a father and creator.

2. Now have the congregation recite Luther's meaning to the first article.
B. Move to the second article and have them read about God as our Savior Jesus Christ.

1. Tell them what it means to have a Savior and use the John 3:16-17 Gospel for the day.

2. Have them read Luther's explanation of the second article.
C. Move to the third article and have them read it together about God at work with us now as Holy Spirit and the Christian Church.

1. Tell about being adopted by God in the Romans account and how that ought be reflected in your congregation.

2. Now read together the meaning of the third article of the creed.
D. Sum up by presenting the Trinity: God as out Parent, our Savior, and our Spirit present with us now.

Prayer For The Day

Holy Parent who has adopted us into your saved family even though we don't deserve it, help us through your ever-present spirit to be faithful children in your special family. Show us our commission as you did Isaiah in the temple and move us beyond the academic timid discipleship of Nicodemus to loyal undeserving family members for whom Jesus was given on a cross. In the name of God our father, our savior, and our spirit presence. Amen.

Possible Metaphors And Stories

Some object lessons for today's Trinity emphasis would be the sassafras leaf's three shapes, but still all sassafras; the different forms of water: ice, liquid, and steam; the different roles a parent plays but all still our parent: father, teacher, protector, husband, etc.

It was a 32-foot wooden cabin cruiser moored next to our dock, owned by our neighbor, John Roench. At 12:30 p.m., the stern began to sink. Frantically I called John at his office. But by 2 p.m. when he arrived, the boat had completely sunk. Vessel Rescue came with two divers who went to the bottom and placed rubber bladders under the keel. Then while pumping out water from the hull they pumped air into those bladders ... and up she came! Now after being under water and the hull swelling up she floated unassisted. When we are inundated and sinking, the breath of the spirit will lift us up as well. We also have a rescue.

A recent newspaper account of a fire in San Francisco stated the fire department is looking for "suspected accelerants in the ashes." How about Pentecost accelerants? What is it the spirit of God can best use to accelerate the Pentecost fire again? Let it be us through whom a new fire is ignited in the souls of our people. Oh, that we could accelerate the fire in our soul to witness, steward, minister to, and have compassion for all God's people.

HMOs are everywhere ... health maintenance organizations. We who are God's church are SMOs ... spiritual maintenance organizations. Annual check-up, regular devotions, test the heart for capacity! What ought we do to fulfill our God-given mandate?
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23 – Sermons
180+ – Illustrations / Stories
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