On Sunday May 22nd our minister Rev Christine Gillespie led worship. It was Trinity Sunday and worship began when we sang, ‘Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty.’ Christine led the opening prayers and the Lord’s Prayer. Psalm 8 was read before we sang, ‘Break thou the bread of life’ and John 3.1-17 was read. We sang ‘Come let us sing of a wonderful love,’ before Christine preached.
Christine explained how preachers try to illustrate the Trinity, such as Patrick using the Shamrock leaf with three sections to illustrate Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God – three in one. Another illustration was ice, water and steam; three different ways of describing the same substance. Christine joked that other preachers make sure they have booked a holiday to avoid preaching on Trinity Sunday. Christians in the early church struggled to try and express it, as there was no doctrine formed then. Christine said it was not surprising that it is difficult to talk about God, as God cannot be described and thinking about God stretches our minds; being God means He cannot be described.
Nicodemus, a thinker, wrestled with his faith. Nicodemus was an educated man, who was well-versed in scripture and taught his faith, practised his religion; he discussed his faith with other believers, yet when Nicodemus encountered Jesus, he was puzzled as he was not what he had expected, as a Pharisee. Many Pharisees attacked Jesus and tried to trap him, but Nicodemus reflected on Jesus’ ministry of miracles. He felt it was impossible for God not to be with Jesus and wrestled with his different belief and upbringing. He came at night maybe for an uninterrupted conversation and it reflects how he felt somehow in the dark. Nicodemus explained what puzzled him, listened to Jesus, challenged him, asked questions and deepened his understanding. We know Nicodemus continued to be challenged by Jesus and tried to get other leaders to listen to him. Later Nicodemus came with Joseph to lay Jesus’ body in the tomb.
We are fortunate to have many resources, study guides, Christian books, a lot of information on the web and commentaries to help us understand the Bible. We as preachers should be engaged in lifelong learning in Bible study or fellowship groups. Christine described how she talked with another student after she had been studying at university and learnt more about what she had read; then she tried to explain what she had learnt over coffee. She said that we can learn more by learning and sharing together. Why not meet together like Nicodemus did when he met with Jesus and ask questions so we can understand more? Nicodemus knew that not knowing about his faith and God was not enough; he had to get his questions answered.
Christianity is not an intellectual exercise, but a relationship through water and the Spirit. Nicodemus did not understand at first; he was a Jew a descendant of Abraham, but Jesus explained he needed more; he needed a personal relationship of the Spirit, that is be born again. Those who feel they are born again and those who do not seek to be born again can divide believers sometimes aggressively. That aggression should remind us that we need a relationship with God, to be born again. The woman at the well was isolated as she came in the heat of the day; she needed Spiritual water, as like Nicodemus she needed a relationship with God. The lawyer wanted to know who his neighbour was, so he could serve God properly.
Nicodemus came at night to ask questions and talk, as he needed to experience God’s Spirit. It is the same for us; we need to talk and seek a personal relationship with God. Some of us come to a dramatic moment when we take Jesus into our hearts and receive his Holy Spirit as our guide for each day, after as it were the veil of lack of understanding is removed from our eyes. Others grow gradually into a deeper relationship with our Lord Jesus accepting the Holy Spirit into their lives for each day. Each experience is valuable as long as it brings us into a life changing relationship with God. At Pentecost the disciples experienced the touch of the Spirit after being together in the upper room or worshipping in the temple. We need to be open to receive the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we are too easily distracted and need to be quiet and worship ready to receive the free gift of God, which we do not deserve. God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him may not perish but have everlasting life. We are all invited to seek God –and deepen our faith; we love him only because he first loved us.+
We sang ‘Praise to the living God’ before Christine led the prayers of intercession. Worship was concluded when we sang ‘Now thank we all our God.’