Trinity Sunday: Born Again in Baptism

St Nicholas – 9:30 am
Baptism of Chloe Cooper-Berry

Trinity Sunday

Romans 8:12-17
John 3:1-17

This is a very special Sunday! On the church calendar it is Trinity Sunday which means we are celebrating God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit by reminding ourselves that they are one in the same These three are one. Does three equal one?!

We are also celebrating the baptism of Chloe Cooper-Berry. She has brought a lot of family and friends today. We are blessed to have you here! Chloe will be baptised in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Trying to understand how three equals one is confusing! Fortunately we are not alone in this. There was someone else who did not understand: Nicodemus. He was lucky that he was able to take his questions directly to Jesus as we can too of course. Only Nicodemus got to do it in person.

Nicodemus came to understand more about God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit through his conversation with Jesus that dark night in Jerusalem. Who is this guy? Nicodemus was a leader of a group of Jewish people called the Pharisees. He was a big deal in Jerusalem, he was well educated and important. Like most religious people, Nicodemus believes to some extent that God is love. But he believes that God’s love is measured and sensible and follows a set of rules. Yet there is something attractive about this Jesus.

Nicodemus is confused about Jesus and where he fits. This could be why he pays him a visit to get Jesus to fill in the proper forms, tick the right boxes. His confusion is given away in the detail about coming to see Jesus at night. Darkness or night in John’s Gospel represents confusion or a lack of understanding.

A second reason for going at night means that Nicodemus was concerned about being seen with Jesus. He was not willing to risk his reputation or position for Him. Nicodemus’ curiosity got the better of him. Nicodemus starts by telling Jesus that he knows that there is something special about Jesus. Only someone with a special relationship with God could do the things Jesus was doing. He is basically saying ‘I’m someone who can recognise what God is doing and you, Jesus, are doing a pretty good job’.

Jesus’ reply seems to mystify Nicodemus. I’m not sure what your response is when you hear the words ‘born again’. Have you ever thought about how you were born?
Has anyone ever asked you ‘are you born again’?

Nicodemus is picturing a physical re-birth which makes for some interesting mental images around re-entering his mother’s womb. This is not what Jesus means; he is referring to spiritual rebirth in which someone who already possesses life at the physical level comes to birth at a spiritual level.

This is what we are doing in baptism this morning; Chloe is going to be ‘born again’. This happens when I pour water on her head three times and say ‘Chloe, I baptise you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.’ Spiritual rebirth in baptism is about discovering life in all its fullness which comes only through being born again, or from above. Spiritual rebirth has to come from God. To see his kingdom we need to be born both of water (physically) and spirit (from above). We are all invited to be born again.

Luke & Esther and godparents Sally, Dean & Steph you have accepted the invitation on Chloe’s behalf. You have the great responsibility to now help Chloe understand what that means and to grow into the promises you have made to God and to her. We are here to help you do that.

The other thing that baptism prepares us for is the life after this one is over. John 3:16 is a very familiar verse. It is the first one I remember learning as a child. This verse sets out what it means to be a Christian. What is that?

An invitation to join God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit in the deep and endless richness of God’s love. To join in their being and doing forever. This eternal life is a new quality of life. It is made only possible through the love of God, which is shown in the astonishing fact that he loves the world so much that his only Son, Jesus should die for it.

This is the invitation that Jesus extended to Nicodemus that night and continues to extend to us today. I think that Nicodemus made a start that night in understanding what this love of God is really about, even if he does not quite yet understand. After this midnight meeting with Jesus, Nicodemus goes away changed.

How do we know? He appears on two more occasions in John’s Gospel. Nicodemus defended Jesus when he got into trouble with some other Pharisees. This shows that he is no longer as embarrassed to be seen with Jesus.

The final appearance of Nicodemus is after the crucifixion. He was the one who brought the myrrh and aloes for the preparation of the body. Along with Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus took the body, wrapped it with the spices in linen cloth and laid Jesus in the tomb.

Think for a second. Would Nicodemus risk everything, his whole life if he did not believe who Jesus was? If he did not want more of what Jesus was offering? I think Nicodemus had way too much to lose if it was untrue. Nicodemus appears to have accepted the invitation into the deepest relationship that we can be offered: a relationship with God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit. The belief that God is Trinity is the foundation for the belief that God is also love.

Start with the Three and see that it is the deepest nature of One. In the Trinity we discover God’s character, personality, priorities and God’s reality. I can point you in the direction of large theological volumes if that is helpful. When we see the deepest nature of the One as Nicodemus did we are invited to join in the relationship of the Trinity, we are invited to the table to share love and life together. This is worth celebrating.

Author: Sue Lepp

I am currently the Lead Chaplain of Gatwick Airport and the Priest-in-Charge of Charlwood St Nicholas and Sidlow Bridge Emmanuel in the Diocese of Southwark. I served my curacy in the Parish of Langley Marish and trained at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. Former Nurse in both Canada and the UK. Specialised in Palliative Care, Gynaecology-Oncology and a bit of Orthopaedics (just to keep me travelling). Worked as a MacMillan Nurse Specialist in a few specialities in London.

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