Be grounded in the Holy Triune God. Amen.

Moving our little family to Washington DC, responding to God’s call to serve here in this place, has been an adventure. And remember, not all adventures are mountaintop experiences. Some adventures require blood, sweat, and tears. Sometimes adventures require health scares and hospital stays. Sometimes they require fire and destruction and the grace and patience to rebuild. And sometimes adventure requires advanced level calculus to interpret the parking signs on the streets of the District.

Whatever adventure we’re on, we seek clarity about the road ahead. Clarity is reasonable. Clarity of purpose, clarity of role, clarity of boundaries, clarity of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ today and tomorrow and the next day. Clarity can bring order and purpose. Clarity can offer comfort because then we know where we are in space and time, where we are in relation to others and even how we could act. But clarity isn’t a means to an end. Clarity acts as a revelation and revelations are a beginning of something new. It would be wonderful to have the insight of exactly where we are going in every moment of every day. We wouldn’t have to do any more work. We would simply wait around until the next task came along, check it off the list and sit back down.

But this isn’t how Revelation works. This isn’t how we are to be as disciples of a living God. Even hearing the good news calls us to seek clarity and revelation. Nicodemus sought the similar thing, clarity of purpose, in the teachings of Jesus. This encounter between Nicodemus, a teacher of the oral and written tradition, and of Jesus Christ, a teacher of the way, the good news, shows the way that some of us desire clarity, taking the teachings literally. But as responsible disciples and responsible readers of scripture and diligent followers of Christ, our clarity of revelation is more complex. The encounter with Nicodemus brings together confusion and clarity and good news. Coming to Jesus at night, the time of confusion, obscures the good news, stifling the clarity and any revelation that might have been revealed. Nicodemus comes with his own knowledge, striving to be in right relationship with God and yet takes Jesus literally.

Nicodemus with all of his knowledge and certainty, believes Jesus speaks of physical rebirth and not of spiritual rebirth from God, being made anew in the spirit. Nicodemus doesn’t quite get it. Jesus is pushing beyond the literal, beyond the physical to a spiritual reality of transformation and revelation. But Nicodemus still desires clarity as a means to an end. Clarity as a means to certainty. But certainty leaves no room for growth or revelation. Certainty causes us to be arrogant, thinking we have all of the answers, or that a particular interpretation or idea is absolutely correct and infallible. The great revelation of Jesus offers us and compels us to lean into clarity as revelation, and to encounter mystery with awe and wonder and experience.

In addition to hearing this teaching and dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus, celebrating and remembering those on Memorial Day, we celebrate a mystery beyond our comprehension, the mystery of the holy and undivided Trinity. We could spend the rest of my allotted two hours preaching a theological treatise on the nature of the Trinity, or all the historical heresies identified the church through interpretive dance or song. But the Trinity is not merely just an abstract mystery. It is a practical and lived reality of experience. We as limited humans simply cannot contain the infinite mystery of the nature of the Trinity. God in three persons, God the creator, God the redeemer, God, the sustainer. Our language cannot fully express the nature of the Trinity in the varied ways that it transforms our lives, by simply existing within time, and outside of time, and for all time. We encounter it, we experience it, and we are transformed by it.

As humans like Nicodemus, we seek clarity and revelation and guidance. We seek to understand the good news. We seek to be transformed by it. We seek to be disciples of the living God in Christ Jesus in a world full of confusion. A world full of arrogant certainty. A world where those who are so certain of the scripture that we heard this morning from our gospel, that hurls at people and communities, as acts of loving violence and exclusion, rather than radical revelation and inclusion. For scripture is not as a weapon to be used, but a balm to heal. If we believe in Jesus Christ and in the radical revelation of new birth in water and the spirit, then we are people who have entered the reign of God through the waters and the spirit. We are guided by the teachings and revelation of good news in Jesus Christ and kept awake to the needs of others, and the world, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We experience and encounter God the creator by sharing in creation. We seek to create a world filled with the reign of God. We share our gifts of creation by offering our kindness and patience, when anger and indifference are loudest. We seek out hope and we sit with those in despair, not allowing anyone to drift into apathy. We seek to serve God in all parts of creation as active participants in the bringing of God’s reign, God’s justice, God’s mercy, and God’s peace. It can be as simple as our presence and grounding in creation all around us. Hearing the despair in the world, not as the absence of hope, but as hope rekindling. We don’t need to be the heroes of all creation because we simply need to be who God has made us to be. The hero of creation has already died for us and has offered everlasting life.

We experience God, our redeemer, our teacher, the Son, the one we are to follow. But often we desire to only experience Christ by listening. We take in his teachings through scripture and sermons. We have something to contemplate for the week, and we leave and we hope to make it to lunch or to the bus on time. We encounter the risen Christ when we serve as active participants. When we serve as disciples. Disciples are not passive listeners of the good news. If we are to be disciples in the world, we must be convicted to act how we are able. There is too much hurt in the world to not want to offer the good news of healing. There is too much pain in the world to not want to create peace. There is too much division in the world to not want to have reconciliation.

As disciples of the risen Lord, we risk becoming more and more like Nicodemus in the gospel, unable to hear with clarity the revelation that is offered. We know the good news. If we go into the world without changing the world, and we are willfully ignorant of the good news, and of Christ, and of God, because if God the creator, sent his Son into the world so that the world through him might be saved, then why would we be wasting time listening and doing nothing at all? For if we know that God sent his Son into the world to save and to not condemn, to heal and not to harm, to reconcile and not to divide, then what are we doing calling ourselves disciples and doing nothing in the face of others who call themselves disciples as well harming creation and fostering division, killing with word and deed the creatures of God? We cannot abide pain and destruction of any part of creation.

And that feeling is when we encounter and experience the Holy Spirit, the sustainer, the one who inspires and guides and lights our way. As much as we want to stay comfortable in this way of unknowing, the spirit simply won’t allow it. She moves through us, through our churches and communities, through those who are broken and those who wish to heal. She lights a fire within us to change the world. The Spirit offers us community because we are never alone in doing the work. We may not be certain where God is leading or what the Spirit is doing, but it is clear that the good news of God in Christ Jesus, sustained and inspired and enlivened by the Holy Spirit, is a love that will transform us and will transform the whole world.

It’s simple and it can begin here. We receive and know the good news, and then we go into the world as disciples of God in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit refreshes us and makes us anew and compels us to live the love of God in the world. It begins by being present with creation, by being present in community, by watching and listening and feeling for the presence of God that is already there. Be present with those who are hurting or hungry, tired or lonely. Be present without the need to fix. Be present with creation and Christ is there. Christ Jesus, the one who taught us to serve and to heal, follow and teach, to walk in a hurting and broken world. The one who taught us to love in a world filled with hatred and certainty that kills, is there. It is this savior that we follow and this teacher to whom we listen, and this healer who teaches us to heal. It is this Christ who shows us how to show up for ourselves and others. It is this Christ that reveals himself when we need him most.

We have been born anew by water, by spirit, through community. This great adventure of life could take us anywhere at any moment. The good news is that we are never alone in the work. We know the presence of the triune God in our lives, the creator, the redeemer, the sustainer. We know the good news of God in Christ Jesus, that we are active participants and disciples to heal ourselves and the world around us. And we know that God sent the redeemer to the world, not to condemn, but to save. Not to harm, but to heal. Not to destroy, but to love. And it is clear time and time again through revelation and encounters with creation and the divine, the power of the spirit and the knowledge and the love of God in Christ, that there is nothing, not one single thing, that can separate you or any part of creation from this love. Thanks be to God. Amen.


The Rev. Spencer Brown

Priest Associate