Isaiah 6:1-8 – Call of Isaiah. Six-winged seraph. Holy, holy, holy.
Psalm 29 – Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. (Ps. 29:2)
Romans 8:12-17– Life in the Spirit. Present suffering incomparable to the glory to be revealed. Creation eagerly waits… in labor?
John 3:1-17 – Nicodemus. Being born of the Spirit, which blows where it wills.
Hymns: Come, Join the Dance of Trinity, 412 ELW, and Holy God, We Praise Your Name, 414 ELW. Eternal Father, Strong to Save, ELW 756. God, Whose Almighty Word; Holy, Holy, Holy. We Believe, by The Newsboys: http://youtu.be/E00j5xGeDm8. David Scherer (Agape) has a creed, as do Lost and Found, Jay Beech, The David Crowder Band (Believe) and Hillsong (This I Believe).
A Heart for Reconciliation: 2 Corinthians in June
Starting next week, the epistle texts for the Sundays in June, and July 1, will be from 2 Corinthians (chapters 4, 5, 6, 8, 12). Some of us down here in the Gulf Coast Synod have prepared:
- A book of daily devotions
- Some discussion questions for small groups and
- Some background material for pastors and group leaders
The daily devotions with discussion questions are available in paperback or digital at Amazon.
Recruit your small groups leaders. Start some home groups. Contact me if you have questions.
Here are the Five Sunday Texts
Don’t Lose Heart
Pentecost 2B: June 3 – 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 – So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed daily.
Pentecost 3B: June 10 – 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17 – If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. We walk by faith and not by sight, at home in the body and away from the Lord.
Pentecost 4B: June 17 – 2 Corinthians 6:1-13 – Now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation. We have endured beatings, riots, hunger, imprisonment…
Pentecost 5B: June 24 – 2 Corinthians 8:7-15 – The offering for the poor in Jerusalem. Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.
Pentecost 6B: July 1 – 2 Corinthians 12:2-10 – Paul’s out of body experience, and his thorn in the flesh. My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
If you don’t use 2 Corinthians, consider preaching a sermon on the stewardship of creation June 3. World Environment Day is June 5. Here in the Gulf Coast, our companion synod, the Lutheran Church of Peru has invited us to a sermon exchange. Some of those sermons are already up on my blog, bishopmike.com. These sermons are posted in both English and in Spanish.
Some texts that could be used:
Genesis 1; Psalm 104:14-30; Colossians 1:15-20; John 1:1-5.
Psalm 24: The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.
Psalm 19: The heavens declare the glory of God.
Isaiah 55: The mountains and hills burst forth in song. The trees of the field clap their hands.
Romans 1:20 “Ever since the creation of the world God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things God has made.”
When the Father laughs at the Son
and the Son laughs back at the Father,
that laughter gives pleasure,
that pleasures gives joy,
that joy gives love,
and the love is the Holy Spirit.
Trinity Sunday is the only festival of the church year dedicated to a doctrine. A full discussion of its roots can be found on Wikipedia under Trinity. There is is a lot of interesting information there, but as Pastor Don Carlson in our synod says, it’s pretty hard to preach. Preaching doctrines can be a pretty dry business. One has to ask the question, from the perspective of the assembly, “So what?” Where does that touch down?
One of the ways I have found to touch down in people’s lives, is to talk about experiences of God. We experience God as creator (through creation, and being in our own skin). We experience God in the life, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. We experience God in the Holy Spirit, the spirit of Jesus that blows through our lives and our communities.
Pastor Carlson suggests rehearsing Luther’s Small Catechism on the Apostle’s Creed. The Small Catechism is helpfully included in the pew edition of Evangelical Lutheran Worship, page 1160. The portion on the Creed begins on page 1162. Luther focuses on “believing” not as intellectual assent to events or doctrines, but rather in trusting in the God who comes to us in three persons.
Consider singing “Come, Join the Dance of Trinity,” 412 ELW, and “Holy God, We Praise Your Name,” 414 ELW. Another Trinitarian hymn is “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” ELW 756. “God, Whose Almighty Word”; “Holy, Holy, Holy” — There are simply too many good traditional Trinitarian hymns to list them all.
In a contemporary setting, We Believe, by The Newsboys is popular in many of our congregations. The refrain is low and singable. The theology is straightforward. http://youtu.be/E00j5xGeDm8. David Scherer (Agape) has a creed, as do Lost and Found, Jay Beech, The David Crowder Band (Believe) and Hillsong (This I Believe).
Here is a 6-minute video on You Tube that might make for a meaningful prelude/gathering or contemplative piece during the service. It is a “Ken Burns effect” on Andrei Rublev’s icon of the Trinity set to the opening of Tchaikovsky’s “Liturgy of St John Chrysostom.” The Russian Orthodox chant captures a sense of mystery.
I would not drag out the Athanasian Creed on this day. It has, in my opinion, little liturgical value. The product of 4th century polemics, it is a valuable historical document that is important in study, but it requires too much interpretation of the 4th century cosmology to be helpful, especially to newcomers. Pastor Don Carlson says, “It nails the coffin lid on Arianism and Adoptionism, but also nails the lid on interest about halfway through; and the anathemas smack of Christendom.”
Jesus and Nicodemus
To preach the day or preach the text? That is the question. I doubt that the writer of John had Trinitarian formulations in mind when he was writing his gospel. To read Pastor Carlson’s extensive notes on John’s theology and this passage, based on the work of Dr. Ray Pickett (LSTC), visit here: https://bishopmike.com/2012/05/29/6-3-12-is-trinity-sunday/ . Don Carlson has several excellent posts on the Trinity on my blog, as he used to post when I’d take vacation in June. Here’s another one, that gives some historical perspective to our trinitarian creeds: https://bishopmike.com/2013/05/19/5-26-13-is-holy-trinity-sunday/
I would disagree with his premise that “born again” is unbiblical. It’s true that ανωθεν can mean either “again” or “from above.” It can also mean “from the top.” To say one reading is “unbiblical” seems an overreach. Furthermore, Nicodemus seems to confirm “born again” when he makes the comment about returning to the womb and being born a second time. Perhaps the double meaning is intentional. Both work together. We are to be reborn from above. Translation is tricky. One could faithfully translate it, “unless one is reborn from heaven,” in my opinion.
The problem, of course is that “born again” frontier theology has co-opted this passage in the ears of most North Americans. Many will hear a very specific decision-theology message, tied to the so-called “sinners prayer” and accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. This narrow understanding is light-years from John’s early second-century theology. Furthermore, the continuous (aorist) sense of the verb “born” γεννηθη really means “unless a person is being born again…” or “unless a person is being regenerated…” This does not read like a one-time event, but rather a constant process of being made new. You must be in the continuous process of being born again, and again, and again.
Jesus answered Nicodemus, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?” Jesus has an edge here. Can a teacher of Israel not understand the need for constant repentance and renewal?
Everybody knows John 3:16 — “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.”
But few continue with John 3:17 — “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.”
What to preach?
What does it mean to be saved? Pie in the sky when you die, bye and bye? Salvation in the Hebrew Scriptures means wholeness. It conveys more than our linear sense of going to heaven when you die. One option is to explore the fullest meaning of salvation.
Another is to consider what we mean when we talk about God. As a parish pastor, when I’ve bumped into atheists, I often asked them to describe the God in which they do not believe. I found I didn’t believe in that God either. This conversation, while not focused on trying to convince others of a particular view point, was often fruitful. God is the source of all things.
A few years ago (2007) Canadian author William P. Young self-published a book of fiction called The Shack, which went on to become a New York Times best-seller. After a tragedy with his daughter, “Mack” Phillips enters the shack and encounters manifestations of the three persons of the Trinity. God the Father takes the form of an African American woman who calls herself Elousia and Papa; Jesus Christ is a Middle-Eastern carpenter; and the Holy Spirit physically manifests itself as an Asian woman named Sarayu. The book provides a stimulating opportunity to consider how God is manifested, particularly through suffering.
Here’s how Rob Bell starts his 2-hour walk through Scripture, talking about the Trinity: https://bishopmike.com/2010/05/30/trinity/.
However you come at this, remember the words of my homiletics professor Paul Harms, “So what?” What is the Good News about the way God comes to us, even those of us sitting here today? How might those who yearn for God be open to encounters with the divine? Consider talking about spiritual practices.