Sunday sermon 3 June – Trinity Sunday

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

I read this week of a nine year old girl who came crying to her mum: “mummy I wish I was adopted like my cousins!” We might find this strange, but it’s about a child wanting to belong – wanting to fit in with the group.

It’s the curse of peer pressure. It’s the fundamental cause of the demise of our bank balances when we have children who want to have what their friends have and wear what their friends wear. We had friends in our old church who chose a different lifestyle – not being dependent on stuff – and living in the same way as the refugee people that they lived with. So one day one of the kids asked: “What kind of an op shop is Briscoes?”

Fashion. Upgrades. The latest and greatest model and version. They’re all consumer traps which feed on IDENTITY – that sense that we should be part of the group that has the best. I confess that I struggle with these things too. I like gadgets! That’s why the 40 hour Techno famine for World Vision was good for me!

Today’s readings give us an insight into our most significant and valuable identity.  Our most important source of security. OUR SONSHIP – our belonging to the Jesus’ family.

Nicodemus – in the gospel reading – is said to have been struggling with this too. John Calvin – one of our greatest commentators and a key reformer with Martin Luther – seems to have thought that Nicodemus had some identity issues – as he came to Jesus at night out of concern for what his peer group would say about him.

In fact Calvin coined the term “Nicodemites” for secret disciples like those evangelicals in France who were Roman Catholics in practice. To use a modern term – they never “came out of the closet”. They were secret disciples who acted that way out of fear.

In Nicodemus’ favour he did stick up for Jesus by telling the Sanhedrin that Jesus had not been given a fair hearing (7:50-51) and in John 19:39 he was the one who brought spices for Jesus’ funeral. Maybe Calvin was not being kind to Nicodemus – maybe be was more like us – a work in progress.

The truth is we can be Nicodemites too – not really declaring our allegiance to Jesus publicly. We’re not really that different from the rest. Statistics indicate in some countries that Christians are fundamentally not that different from anyone else when it comes to their priorities and values – their morals and ethics.

Remember that Jesus said this to Nicodemus:
In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (vs3)

Being born again is literally being born “from above” – becoming a child of the One who is above – a child of God. There’s the identity!

Human children are born of human parents. We use the term “chip off the old block” – or “like father like son” to describe the similarity between the children and their dads. We can be “identified” from those similarities. For example I have my dad’s name and nature. I know from what people told me about him (he died when I was 12 so I don’t remember that much) that I have his sense of compassion and justice. But when he died – I prayed my first prayer asking God to be my father. And he (God) adopted me into his family!

We’ve changed pictures now from being “born again” of the spirit (Jesus’ teaching) to Paul’s teaching on adoption.

Listen again to what Paul writes in Romans 8:
(v15) For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (v16) The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children…

Sonship in verse 15 is also translated as adoption. (υἱοθεσία) – which is a compound word kind of like being placed or positioned as a son (of God).

•    The spirit is a spirit of sonship. The Trinity is all about relationship.

•    The spirit (we receive) does not make you a slave again to fear! (Why? Silly question –  this is the spirit of God and GOD IS LOVE!).

•    By him (the spirit – the personal pronoun we learned about last week! Remember Presence, Power, Person and Parakletos!) – by him we cry ABBA, meaning FATHER. We enter into the relational life of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit (hello people – this is Trinity Sunday!).

•    Verse 16 continues – the spirit HIMSELF testifies (bears witness) with our spirit (individually) that we are God’s children!

•    And of course it continues in verse 17: Now if we are children, then we are heirs —heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

We inherit! Isn’t that the point? Adopted children have the same rights and privileges as those born into the family!

And how many are naturally born into God’s family? Trick question? Yes and no. Only Jesus.He is the first born and the “one and only” son. Listen to Paul on this one: Romans 8:29  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And John 3:16 reminds us that he is the only “begotton” son (the NIV translates this as “one and only son”).

And the writer to the Hebrews says this about sons:
Heb 2:9  But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
Heb 2:10  In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.
Heb 2:11  Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.


The test! There is always a test! How do you know that you are a child of God?

The question is this: “Have you received Christ?”

Through faith in Jesus Christ, by believing in him and receiving him, we become children of God! This is spelled out at the very beginning of John’s gospel:

Joh 1:10  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.
Joh 1:11  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
Joh 1:12  Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God
Joh 1:13  children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

We are born from above – we receive a new identity and family – we are adopted and made to stand alongside Jesus as sons of God!

You can change that to sons and daughters if you like. But the concept of sonship applies to men and women, boys and girls, and anyone in between the genders.

Audrey West, Associate Professor of New Testament at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago – put it like this:
The good news of our pericope is that all God’s children, adopted into the family of God, share together as common heirs of God. Further, the identity we share with one another as children of God is shared also with God’s own Son. This is more obvious in the Greek of Romans 8:14, where “children” derives from the Greek huioi (“sons”).
Christ is a joint heir with us; he suffers and is glorified, and we suffer and are glorified right along with him. What happens to Christ (resurrection life), happens to us; the glory that is Christ’s (God’s son), belongs to us as well (God’s children).

Our core Identity –as Christ followers – is in being Christian – in Christ!

We find ourselves! The quest is over! The seeking ends! The thirst is quenched. The hunger is satisfied! The desire to love and to be loved in a dependable relationship is met in the desire of Ages – even Jesus Christ our Lord!

This new identity makes us truly human! We are siblings of the second Adam – the perfect man of faith, courage, and obedience – JESUS!
When we, through Jesus, go on this amazing Journey INTO the Trinity – rebirthed – born by the spirit, loved by the father whom we call daddy, and made bold by the Son through His example of faith, and changed by his resurrection power – overwhelmed by that sense of fulfillment – why should we need the stuff that the economy or the world insists will bring us happiness?

Why should we have to look like anyone else in fashion or class? Having the right phone or car or getting hair implants when we look shiny on top?
How silly these exploits are. They are Unitarian – they are all about me and my pride.

In the loving relationships of the trinity we are made new. Paul again:

2Co 5:17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Praise God for our new identity as members of God’s family!


About robinpalmer

I am a Presbyterian Pastor living and working in Browns Bay on the North Shore of Auckland in New Zealand. We moved here at the end of March 2011 after spending five years in Wellington the capital city. I am passionate about what I do - about communicating and writing. I also enjoy my counselling work, especially with young people.

Posted on June 3, 2012, in Sunday Morning Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. The reference to Calvin and Nicocdemites was useful since it illustrates how easy it is for the ‘religious’ to get at all wrong, almost always, especially when one lacks understanding of Jewish culture and tradition.

    Rabbi Nicodemus was very impressed with Rabbi Jehoshua and wanted a time to pursue ‘truth’ by uninterrupted rabbinic argument and counter argument. Of course the timing of the visit was discreet as Nicodemus had much reputation to lose. One might even suggest that Nicodemus was courageous in his pursuit of truth at all costs!

    The discussion (argument) took place in a context of mutual respect, ‘each rabbi for the other’, and we might better focus on the genuine attitudes of both men which led to the ultimate resolution in which the teacher of Israel was finally persuaded to become a disciple of Jehoshua.

    The teaching of Calvin, while logical and human, appears to lack the gentleness we find in Christ, for those genuinely seeking to understand new developments of the traditional Jewish ways.

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