Bethany Lutheran Church, Bigfork, MT


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Sermon – 5-27-2018

Trinity Sunday

Ezekiel 36, John 3, Romans 8


Pastor Christopher Miller


You know my hang-ups about Trinity Sunday. What I've done the past couple of years is just basically a commentary on the Athanasian Creed, about how we shouldn't blend the persons together while at the same time affirming all of them as fully God. I usually try to avoid any analogies too, because that gets usually into some heretical territory. But this year, I want to do something different. So much of the conversation has been about what the Trinity is, but we don't talk as much about what the Trinity does. In other words, what are the relationships between the persons, inside the Godhead? The Scripture does give us some of those relationships, and it starts pretty early on.

Ezekiel 36:22-29a

This is back in conversation around the exile, and God is telling them that they will come back, but there's more to the story.


In verse 24, God tells them that they will come back. He's also got plenty of other things he's going to do for them. There's a whole bunch of gifts coming. Yes, gifts, to these people who reject his word and whom he is currently punishing. There is water to cleanse us from impurities and idols. There's a new heart coming. And one of those gifts is the Holy Spirit. The Father gives the Spirit. The Spirit is the one who comes to us, to give us a heart of flesh, and to move us to follow the decrees of God. This isn't just a regular gift, though. We usually think of gifts as objects that you can put in a box, or even up to the level of an animal. Think of the cute puppy under the tree at Christmas. But this is God giving God to you. This is God putting Himself in your heart and in your body and in your members. And when that happens, change is the only thing that can come. When our heart is changed, our eyes are changed, our ears are changed, our hands are changed. We belong to God because God is in us, through the Holy Spirit. Next relationships show up in John.

John 3:1-17

This is where Jesus' famous words show up. But there's a couple of relationships among the Trinity here that we need to pay attention to as well.


First, look at verse 3. No one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born again. What does born again mean? Being born of water and the Spirit. That's the very same water that God promises to the people back in Ezekiel. The water and the Spirit come together to bring a new life to us. That new life is something that we need to be brought into. That new life is the very kingdom of God.  So, in order to understand God, in order to understand his rule, in order to understand his kingdom, the Spirit has to be present. So, the Spirit is the gate for God. He's the one that lets us in to the workings and the wonder of God. And he is a moving gate. In verse 8, Jesus tells us that you can hear his sound, but he blows when and where he pleases. The Spirit is the one who brings people into the kingdom, so he presents those he has chosen to God. There is a lot of back and forth here between God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

So, where does Jesus plug in? This is where we get to verse 16. For God so loved the world that he gave. Jesus is a gift to the world, just as the Holy Spirit is a gift to the world. He is the one that we look to. John tells us that God sent him to save the world through him. And we know this, because he was the one to be lifted up. He is the one who is lifted to the place of honor, the cross. He is the one that takes all things onto his own shoulders, for us and for our sake. But the work doesn't end there.

Romans 8:14-17

Paul brings out a few more of these connections in chapter 8 of Romans. We've got the reading on the back of the bulletin, but there's going to be a couple others from chapter 8.


So, I love the phrase "adoption to sonship". This was a very specific Roman term. When we think of adoption, what we're actually thinking of is the "adoption to sonship." In Paul's world, you could adopt someone into your household, but when you died, they had no rights to any of your property, or your name, or anything. The adoption to sonship meant that you were adopted as a full heir. You got the same rights and responsibilities as a natural-born child. So, the Holy Spirit is the adoption agent for the Father. He's the one that brings the Father and his children together. But where do we get the name that we call God the Father from? The Son. He is the only naturally-begotten Son of the Father, and yet he calls us his brothers and sisters.

Now, here's the work that is currently going on. If you're in the pew bible, look over to verse 26. It says, "We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans." The Spirit intercedes with the Father, for us. But that's not all. Flip the page and go to verse 34, right in the middle of the "nothing can separate us" passage. It says that Jesus is also interceding for us. We've got a lot in this image, but I want to add two more, and we talked about them last week. Jesus also sends the Holy Spirit. Remember, I will send you the Advocate? And what is the primary job of the Holy Spirit? To bring faith into hearts, faith in? Jesus. You can see all the relationships and interactions that are here.

So what? Why does any of this matter? Because these relationships reveal something about God as a whole: God is giving. All of these relationships are about doing something for one of the other persons of the Trinity, and they are all about giving God Himself to you. Yes, you, the one who has sinned against him, who has neglected his ways, who has faced his consequences, and still ignored him and left him behind. He still gives himself to you. He gives you his Son. He gives you his Spirit. He gives you his righteousness. He gives you his kingdom. He gives you his work. He gives you his eternal life. So, what does God do? He gives. Receive. AMEN.


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Audio Sermon - 5-20-2018 - Trinity Sunday - Ezekiel 36, John 3, Romans 8

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Audio Sermon - 5-20-2018 - Pentecost - Acts 2, John14

PDF Sermon - 5-20-2018 - Pentecost - Acts 2, John14

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Audio Sermon - 5-13-2018 - Ascension - Acts 1

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