The Greatest Promise of All

by | May 30, 2021 | Sermons

The Greatest Promise of All

Today is Trinity Sunday, where we celebrate the Triune aspect of God:

  • Father
  • Son 
  • Holy Spirit

Our passage dealing with the Trinity comes from the words of Jesus as we find them in John’s gospel. Jesus is speaking with Nicodemus, a leader from the temple, about what it means to be born again and truly understand God. 

Scripture: Isaiah 6: 1-8 and John 3: 1-17

Thank you to our vocalists: Brian MacInnes, Rob Lenters, Janet Leadbeater, and Diana Carr. 

Bible Study

Bible study will be running during the month of June. We will be looking at the 1 Corinthians. Questions about who these early Christians were, why did Paul write this letter and what themes are being addressed?

The bible study will be held on Monday mornings at 10am via Zoom for five weeks (May 31, June 7, 14, 21, 28). Details on how to join the Zoom meeting are listed below. All are welcome to join the discussion.

Zoom Meeting Details

Topic: Bible Study – 1 Corinthians
Time: May 31, 2021 10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Every week on Mon, until Jun 28, 2021, 5 occurrence(s)
May 31, 2021 10:00 AM
Jun 7, 2021 10:00 AM
Jun 14, 2021 10:00 AM
Jun 21, 2021 10:00 AM
Jun 28, 2021 10:00 AM
Please download and import the following iCalendar (.ics) files to your calendar system.
Meeting ID: 819 5139 7769
Passcode: 042279

General Assembly

Rev. Ellis is a commissioner to General Assembly this year. General Assembly is the annual gathering of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. It will be held from Sunday June 6 – Wednesday June 9. At General Assembly discussion and questions about the doctrine and mission of the church are made. This year there are a number of decisions that will be debated and decided on that will effect the church. These include decisions on human sexuality and inclusion.

If you would like to learn more about General Assembly and the various reports that are being considered please consider joining Rev. Ellis on Thursday June 3 at 2pm via Zoom.

You can learn more about General Assembly and read the reports at the General Assembly website.

Zoom Meeting Details

Topic: General Assembly
Time: Jun 3, 2021 02:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 828 8020 5270
Passcode: 459615

Children’s Time

What we learn in John 3:16 is that God loves us, a lot! God sent Jesus to earth because how much God loves us.  In the video below Kristin Schmidt from Ministy to Children shares about God’s Big Picture, which is all about how much God loves us. 

The Greatest Promise of All

John 3:16 is one of the most well known pieces of scripture that we have. This single verse has stood out as a testament to God’s enduring love for us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

You will see the chapter and verse ‘John 3:16’ written on signs that fans carry to sporting events. You’ll find it on bumper stickers and in the bible belt you’ll see it on billboards as you drive.

It is a moving and compelling promise. God loves us so much that Jesus came, believe in him and live. This passage alone is responsible for some people turning to Christianity, adopting the faith, and belief in God. It is a powerful message and a compelling promise. An interesting question we might ask of our passage as a whole is did Nicodemus hear this message?

The context is situated as a nighttime meeting between Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Jewish ruling council, and Jesus. If we look at the passage closely, we see that the quotations of where Jesus is speaking end before the words from John 3:16 are spoken. In other words, is this John providing us narrative about the conversation or are these words that Jesus spoke to Nicodemus. We don’t really know if Nicodemus was convinced by this encounter. The last words he speaks in the gospel are “How can this be?” (John 3:9). Not a ringing endorsement, but perhaps the sign of an inquisitive mind.

After this we don’t meet Nicodemus again until Jesus is buried. However, he doesn’t say anything and so we are left to assume what his motivations might have been. What we do know is that in the section of scripture Jesus speaks about God, himself, the Spirit and the kingdom of God. It is a wonderful treatise on how the Trinity is interrelated and what the goals of our Triune, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, God are. To bring about the kingdom of God.

Commentator Claudio Carvalhaes writes about this passage. He frames his commentary as a letter to Nicodemus, and in relation to the passage from John 3:16 he writes, “I must wrap up my letter to you, but I want to mention something Jesus said to you at the end because it became one of the most well-known saying of Jesus, namely: “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.” This text has been used to save people spiritually from their sins, but I think it is time for us to understand that the eternal life promised by Jesus has to do with the life we live now. The eternal life promised by Jesus that comes through the presence of the Spirit can only be understood if it is fully drenched in the waters of our world and the wombs of our mothers. Thus, there is eternity in every river and in all the oceans as there is eternity in the work of the Spirit and in the love of God through Jesus. For the Spirit of God is also made of waters.” (Cladio Carvalhaes)

Carvalhaes approach focuses on the living waters that we see at the beginning of creation in Genesis. It focuses on the Spirits continued and renewed sustaining power. The comment or warning he provides for us is that as stewards of God’s creation, which is God’s kingdom here on earth, we are failing due to environmental crisis.

Now, whether we want to make that connection or not, I believe that Carvalhaes is on to something when he links this passage and the promise of eternal life to the here and now. I believe that the work we do as Christians is to bring about God’s kingdom, in the here and now. That it isn’t some lofty cloudy place with pearly gates that we are trying to get to. Rather, it is a vision of how we are to live with one another and creation.

We understand God as Father and as Creator.

Jesus came to show us how we were mixing up the law, not living it out as God intended, but instead corrupting it for self-gain and punishing those left on the margins. By showing us that better way he redeemed us.

The Spirit floats on the waters. She is simultaneously the gentle breeze and the crushing storm. She is the wind at our back that propels us forward and sustains us.

God, Christ and Spirit. Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. It can be a hard concept to wrap our heads around. They are individual aspects of the One God, yet distinct in their aspects and role. From week to week we focus on one more than the other. In fact here we probably focus on Christ more than on the other two aspects of the Trinity.

The hymn we sang this morning ‘Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty’ praises the Trinity, ‘God in three persons, blessed Trinity.’ On these lyrics Cameron Howard writes, “the lyrics draw inspiration from this week’s appointed Old Testament reading, Isaiah 6:1-8, thereby linking the notion of God’s holiness with our Trinitarian sensibilities. The cherubim and seraphim attending God in the temple sing out, … “Holy! Holy! Holy is the LORD of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!” (Cameron Howard)

What we have in our scripture passage today is an explanation by Jesus of how we might understand the Trinity to work coupled with a defining promise of what God intends for us and creation. The promise of life spent with the Triune God, that we might not perish but have eternal life in him. It is a message that the church has simultaneously clung to, a promise of God’s plans for us. Along with an offer, for others to come and see that God is good. To experience that promise as well.

It is a message worth proclaiming and it is one that I believe Nicodemus heard. Can we be like him? Can we be like the disciples? When we are called to go out and proclaim the good news, that God so loved the world, can we respond ‘Here I am. Send me!’ and go out with a joyful heart to share the greatest promise of all? Amen.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.

St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security. 

Kristina Nairn

Public Health Nurse, HKPR Health Unit

Donate to St. Andrew's

Thank you for visiting St. Andrew’s. It’s our prayer that this sermon was helpful to your walk of faith. We would ask you to prayerful consider donating to the mission of St. Andrew’s. You can make an online donation through our website. 

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