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Trinity Sunday, Cycle B (2015)

THEME OF THE DAY:  An eternally loving Triune God!
Reflections on the Trinity or God’s awesomeness emerging from these texts can also lead preachers to relate these themes to God’s love (Providence and Justification By Grace).

Psalm 29
This is a hymn attributed to David, though it is unlikely that he wrote it.  The text sings of Yahweh’s control of all nature (vv.3,5-6,8-10), even of storms, and yet we are assured that Yahweh blesses us with peace in the midst of storms (v.11).   The Psalm begins with a call to worship, where there is a reference to “heavenly beings,” which is a bad translation for what should be rendered in English “sons of mighty ones.”  This insight suggests that in The Temple era and perhaps in earlier periods Hebrews believed that there was a heavenly court of lower gods or semi-divine beings who acknowledged Yahweh as supreme Ruler (Psalm 82:1,6; Exodus 15:11; Deuteronomy 32:8).

The Lord seems to rule earth and waters with His Word.   The reference to “mighty waters” could be the Mediterranean Ocean or to the primordial waters Yahweh vanquished in creating (see Genesis 1:9-10).  Of course the reference to His voice [gol] (vv.2,3,4,5,7) could refer to His manifestation through thunder in thunderstorms (v.7).  The cedars of Lebanon noted in v.5 refer to the principal mountains in Syria.  Sirion noted in v.6 is the Phoenicain name for Mt. Hermon on the eastern border of Israel, and the wilderness of Kadesh in v.8 is a reference to a desert in Syria.  The Lord’s voice in this storm is not just powerful, but hadar in Hebrew (majestic, even beautiful) (v.4).  God’s rule over nature and over waters (vv.9-10) could be indebted to Canaanite mythology’s affirmation that Baal was enthroned over the conquered flood.  Christians might interpret this reference as a Prophetic reminder of His use of water in Baptism to proclaim His Word and Will.  The Psalm concludes with petitions that the Lord may give strength to and bless His people (v.11).

Application: The Psalm invites several distinct sermon directions.  The awesomeness of God, His control over the Creation is one possibility.  The plurality of gods with whom Elohim engages could foreshadow the Trinity doctrine.  And the reference to God’s rule over water could also open the way to sermons on how God uses water (in Baptism) to give life and blessing (Justification By Grace).     

Isaiah 6:1–8
It is well known that this Book is actually the product of two or three distinct literary traditions.  The first 39 chapters are the work of the historical Prophet who proclaimed a message to Jerusalem and the Southern Kingdom of Judah from 742 BC to 701 BC, a period during which the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been annexed by the Assyrian Empire.  Chapters 40-66 emerged in a later period, around the time of the fall of Babylon (in 539 BC).   Our Lesson is a work of the historical Prophet, the account of his call.

The vision of Yahweh transpires in The Temple where He appears along with seraphs (winged creatures who protect royalty) (vv.1-2).  These seraphs praise the Lord’s holiness [qadosh], but must also protect themselves from God’s awesomeness (v.3).  Isaiah laments his own and the people of Israel’s uncleanness [tame] (v.5).  To see God would kill him and them.    A seraph cleanses the Prophet’s mouth with a burning coal (vv.6-7).  Before God’s holiness the sinner cannot stand (Exodus 33:1-8).  This cleansing is a forgiving act of God.  This is followed by Yahweh’s call for someone to be sent for Him (the plural form is used here in God’s self-reference).  Isaiah responds in the affirmative (v.8).

Application: Sermons on this text will proclaim that Ministry depends on forgiveness (Justification By Grace), for we are unworthy (Sin) in face of the awesome Triune God. 

Romans 8:12-17
Again we consider this authentically Pauline Epistle probably written between 54 AD and 58 AD as a letter of introduction which may have been comprised of largely Jewish Christians.   This Lesson continues Paul’s discussion of life in the Spirit in view of the realities of sin.  He urges the faithful not to live according to the flesh, for that leads to death.  (The Greek word sarx employed here refers not to the physical body, but to sinful flesh, to the sin which has corrupted  our bodies and lives in their entirety.)  But the Spirit [pneuma] gives life [zao] (vv.12-13).   All led by the Spirit are said to be God’s children/sons [huios], Paul adds (v.14).  When the Spirit leads us to bear witness with our spirit to cry [krazo] that God is our Father (presumably in ecstatic ways [see Galatians 4:6-7]), we are not made slaves, but children [teknon] of God, and so heirs [klaronomos].  The Spirit is said to bring about our adoption [huiothesia] (vv.15-16).  As children we are heirs with Christ if we so suffer with Him so that we are also glorified [doxazo] with Him (v.17).  

Application: This text leads to sermons offering the comfort of knowing that we are not able to believe or do good works on our own (Sin), but that the Holy Spirit (and so the Triune God) is active in our lives in bringing about these good things (Justification By Grace). 

John 3:1-17
Again we receive a Lesson from the last Gospel to be written (probably in the last decade of the first century), and so not written by John the son of Zebedee, but perhaps by a disciple of his in order to address a community of Jewish Christians who had been expelled from Jewish society.  This Lesson, unique to this Gospel, is a story of Jesus’ interactions with official Judaism (esp. one of its leaders, a Pharisee named Nicodemus).  The focus is on Jesus as the object of faith.

Nicodemus comes to Jesus in the night, noting that Jesus must be of God for none could do the signs He has done apart from God’s Presence (vv.1-2).  Jesus responds, noting no one can see the Kingdom if not born from above (v.3).  The ancient Greek word anothen, translated “from above” can also mean “born again.”  Nicodemus asks how one can be born again when already old (v.4).  Jesus responds that no one can enter God’s Kingdom without being born of water and of the Spirit, that is, born from above [or born again] (vv.5-7).  Just as the wind blows where it will, so it is with the Spirit [pneuma; the term may also refer to the life force] (v.8).  Jesus chides Nicodemus for not understanding such things (vv.9-10).  Jesus proceeds to contend that He speaks of things He has seen, yet the testimony [martureo] is not received.  If hearers have not believed what He teaches about earthly things, how will they believe His testimony on heavenly matters (vv.11-12)?  Jesus then notes that no one has ascended to heaven except the Son of Man  (huios to anthropou) Who has ascended to the Father (v.13).  The use of this title here by John suggests that the title is employed in this case here and in the Synoptic Gospels as a way to describe Jesus’ present Ministry on earth.  Jesus proceeds to note that as Moses lifted up a serpent [ophis] in the desert (reported in the First Lesson, Numbers 21:9) in order to provide a remedy to those made ill by the bites of poisonous snakes, which were sent to punish the Hebrews for their sin, so the Son of Man will be lifted up that whoever believe in Him will have eternal life (vv.14-15).  The Cross is here foretold.  In view of this Gospel’s concern to identify Jesus as Son of God (20:31) it seems that a continuity between Jesus’ earthly Ministry and His Messiahship is posited by the author.   

God’s love [agape] for the world [kosmos] in giving His only Son that all who believe may have eternal life is proclaimed (v.16).  This theme echoes elsewhere in the Gospel (5:24; 6:40,47; 11:25-26).  God did not send His Son to judge [krpinai] the world, but those not believing are already condemned because they have not believed (vv.17-18).

Application: The text invites sermons on being born again (Regeneration and Justification By Grace).  We can focus on the Spirit’s Work or on  all the Persons of the Trinity in bringing about God’s forgiving love.     

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Authors of
Lectionary Scripture Notes
Norman A. Beck is the Poehlmann Professor of Theology and Classical Languages and the Chairman of the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Classical Languages at Texas Lutheran University
Dr. Norman A. Beck
Mark Ellingsen is professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Mark Ellingsen