The Easter Season was a season of Love — true love. It is the kind of love that loves us the way that we need to be loved. It is the kind of love that only Jesus can give. And so it flows from the beauty of Easter Sunday, from touching his wounds and having the Supper at Emmaus. It is a Christological love. And so it is a gift, if only we will let it have its way with us.
But when the Lord has had His way with us, when he gets what he wants this Pentecost into Holy Trinity, he doesn’t allow for a stagnant Christianity. Instead, he expects to use us well. And so last Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, amid the joy of fire and Holy Spirit, he loved us by handing us over – by giving us out as a gift to the world – beginning in Jerusalem, then into all Judea and Samaria, and then to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
And that is how it was for Nicodemus: in the Gospel of St. John, he is clearly a man on the move.
When we first meet him here in chapter three, he is a Pharisee and leader of the Jews. But in just four chapters, he’ll be coming to Jesus’ aid and speaking on his behalf. And just twelve chapters after that, he’ll join another disciple in prepping Jesus’ body for burial.
He is a man of transition.
From word to touch; from darkness to light; from being loved much to being used well. Today he comes to Jesus in the darkness of night, but soon he’ll be putting Jesus into the tomb just before the sun goes down.
And how it all happened – how he transitioned so well – we can only know through the lens of the Holy Trinity.
It is the way of the Trinity to reach, to embrace, to seek, and to find humanity, never ceasing to do what is best. They always keep going, and giving, and trying, so that all of us – every last one of us (even those of us, like Nicodemus, who are still searching in the darkness) – might be saved.
The reason Nicodemus can have such a drastic transition, is because His entire way of life – all that he says and all that he does, his entire existence and, most especially, his community – has been completely turned upside down. In a matter of moments, he now belongs to the Trinity. And all that they have together as family – as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – has been handed over for Nicodemus to see, to touch, to taste, and to enjoy. Today, there is a fresh start for Nicodemus.
And if there is a fresh start for him, then there can be a fresh start for us as well. And, honestly, there is no better day for that – no better day for a fresh start and for a renewed sense of what it means to be community – than today, Trinity Sunday. This is the day when all three – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; a little community – are eager to have their way with us.
So, given the day, have a look at the icon.
If you know anything about icons, you might recall that this is the only icon of the Trinity accepted by Holy Mother, the Church. It is Rublev’s famous depiction of the Lord’s visit with Abraham in Genesis 18, where the Trinity appeared in the form of three men.
To the left is the Father, with eyes directed forward. His color is indescribably, because no one has ever seen him. But he has seen us, and so his eyes are forward, as though he is overseeing everything that goes on. But you’ll also notice that His hand is pointed back toward the man in the middle; his hand is pointed back toward the Son.
To the right is the Spirit, face slightly turned away, and head slightly dipped. It is almost as though he is hovering over what’s present on the table; almost as though it’s a little creation, a little Annunciation, and a little Pentecost.
And in the middle, is the Son. He is the center of all theology and the center of the trinity. His hand is outstretched, as he blesses the food that rests on the table; his hand blesses the lamb that rests in the chalice.
But there is more to this icon than the Trinity sitting down for a meal together. In fact, what’s most beautiful is what’s not there.
You’ll notice that in the front, there is an empty place; a place at the table; a place to pull up a chair and have a meal with friends; a place to eat, and drink, and make merry; a place for community; it is a place to have some fun.
And it’s almost as though they’re reaching, and embracing, and seeking, and begging – begging you, and me, and us together, to come and have a seat at the table; to transition from darkness to light, from being out to being in. It’s as though they’re begging us to join their community; a community that is defined by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; a community where sin ceases and forgiveness flourishes; a community where we are loved precisely the way that we need to be loved. It is as though they are begging us, whose world is turned upside down today by the holy touch of a Holy Three. It is a touch that brings a new reality by way of a new community. And all of that for him, and all of that for us, and all of that forever.
So come now. Your table is ready. Your spot is open. And your family is waiting.
The Rev. Dr. Joshua Genig is Pastor at The Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Atlanta, Georgia, and has recently received his Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.