Holy Trinity Sermon A
"Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." John 3: 7 - 8
When the Saviour wanted to explain to Nicodemus how new birth takes place, He takes a parable of the wind which bloweth where it listeth and although man does not know from whence it cometh, nevertheless he hears the sound thereof. Likewise when the spiritual wind blows, man knows its sound or its effects although he does not know from whence this spiritual wind comes nor where it goes. That much we understand of this parable, that with the wind is understood the effects of the Holy Spirit. For the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost as a mighty rushing wind and the people heard the sound of it but only the disciples of Jesus felt its effects in their hearts, but they did not know from whence this spiritual wind came; only this much they understood, that it came from Heaven. But the sorrowless made mockery of these effects of the Holy Spirit and said: "These are full of new wine." The heathens of this time do not care to say that the Christians are full of mew wine, but they sometimes surmise that the effects of the Holy Spirit are the effects of the devil's spirit, and some imagine that they make themselves to be like that. But we hear that the wind of the Holy Spirit bloweth where it listeth and you hear the sound of it, namely, that person who is not deaf hears its sound but the deaf do not hear the sound of the wind. A person who does not have a conscience does not feel the effects of the Holy Spirit. But many a person who hears the sound of the wind of the Holy Spirit does not quite know where it comes from. When the Holy Spirit through His preceeding grace blows upon him a spiritual sorrow which is after the mind of God, many think at first that it means or prophesies misfortune. But many also war against the effects of the Holy Spirit thinking that the wind of the Holy Spirit will carry him to the billowing sea of unbelief and will drown him in the waves of doubt.
But do not fear, you person who has been moved by the wind of the Holy Spirit, that this wind will carry you to perdition. The wind of the world, to which you have formerly spread out your sail, will carry you to that boundless sea from where you shall never escape to the harbor if you do not begin to row more quickly against the wind of the world, especially now when the wind of the Holy Spirit has begun to blow so strongly that the large fish flee to the ocean's depths, and the swallows are raised up in the air although they do not move their wings, for the wind carries them. And even the stouter trees begin to bend when that powerful wind blows upon them. Now it would be the best time for the weary travelers, who have strayed so far from the Fatherland on this world's billowing sea, to turn back to the harbor before the spiritual wind ceases to blow. Who knows if tomorrow or next week on Friday this wind will have turned or ceased to blow and then it will go according to the Savior's words: "The wind bloweth where it listeth and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit." Here we should consider what it signifies that the wind comes and goes. Many a seaman sailing with a favorable wind towards eternity would surely wish that the wind would come when he has turned back toward the Fatherland. He prays God that this spiritual wind would carry him to the longed-for harbor. But if the wind ceases to blow, then the ship also stands in one place and the seaman, who surely wishes that the wind would blow so that he would soon arrive at the Fatherland, must himself begin to row when the wind ceases, but this rowing becomes so heavy for the lazy one that he must begin to doubt whether he will ever reach the Fatherland. In that circumstance he must think about where the wind went which first blew. But the Saviour has said: "Thou canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth." But no doubt the journey is slow for a seaman, when he himself must row, how shall it then go when he must yet row against the wind? When the wind of the world blows so powerfully against them that the waves of doubt pour in, then the disciples come into distress and they are finally compelled to wake Jesus with their prayers and say: "Lord save us, we perish." We do not know why Jesus allows His disciples to sometimes be in great distress because of doubts, but it is probably beneficial for them that they are sometimes in such a circumstance, for at least they must begin to pray the Great Stiller of the wind of the world, that He would still the hard wind and would yet let that wind blow which is favorable. If the disciples would always have a favorable wind, they would have no distress, but then neither would they pray to Jesus but would always think, "Now there is a favorable wind, surely we will soon reach the harbor." Such travel is surely easy and pleasant, but the Lord has seen it necessary that the disciples may often be in distress because of the severe wind of the world, and cry: "Lord save us, we perish!" The god of this world raises such a tempest on the world's billowing sea that the waves of doubt want to drown them in the depths of the eternal sea. And then they are compelled to awaken the Great Hero with their prayers, who stills the wind with His word and it again becomes calm for a short time. Such is the travel of Jesus' disciples upon the sea; they must often struggle with tempests and sail against the wind. Therefore their traveling also becomes slow so that they must often doubt whether they will ever reach the Fatherland. But the children of the world always have a favorable wind and they also sail with great speed to eternity until their ship crashes into a rock and goes to pieces. And then they cry out and swear and some finally become godly and begin to pray to the unknown god of whom they have never given thought. But it is too late to begin to seek the unknown god when the ship crashes upon the world's biggest rock. It would have been better if even those wretches would have looked ahead at where the dangerous places are. The proverb says: Surely there are wise men on the land when an accident happens on the sea. However, this world's seamen are not wise on land either, for when they sometimes come to land they drink, swear, fight, commit adultery and dance and are joyous. But when they again set out to sea in a state of drunkenness, then they spread out all their sails to the winds of the world. And if they, at this speed, meet some small ship in which the disciples of Jesus struggle against the wind, then this world's seamen ridicule Jesus' disciples and say: "You have such a small boat." and also call them fools who sail thus against the wind. If one of Jesus' disciples cries out to the world's seamen, "Watch out for yourselves! Burning rapids are before you, do not sleep at the brink of the rapids.", then they answer: "Just keep going, there is no distress." And if the disciples of Jesus yet cry: "Do not go so boldly to hell", then the children of the world answer: "There it is warm for the asses!" And so they go with great speed into the burning rapids.
Now those few souls who have heard the noise of the spiritual wind should pray the Great Ruler of the Wind and Weather, that He might still the tempests of this world and give them to understand from where this spiritual wind has come and to where it has gone. For the Spirit of God is probably not in that powerful wind, nor in the thunder, nor in the earthquake, but in a still small voice. (1 Kings 19: 12), nevertheless it is not good for the disciples of Jesus to travel if the spiritual wind ceases to blow and a strong head wind also rises up on the world's billowing sea. Then distress comes to the disciples of Jesus and they must awaken Jesus with fervent prayers and say, "Lord help us, we perish." Oh, Holy Spirit, Creator, and Refuge for the cold hearts, Oh bright fire and flame, kindle in us burning love, to keep Your word and teachings, and to hold fast to them in all temptations. Kyrie Eleeson. Our Father, which art in Heaven, and so forth.
Gospel John 3: 1-15
With the guidance of our Holy Gospel we shall through God's grace consider: How and in what manner an old person can go into his mother's womb and be born again.
First consideration: That which is born of the flesh is flesh.
Second consideration: That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
May the true Father of the new man grant His grace that all who are in the tribulation of new birth would be able to cry with such a loud voice that the voice would reach the Parent's ears and that the new man who is born with great tribulation may be like his Father, not a bastard nor like the one who is born before time. May the old man die and may the new man live! Amen.
First consideration: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh." With the flesh is understood man's corrupted nature and evil desires, not only inherited sin which has been inherited from Adam and Eve, but also committed sins, which are committed with thoughts, words, and deeds. From the flesh through the heart come evil thoughts, evil lusts and desires, fornication, theft, envy, greed, wrath, honor, and self-righteousness. It is the old man or old Adam which in this place is called flesh, and this old man is, in a natural state, so large that he scarcely fits through the church door, and so virtuous that he cannot even endure the mention of fornication and theft. He is so honorable that he asks about his honor when he is barked at innocently. For even if perhaps he had committed adultery during the night, no one is allowed to reproach him for that in the day. Even if he has stolen in the night, no one is allowed to rebuke him in the day for that deed. Said in a word: Old Adam is such a great lord that not many are equal to him in power and lordly dominion. He is so virtuous that the angels in Heaven have not lived as virtuously as he. He is so honorable that God does not have as much tenor as does old Adam. Surely for that matter with his mouth he confesses himself to be a sinner, although he has such a poor memory that he does not remember at all what sins he has committed. But this confession of sin he reads only before God, for he has received such enlightenment from the word of God that no one needs to cry out their sins to the world. If he would need to know anything of spiritual matters, then he goes during the night to Jesus to display his Christianity, so that the lords of this world would not bark at him as a Galilean. Once Nicodemus tried to speak something as in defense of Jesus, but when the other lords of the world began to ridicule him for the sake of his Christianity and to say: "Are you also a Galilean?", then Nicodemus became silent and spoke nothing more of Jesus. He let the lords lie against Jesus before the church council as well as before Pilate. If he has not consented to their councel and deeds, neither has he spoken anything in Jesus' defense nor spoken a single word which would have been for the Saviour's honor. Surely for this reason the brothers in faith of Nicodemus are severely provoked if someone doubts of Nico-demus' salvation. They imagine, namely, that Nicodemus was saved because of this, that he was helpful to Joseph in burying the body of Jesus. But now the question is this, which constitutes the sum of Nicodemus' faith: "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb and be born?" (John 3:4) This is now the sum of Nicodemus' faith, that an old person cannot go into his mother's womb and be born. And this is also the sum of the faith of those who now take Nicodemus into the kingdom of Heaven, they have not gone into their mother's womb. And how could such a great lord fit in his mother's womb? Would he not suffocate? That is just what the brothers in faith of Nicodemus fear, that old Adam would suffocate if he would go into his mother's womb. But there you must go, good lord, and old Adam must become small so that he would fit in his mother's womb. Otherwise no one can be born again. That which is once born of the flesh is flesh. But such a pious roan will probably not have sin worthy of penitence. Therefore I think that Nicodemus and his brothers in faith probably do not have sin even though they confess themselves to be sinners out of custom. But what sin have they committed? They probably do not feel that to be a sin that they go to Jesus at night when for the sake of honor they do not care to go during the day. The Saviour has once said: "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in Heaven." And should it not become a sin to Nicodemus and his brothers in faith that he is a dumb dog when he sees how Jesus and His disciples are tormented by the lords of the world? Without a doubt Nicodemus shows his love best when he lays Jesus' body honorably into the grave. And most surely the disciples mention this and consider it good, but afterwards Nicodemus did not fit anymore in the Christians' meetings, for he was not mentioned afterwards in the Acts of the Apostles. And how could such a lord fit in the Christians' meetings when he does not fit in his mother's womb that he could be born again? So it seems from all circumstances, that Nicodemus has never become a Christian although he otherwise was a decent old man. And for this reason neither can the others who always hold fast to Nicodemus' coattails ever become Christians because of this, that they being old cannot go into their mother's womb and be born again. In this way, these weighty words are imputed to them: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh."
But if Nicodemus has not become a Christian, then where will the others go who openly are enemies of Jesus' cross? And to which place did Judas go, who was so loving toward the Saviour that he gave Him a kiss? And to which place did Herod and Pilate go, of whom one made mockery of the Saviour and the other condemned Him against his conscience? Could all of these be in the Kingdom of Heaven, although we do not believe that? So think the wise of the world that if someone would be so unfortunate that he would fall into hell, then without a doubt God will pull him up from there; God would surely not be almighty if He would not be able to pull up from hell the unfortunate souls who fall down there. But some do not wish to come up from hell, especially such who say to the Christians: "Let us go to hell in peace, there it will warm the ass.
Second consideration: "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit." With the spirit is understood in this place all the effects of the Holy Spirit which were first revealed on the day of Pentecost and afterwards effected in the Christians1 hearts in every place where the true Christianity has been found. But as then the effects of the Holy Spirit were first ridiculed by the world's throng and then hated and persecuted, so it happens even now. The Spirit then effected power to speak with new tongues and so it happens even today; the Christians still speak with new tongues such words which a sorrowless wretch probably cannot understand. The Spirit then gave Peter power to rebuke the world's throng and condemn them as murderers of the Saviour. And so the Spirit even now gives power to rebuke and condemn the sorrowless. But this condemnation the world cannot endure, therefore they become angry at the disciples of Jesus and bring them before the court. The Spirit even then effected through the word a true repentance in some so that they received a prick in their heart and began with heartfelt sorrow to ask the disciples: "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"(Acts 2:37) So the Holy Spirit yet today effects a true sorrow and grief in those who have not hardened. But the devil's spirit effects so much ridicule, anger, and hatred in the hearts of the sorrowless that they begin to hate and persecute the Christians and because of this hatred and persecution they receive a terrible condemnation. The Spirit also effected a burning love between the Christians so that they had one heart and one soul. But the devil afterwards got to dispurse the sheep through inward strife, for which reason the heathens had occasion to accuse the Christians and say: "They do not agree between themselves." But nevertheless all Christianity did not come to naught because of this although the heathens imagine that the Christians are false prophets and wild spirits when they do not give peace of conscience to honorable people. But the heathens strive the most between themselves and also with the Christians before the court. The heathens drink, curse and fight, commit adultery, and steal, and then they say to the Christians: "You are false prophets and wild spirits, but we live according to God's word and the door of grace is open to us as well as to you." If we now behold how those live who are born of the flesh, then we see that the works of the flesh are manifest which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, persecution, variance, envy, wrath, strife, discord, heresies, malice, murders, drunkenness, gluttony and such like. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. (Galatians 5: 19-23) Without a doubt from these characteristics it is known who have been born of the flesh and who have been born of the Spirit. But those few souls who have been born of the Spirit and the incorruptable seed which He has sown in our hearts, let them pray the true Father who has given them life that this Spirit of truth may always remain in their hearts and the Spirit of the elect children, whereby we cry: "Abba, Dear Father", that Spirit which testifies with our spirit that we are the children of God. Oh dear Parent who has given us life, protect the weak spirit of all newly born ones so that the enemy would not be able to kill them, or the cold wind of the world chill them. Swaddle the newborn in clean linen and let them suckle your grace-flowing breast that they would cease crying, and smile at Him who has given them birth, resting in His bosom. And when they begin to crawl after their Parent and to cry His name that you, Oh dear Parent, would help them up from the cold floor of the world and would carry them into the eternal joy of Heaven. Amen!