ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity; We beseech thee that thou wouldest keep us stedfast in this faith, and evermore defend us from all adversities, who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.
Readings Below: Numbers xxi. 4. Revelation iv. 1 & St. John iii. 1
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
The reading from the Book of Numbers tells the story of the people of Israel as they traveled in the wilderness. After the Lord gave them a great victory, they began to grumble against the Lord, saying they hated the very Manna that God sent to sustain them. God sent poisonous serpents among the Israelites and many died. They came to Moses asking him to intercede with the Lord to remove the serpents. Instead, the Lord gave them a remedy. The pain would continue as they continued to sin, but once bitten, if they would look upon the brass serpent on a staff that God ordered Moses to make and elevate, their lives would be spared.
In the Gospel Jesus teaches Nicodemus, a righteous Pharisee. He uses the brass serpent as a likeness of what is to be the new symbol of grace and healing. He, himself, the very Son of God, is to be lifted up to be the Salvation of the people, and whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. But this Salvation is radically different than the healing of the serpent bite. The healing of Christ is to the soul, and is eternal. The belief in Jesus as Savior comes with a new thing too: being born again in Spirit. For a man cannot inherit the promise of eternal life unless he is born again of the Spirit. That can only occur through belief in Jesus and that his sacrifice is sufficient for the sins of the whole world - not the Jew only. The first Gentile to recognize this was perhaps the Centurion of Calvary who looked up upon Jesus lifted up on the Cross and proclaimed, "this was a righteous man, the Son of God."
In the Gospel verses there is something else special also, for in these few verses, Jesus teaches Nicodemus of the Trinity: God the father whose Kingdom is in Heaven, God the Son who descended from Heaven and will be lifted up, and the God the Holy Spirit, by whom men will be born again and shall be able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Our belief in the Trinity is affirmed in the words of our Credo. It is at the core of the Christian doctrine - One God - Three in Unity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and is a belief that the Church Militant has held in common since the beginning.
The Collect for this day says, "by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity." I believe the collect as originally written referred specifically to what the English Prayer Book calls a Confession of Christian Belief . It is a much longer creed and more specific in terms of the Trinity and the nature of Christ. It was appointed to be read at Morning Prayer on Trinity Sunday.
Hymn: Lift High the Cross
Numbers xxi. 4.
And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.
Revelation iv. 1.
AFTER this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes before and behind. And the first was like a lion, and the second like a calf, and the third had a face as a man, and the fourth was like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. And when those living creatures give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, the four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are, and were created.
St. John iii. 1
THERE was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 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. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
Scripture from 1928 Book of Common Prayer and KJV
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