Sermon for the Second Sunday in Lent + March 20, 2011
As the people of God, we are called to listen and live in God’s word. This was reinforced two weeks ago in the transfiguration story where Jesus told us not to honor, or follow him, but to listen. Today we listen, or listen in on a conversation Jesus has with Nicodemous. Now Nick the Pharisee was a leader of the Jewish people, who from his visit we learn that he is a seeker who is intrigued by Jesus and what he has done.
So one night Nick, either trying to satisfy his curiosity, or secretly checking out what Jesus was up to, visits him under the cover of darkness. Nick butters Jesus up by telling him he has to be a teacher straight from God because no one could do all Jesus did pointing to and revealing God, if God wasn’t in on it.
Jesus replied that he was right, saying that unless a person is born from above, it isn’t possible to see what he was pointing to—that is God’s kingdom. Nick didn’t get it. He couldn’t understand how anyone could be born who has already been born and grown up. He heard Jesus’ words as literal, and knew it wasn’t possible to physically re-enter your mother’s womb. So he asked Jesus what he meant by this ‘born-from-above’ talk.
Jesus told Nick he wasn’t really listening and re-framed it for him. Jesus said that unless a person submits to this original creation, the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life… that it isn’t possible to see or experience God’s kingdom. It’s like when you look at a baby… it’s just that, a small person you can see, but the person that baby will become, the personality that is shaped, the person who develops, is formed by something you can’t see and touch, the Spirit… and becomes a living spirit.
Jesus told Nick to not be surprised when he says that you must be born from above, not just of the physical world. For only God’s Spirit gives new life… and we do not control it. The Spirit is like the wind that blows wherever it wants to. You can hear the wind rustling through the trees, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone born from above by the wind, the Spirit of God.
Nick still couldn’t get his arms around the idea asking how it could happen. Jesus responded by asking Nick how as a respected teacher of Israel, he didn’t know these basic things. So Jesus told him to listen carefully, and told him with all certainty based on experience and the things seen that there was nothing inauthentic here, no second-hand stories, just the truth.
Jesus told Nick directly that instead of facing the evidence, he was procrastinating with questions. He said that if he told him things as plain as the nose on his face and Nick still didn’t believe, what was the use in telling him of things he couldn’t see, the things of God.
Jesus continued… No one has ever gone up into the presence of God except the One who came down from that Presence, the Son of Man. In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up. When that happens, everyone who looks up to him with trust and hope will have eternal life and never really die.
This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son so that no one need be destroyed; so that everyone who has faith in him… anyone, can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending Jesus merely to point an accusing finger, to tell the world how bad we are. Jesus came to help, to put the world, you, me and all creation right with God again.
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Nick struggled to understand just who this Jesus was… As we do as well. We see Jesus as a nice guy, a loving healer, a peaceful comforter… But to a leader of the Jewish people, to people in charge like Nick, he was a scary unknown, a loose cannon, a rebel that wants to change how we see everything. The Jesus Nick visits at night, has just turned water into wine at the Wedding at Cana, cleansed the temple by turning over the tables and called out those of privilege and in power… people like old Nicodemous.
Jesus is more than a great teacher of God as Nick calls him… Jesus is more than miracles or a shake-up to the status quo… Jesus answers Nick’s questions by calling him and you and me to live in the questions. Jesus is the one who tells, shows and embodies God’s character and plan of love for Nick, for you, me and the whole world. God does this through the divine breeze that blows in and through our lives… filling us with faith, providing purpose, keeping us by sustaining our spirit.
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But we doubt, we dig our heels in to our habits and old ways, we don’t want to be a kept people, we struggle to trust in what we see, let alone what we don’t. What do we make of a world when in a moment The seemingly solid ground of our lives can shake, waves of trouble can wash over us, and everything we take for granted can melt down. We let ourselves suffocate on the images of evil and are overcome by trying to control the things we have little or no control over.
We wonder does God really love us… and under the cover of darkness, we let doubt and guilt and anger wash over us.
We stop sensing or feeling the wind of God from above blowing in our lives.
We often close the windows of our lives on those subtle breezes of birth and glimpses of God and the kingdom.
And even when winds and signs of God blow strong, we chose to shutter ourselves with selfishness.
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This week look around East Hartford and the communities you touch in your work and play…
- Where do you feel the wind of God?
- Where do you see signs of the kingdom of God?
- Is this part of the body of Christ gathered as Faith part of those signs of God on earth?
- Are you a conduit for the wind of God’s love, justice and compassion?
- Are you the eyes and ears, the hands and feet of God in the places of your lives?
What would it be like if we who are gathered as Faith listened for the wind on a regular basis… prayed and discerned what the Spirit of God was calling us to do together?
What could be the tangible signs… things people around us could see and point to that reflect God in the community?
What could be the intangible ways we impact the lives of people around us… feelings of comfort, hope and joy created by our sharing the love and spirit of God out in the community?
What would it be like to be people who trust, share and proclaim God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist? God who sent…
- Moses to lift up the serpent and source of death, turning it into life saving medicine, and
- Son Jesus to be lifted up on the cross and source of death, turning it into life-giving medicine.
- Medicine that heals, transforms, and saves.
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We journey to the cross this Lent called by God, to live in the questions and listen…
- Letting go and opening ourselves to God.
- With our ears, our hearts and our minds.
- For the holy wind from above that keeps us.
Listen for the wind of new life and let go… Listen for the wind and go where the Spirit blows you… Listen for the wind, breath, and spirit of God… Can you hear it? Can you sense it? Can you feel it? Listen.