The Second Sunday in Lent
Deacon Anne Flynn
John 3:1-17

 


May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry extended an invitation to us to live as the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement.

Jesus of Nazareth inspired a movement committed to living the way of God’s unconditional, unselfish, sacrificial, and redemptive love. Bishop Curry has outlined a Rule of Life, a Rule for the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement that centers around practices for Jesus-Centered Life.

By entering into reflection, discernment and commitment around the practices of Turn – Learn – Pray – Worship – Bless – Go – Rest we seek to grow as persons and as communities following the loving, liberating, life-giving way of Jesus.

His way, the Way of Love has the power to change each of our lives, change the community we live in and change this world.

In today’s Gospel we meet Nicodemos, a Pharisee, a person of influence in the community. Nicodemos is a man of faith and yet he comes to Jesus to talk with him about the questions Jesus is stirring up in his own heart. He says to Jesus we see what you do, we see that you heal people and that you cast out spirits.

We know that you come from God, but how can these things be? How do you do what you do?

And Jesus tells him that these things are possible through God, the Son and the Spirit. Jesus tells him that God so loved the world that God sent Jesus into the world to show the world how to live in love. That God did not send the son into the world to condemn the world, but to show the world how to experience God’s boundless love. The awareness of God’s boundless love is salvation.

We meet Nicademos three times in John’s Gospel. First when he comes to Jesus in the cover of darkness. He wants to speak with Jesus, but he doesn’t want to be observed speaking with him. Next, we see Nicodemus in chapter 7 when he tempers his colleagues zeal for arresting Jesus by reminding them that the law requires that a person be heard before being judged (John 7:50-51) and finally, we see Nicodemus after the crucifixion of Jesus when he assists Joseph of Arimathea taking Jesus down from the cross, preparing the body of Jesus for burial and placing the body of Jesus into the tomb. (John 19:39-42)

How does Nicademos go or grow from meeting with Jesus in the cover of darkness to standing at the foot of the cross?
How are any of us changed by our encounters with Jesus?

Jesus shows us the way to live centered around God and grounded by love. Love of God, love of neighbor, love of self.

We don’t do this alone. Just a Nicodemus was a member of his faith community, we are members of Grace, we are members of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement. The role of our faith community is central in our own faith formation. The hymns we sing together on Sunday morning, the prayers we offer, the support we give and receive, the study and reflection all reflect the important role a community of believers plays in our spiritual formation. When we are not here, not present in community we are missed, and we are missing out on an opportunity for a deeper and more intimate encounter with God.

Nicodemus is quite clear the reason he comes knocking on Jesus door at night is that through Jesus’ healing of the sick, feeding the hungry, caring for those in need, he has experienced the presence of God. “No one can do the things you do apart from the presence of God”, says Nicodemus. When we participate in Sandwich Ministry, Back Snack, Let’s Help, Door Step, House of Ruth, Williams Magnet, Justice Ministry, Stephen Ministry, Prayer Ministry, Music Ministry, Order of the Daughters of the King, Fellowship, Senior Saints, Readers Group, Men’s Group, Women’s Group, Bible study, etc. there is more at stake than the good we might accomplish. For Nicodemus it was the acts of caring and compassion of Jesus, which opened his heart to God’s presence.
Nicodemus reminds us we encounter the presence of God precisely in those places where our hearts are open, and we respond to the needs around us. We grow in faith when we work for justice and with every act of kindness.

The question faced by Nicodemus and anyone seeking to grow in faith is, are we willing to let go of our certainties about who God is?

Are we willing to experience God in new ways? Are we ready like Abraham and Sarah to step out on a journey with God without the comfort of knowing exactly where it will lead us? Although Nicodemus came knocking on Jesus’ door, what he ultimately discovers is that Jesus is knocking his door. Jesus is inviting Nicodemus; Jesus is inviting you and me to let the Spirit of God be our guide, to be born anew.

As we continue in this season of Lent are we as a community; are we as individuals prepared to trust God enough to live without absolute certainty about whom God is? Will we accept Jesus’ invitation to grow in faith through the guidance of the Spirit.

Rather than creating a belief system can we commit to a rule of life or the Way of Love that centers around practices that are Jesus-Centered? How do we grow in faith, how do we grow in our encounter with this God who so loved the world?

I don’t know about you but it has been my experience that my faith is strongest, I feel closest to God when I participate in community, when I care about others, and when I remain open to the guiding of God’s Spirit.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.