Sermon given at Isham & Orlingbury 12.3.17
Readings: OT/Epistle Genesis 12: 1-5 Gospel John 3: 1-17
In today’s readings we meet two men of mature years who have an encounter with God, an encounter that challenges them to move on into a new situation. Both are promised blessing if they do so – Abram is told he will be blessed and become a great nation, Nicodemus is invited into the Kingdom of God.
But first they have to do something! Abram has to leave everything he knows behind and travel to the land God will show him – Nicodemus is told he has to become like a little child, in other words to put aside all he thinks he ‘knows’ and see what God will show him. Abram simply goes – Nicodemus wavers and questions.
For a moment I want you to use your imagination and picture this conversation that might have happened the next day between Nicodemus and a friend who asked him:
“I hear you were talking to that preacher from Galilee yesterday? So come on, spill the beans. I bet you outdid him easily! There’s no one can touch you when it comes to expounding the Scriptures!
Nicodemus replied: It wasn’t like that. We weren’t locking horns. He teased me, but gently. He didn’t humiliate me, and I began to see, well, a different future. I had always thought I knew how God’s chosen one would be. He would teach, he would heal, he would be a friend to the oppressed. But eventually he would become a great leader. (pause) But then, as being ‘born again’ was mentioned, that picture from Isaiah came into my mind – the one where a little child is leading in God’s kingdom. It was as if all the pieces that made up my sense of myself, as a proud Pharisee and a good teacher, had been shaken up, only to fall down in new patterns. I saw God’s power as, well, like the wind: strong, sometimes frightening, but also gentle and caressing. I felt a sense of mystery – then I thought everything was certain and clear. I saw possibilities. I was excited, but also a bit afraid. He’s unsettling, you know – that Jesus! His words were about experiencing Spirit, ascending to heaven, having eternal life. About letting go, and not planning. That is unsettling. And it doesn’t make much sense in terms of what I know as a teacher, a Pharisee, here and now, in this community. But I’ve realised that I know other things, mysterious divine things, in my heart. (pause, then triumphantly) I’ve got to trust, and be carried by the wind of the love he talked about at the end. (sadly) But I don’t know if I’ll be able to persuade my friends to come with me on this journey.
We humans like certainty! A bit of uncertainty occasionally, like a holiday, is exciting – but we generally prefer to keep the pattern of our lives on an even keel – we stick to the well-trodden paths and routines we know. And that’s fine – but sometimes God wants to shake us up – because he wants to bless us! And perhaps he wants to us to become a blessing to others!
Sometimes our lives, or some part of our lives, need a fresh direction – the question is, how easily do we respond to God’s promptings when we receive them? I think we often need several signals or messages from God – and that might well include comments made by someone that just go ‘ping’ in our brains, or encouragement from someone either because they sense the need for us to change direction a bit, or because when we discuss it with them they can see possibilities we might not have seen yet.
Sometimes that fresh direction, those new possibilities might entail changes for other people – which they might resist! That often happens when God is calling people to make changes in a church, whether that’s to do with the building, the furniture or the services! We all like the familiar – sometimes even if it’s not that good or comfortable!!
So we need to remember that God loves us beyond our imagination – and he wants nothing but the best for us. AND he knows what we need and what will be best for us. Resisting God’s call for a change of direction prevents us from receiving the blessing, the good he wants for us.
So if you sense God calling you down a new path – don’t resist it! Just pray and wait for reassurance and guidance – and see what happens. Mystery does surround God, and He does work in mysterious ways sometimes. But always because HE LOVES US!