Pentecost +1b – Sunday 3rd June 2012
John 3: 1-17
Did you see that Facebook story that hit the news last week? Apparently, a Church of England Vicar – a Canon no less – used Facebook to make inappropriate comments, including bemoaning the fact that he had to go to Church on Sunday!
Can I just say, it’s not me. Yes, I may have missed posting this blog for three weeks. Yes, I may not have preached a sermon in three weeks. But THAT Facebook Vicar wasn’t me.
The last three weeks has taken me on a merry-go-round journey of attending our National Assembly, preparing our Quarterly Church Meeting and celebrating Whit Sunday. And all that has left me champing at the bit to preach and lead worship this coming Sunday.
And what better way to be inspired to preach the Good News than with John chapter 3.
There was a man of the Pharisee sect, Nicodemus, a prominent leader among the Jews. Late one night he visited Jesus and said, “Rabbi, we all know you’re a teacher straight from God. No one could do all the God-pointing, God-revealing acts you do if God weren’t in on it.”
Jesus said, “You’re absolutely right. Take it from me: Unless a person is born from above, it’s not possible to see what I’m pointing to—to God’s kingdom.”
They say that it’s rude to point, but I hope that this Sunday – and every Sunday (in fact, through all of my life) – I will be pointing, hopefully like Jesus, pointing to God’s kingdom. I would state categorically that it’s rude not to point. If I can’t live a God-filled life, a life of love, joy and peace that points to God’s kingdom then I’m doing a pretty sorry job of being a Christian. Of course, I’m full of the insecurities and worries and sins of this life, just as Nicodemus was. But I’m doing my hardest to live the kingdom life and point the way to others.
John 3 is one of the most majestic chapter’s in the Bible. My heart skips a beat every time I discover that I’m due to preach from it. Sometimes it’s with trepidation, sometimes it’s with anticipation, but it’s always with the feeling that this is really what the Christian faith is all about. Not just the love of God bit – This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life – but also the born again bit.
The Message translates this slightly differently … You must be born again becomes, so don’t be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be ‘born from above’. Whatever the phrase, the meaning is still the same – we have to take a conscious step towards the kingdom Jesus is pointing to. We can’t avoid it, we can’t dress it up in any other language. We need to give ourselves to God. As Jesus says:
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—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom.
Submit. I like that word. You don’t often hear it these days. Surrender. Yield. Acquiesce. People are afraid to lose control. They think it’s a sign of weakness. But to give ourselves totally to God is a sign of strength. Strength that we trust him with our lives. Strength that we acknowledge the grace of God. Strength that we believe in the invisible that moves the visible – what a great phrase.
Our passage ends with the magnificent John 3:16, with the added footnote:
God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.
So let me tell you now. It’s rude to point an accusing finger. But God’s not in the business of doing that, so we shouldn’t be about that. We should be affirming, telling people they are God’s creation, they are loved by God. We should spread the message of God’s unbelievable forgiveness, his undying love, his amazing grace. We need to reach out the hand of reconciliation, acceptance and welcome on behalf of God. We need to live lives full of peace and joy and happiness that are infectious to those around us.
Right, I’m off to write on my Facebook timeline – strictly pointing the way.