Lent 2, Year A, March 8, 2020

Title:Lent 2, Year A, March 8, 2020

 Lent 2, Year A, March 8, 2020 (full size gallery)

A mild and sunny Sunday with the river fogged in with the colder earth from the morning interacting with warmer air. This was the first week with the flowers out – daffodils, cherries, and other blossoms. The Campbell Magnolia was out at St. Peter’s.

Catherine presented “A blended family” at 10am with the family of Jacob and the 7 sons who will be part of the 12 tribes of Isreal and his two wives, Leah and Rachel, and two concubines, Zilpah and Bilhah,

We had 35 with a smaller choir and at least two families away

Deacon Carey led the children’s sermon and preached the sermon on Nicodemus. The children received a plant to track how plants in a dark bag with a hole will grow to the light.

Nicodemus came as a prisoner of his background as a pharisee. “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” The issue is how you can be reborn. The first meaning is ‘anew, again’ on the physical level, which is what Nicodemus understands; the second as Carey explained is ‘from above’ spatially, which is what Jesus seems to intend. Jesus implied Nicodemus needed a spiritual rebirth, not being reborn physically. Eternal life is open to all.

Due to the corona virus the peace went by without touching and there was no wine in communion due to the ease of transmission of germ. There was an insert in the bulletin – “Communion of One Kind.” “The wine will be presented at the offertory as usual. Before the Eucharistic Prayer begins, wine will be poured into the chalice. The wine will be blessed as usual and left on the altar. The blood of Christ is present for all to see, honor and remember. For the sake of unity in community, no one will partake of the wine during worship. The communion of bread alone is full and complete communion.”

Today’s readings invite us to believe and be reborn. Hearing the call of God, Abram (later renamed Abraham), leaves his country and his people, following God into a new life. Paul explains how Abraham’s faith, revealed in his willingness to believe and act on God’s promises, makes him right with God. In the gospel, Jesus invites Nicodemus, a nighttime seeker, to believe and be born again. 

The story of Abram (Abraham) in Genesis and reflected upon in Romans portrays a man who let go of what he knew as familiar, of worldly comforts of his father’s home and his possessions to believe in God’s promises and follow in faith where God told him to go. In short, Abraham fully put his faith in God, believing against “cultural wisdom.”

Lent 2 through the fifth Sundays has Jesus confronting various characters – a educated Pharisee, a Samaritan Women, a blind man and a man recently deceased. These texts from John are about revelation–the revelation of who Jesus is, the one sent by God, the begotten God, whose offer of life is in his presence and not necessarily delayed until his death.

The key is in the dialogues that the characters try to understand Jesus from their own backgrounds. Is he who he says he is ? How does he challenge Jewis teachings in the past ?

This week’s Gospel is taken from the first of John’s lengthy expositions of Jesus’ teachings. Two characteristic techniques are employed: the use of a question asked on the physical level and answered on the spiritual level, and the use of the questioner’s misunderstanding.

Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin, comes to Jesus because of his interest in Jesus’ works. Jesus seeks to draw him past these outward manifestations to a recognition of their inward significance.

The meaning of being “born from above” begins their discussion. Nicodemus’s misunderstanding centers around the word translated “from above,” which has two meanings. The first is ‘anew, again’ on the physical level, which is what Nicodemus understands; the second is ‘from above’ spatially, which is what Jesus seems to intend.

Jesus contrasts the realm of the Spirit, which is eternal and heavenly, with the realm of the flesh, which is earthly, weak and mortal (but not necessarily sinful). Both flesh and spirit make up human life, but the Spirit is life itself.

Rev Lance Ousley has written the following about this story – “Nicodemus discovered that eternal life was his for the receiving. Eternal life is not something attained on the other side of the grave. Eternal life is something lived in the continuous present of the here and now (eternally), living freely in the fullness of faith in God over and above all else. So through Nicodemus’ story we learn as we let go of our faith in the “cultural wisdom” and all it’s trappings, and we give of ourselves and our resources putting our faith in God’s promises delivered to us in Christ that we step more and more into the light of the eternal fullness of life God hopes for us. Faithful stewardship, following the path of Abram in letting go of what is comfortable and familiar and the path of Nicodemus in letting go of faith in our “works” and things other than God, reveals the light of the promises of God in the midst of the darkness of the false promises of “cultural wisdom.” And that is an abundance of life so full that it can only be described as eternal!