Sunday, March 19, 2017

Lent 2 & 3, 2017: Focused on the AND these 40 days

Note: Supplying at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Burnsville, NC. Since my supply at this parish was snowed out last week, we are using the lectionary and music for Lent 2 (already prepared) and combining the gospel readings for Lent 2 and 3 enabling us to ponder the interesting juxtaposition of the story of Nicodemus and the story of the Samaritan woman at the well.

While I had notes prepared, the sermon was Spirit led - extemporaneous.

Lectionary: Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalm 121; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17; John 3:1-17 AND John 4:5-42

For AUDIO click HERE:

En el nombre del Dios, Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

Women’s ministerial group discussion on the difference between a good life and a godly life; a good person or a godly person.
• for most of them, to be godly meant to follow the rules – but the rules are what they have defined them today.
• So they would judge a person godly if that person kept the rules – as they understand them.
• “An almost Christian” - follows most of the rules, but sometimes cusses, etc.

But that’s a false notion – which is the point Jesus is trying to make to Nicodemus: it isn’t about doing life right so you win the prize of eternal life later, it’s about living in eternal life right now. Then God’s will is being done on earth as it is in heaven.

Eternal life isn’t our reward. As baptized Christians, it’s our present reality.
Nicodemus would have been considered a godly person. The Samaritan woman definitely would not have been.
• Living with a man not her husband, etc.

Taken together, these two represent the two poles of privilege and vulnerability. They also represent our inclination to group people: good and bad, worthy and unworthy, welcomed or unwelcomed in our community. The truth is, they are just descriptors of two spots on a continuum on which we all stand somewhere at varied moments of our lives.

Has a name
Is a leader among the Jews – has standing
Urban (Jerusalem)
Meets Jesus under the cover of night
He is safe to travel alone - respected
He is somebody, worthy of respect

Samaritan woman:
Is not named
Is scorned – has no standing
Rural (counstryside)
Meets Jesus in the blazing noonday sun
She is not safe to travel alone - not respected
She is nobody, unworthy on most counts

Jesus’ message to each is the same: John 3:16-17. Born from above, from water and spirit. Nicodemus heard (misheard) born again.

But notice the difference in their responses:

• Nicodemus is incredulous: How can this be? As one commentator says, “Nicodemus would think of the kingdom of God as a heavenly reward for a life well lived, but the [Gospels] make it clear that the kingdom ‘is at hand’ (Mark 1:15). In John's Gospel, eternal life has that same kind of immediacy. The person who believes in Jesus ‘has eternal life’ (5:24; 6:47, Source:… right now. Nicodemus doesn’t believe. He can’t make his experience of Jesus fit with what he already believes.

• The Samaritan woman does believe as Jesus describes for her what being born from above looks like: “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The Samaritan woman is able to connect her experience of Jesus to her expectation of the Messiah… and when Jesus confirms for her: “I am he, the one who is speaking to you” she goes and tells her good news to her community. THIS is evangelism. It’s as simple as sharing the hope-filled love of God with those whom you love.

Letting go what we know about God, life, and religion and being “born from above” into an adult, mature, Christian faith can be a scary thing, but it is the gift we are given in Lent – time to wander in the wilderness, in the uncertainty, and, maybe most importantly, opportunity to practice trusting God - like Abram did.

God called to Abram saying, Go where I’m sending you... And just trust me about where that is, when you’ll get there, and how you’ll live till you get there. Sound familiar? God’s call to God’s people hasn’t changed much over time, has it?
• Abram journeyed for – 40 years, which, in Bible-speak, means “long enough” referring to lifetimes, ages.
• If we engage the 40 days of Lent (Bible-speak meaning long enough referring to a season in our lives), and go where God leads us, if we follow the word of God, God promises bless us with new life - life in the eternal presence of God. Flesh and sprit living as one. Earth and heaven present as one.

In his conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus says "Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” Water… of the earth, spirit… of heaven.

Jesus is focused on the “AND.” Flesh AND spirit. Water AND spirit. Catholic AND Protestant. Jew AND Gentile. Humanity AND divinity.
• In the sacrament of Baptism we demonstrate the reunion of ourselves, our bodies and our spirits, with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ.
• Being Baptized IS being born from above. We are no longer “merely earthly,” because we are now in possession of the living water, who is Jesus Christ, who said, “the water that I give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

Each Lent we have an opportunity to let ourselves wander as Abram did, away from all that we know about God, about life – about the groups we use to define and therefore treat members of the human family – if we even wander away from what we believe and know about religion… if we turn away from all that and focus on the AND Jesus taught us - of earth and spirit, humanity and divinity, reconciled in himself and now is us – we will find ourselves living a new life – eternal life.

It’s a challenge, and yes, it can be scary, but we journey together aware that among us are Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman and everyone in between. We journey in the company of the saints who have gone before us and walk with us now on our way.

And we go held in the eternal, overwhelming, indescribable love of God who “is truly the Savior of the world.”

Let us pray:

“Oh God of new beginnings who bring light out of night’s darkness and fresh green out of the hard winter earth, there is barren land between us as people and as nations this day, there are empty stretches of soul within us; give us eyes to see new dawnings of promise, give us hears to hear fresh soundings of birth” (Source: Celtic Tradition)

…and give us courage to love you as you are loving us, so that we may enter into you, fully, completely, that your kingdom may come through us – right here, right now. Amen.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Meditation for Ash Wednesday, 2017

The following is a poem I wrote in 2015. I was reminded of it in prayer as I began this holy (and my favorite season) of Lent. May you be blessed.

Love is a rock

Sometimes love is a rock
cut and clear
with a rough crown –
there should always be a rough crown.

Formed of the earth
infused with divine breath,
found by accident
and molded with the skill
of the artist,
this love is a rock
cut and clear
with a rough crown.

It waits for the one who is
alive and dead
to come and connect.
And when she arrives
the artist recognizes her
and offers her
the love
which is a rock
cut and clear
with a rough crown.

By: Valori M Sherer