Mini Sermon #59

Sermon Lesson: John 3:1-12

Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 6:1-8

Psalm: Psalm 29

In A Nutshell

Some of you might recognize the sermon lesson as an extension of Sunday’s lesson and I thought I would take the opportunity of June’s Pine Grove News to expand on Sunday’s Sermon.

For a quick recap for those of you who were not in church on Sunday:

Nicodemus was a learned Pharisee, one of the Sanhedrin (or high court), and considered Jesus a teacher.  However, when he comes to Jesus for learning, they speak at cross purposes.  When Jesus tells Nicodemus no one can enter the Kingdom of Heaven without being born “anew” he means – born again, as in, born again in the Holy Spirit.  Nicodemus misunderstands and believes that Jesus means, born a second time, as in—physically, from one’s mother.  They’re both using the same words and yet each mean two totally different definitions of the same word.

That was my twenty-minute sermon in a nutshell.

Continuing Onward

To continue on to verse 8:

The wind, here, is the Holy Spirit.  Nicodemus needed to know where the Holy Spirit comes from or where it will take him.  After all, the will of God is not always known by us.  Such is the way.  It is enough to be born of the Holy Spirit and to trust in it.

This is, of course, not saying that it is always easy. 

Far from it.

I, for one, like to know where I am and where I am going at all times.  I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a control freak, but I like to think of myself a woman who is in control of my own fate.  If I plan to go from A to B, I tend to get a little worried if I’m at point M.  I’m sure many of you might feel the same way. 

However, having been born of the Spirit—I, like all Christians including Nicodemus—must trust in God and put my fate in the hands of the Spirit.

Did I know that I would be serving a small church in Florence, Massachusetts ten years ago for instance?—No, I didn’t.  I hadn’t a clue.  I’m not even certain I had heard of Florence, sad to say.

Now, I could chalk up being here at Florence to several strange turns of events in my life … or see it as what it easily could be, what I believe it to be, or, more specifically, the workings of the Holy Spirit.  Now, of course, it could be both.  The Holy Spirit working in my life could, to the outside, look like several strange turns in my life.  The turns in my life could have been at the behest of the Holy Spirit.  They need not be mutually exclusive.

So it is with me, so it is with you, and so it certainly was with Nicodemus.

As we turn to verse 9, Nicodemus once again does not understand, just as he has not understood Jesus the entire conversation.  He asks Jesus how he has not understood any of these matters—how he cannot even be a teacher of Israel (and, remember, Nicodemus for addressed Jesus as “Rabbi” or “Teacher” when he first met with him).

The passage, however, concludes with Jesus rebuking Nicodemus (if that’s not too strong a word).  Using the now familiar phrase “very truly”Jesus begins saying that if Nicodemus—if we, by extension, as seekers of the Truth—cannot understand earthly things, then we cannot understand heavenly ones as well.

For the matter of being “born anew in the Spirit” is both earthly and heavenly.

It is heavenly in that the Holy Spirit descends from heaven and earthly in that it deals with our earthly lives.  It is an example of when the heavenly descends to the earthly, of when our earthly lives can transcend, even, to the lofty heights of heaven.  It is a mixing and a melding of the two.

Nicodemus as a Greater Example of Jesus’s Interactions with Others

When we speak of Jesus and his followers, we tend to speak of the Twelve Disciples, and Nicodemus tends to get left out.  After all, why wouldn’t he?  He’s a Pharisee, and Pharisees were often at war with Jesus and even wanted him put to death.  Nicodemus is a member of the elite Sanhedrin, and the elite wanted to bring Jesus down. 

He’s a blip.  He’s a footnote.  Is he really that important?

However, Nicodemus is something else, apart from the subject of our mini sermon.

He’s the perfect example of almost every conversation Jesus has, even with people who have the best intentions coming into those conversations.

Jesus speaks, people listen, and yet people misunderstand.

We, two thousand years later, have the tools to understand Jesus.  Nicodemus—and others—did not have that advantage. Nicodemus was learned, but he did not have two thousand years of study.

And, despite our two thousand years’ advantage, we could be just like Nicodemus.  We could misunderstand Jesus.  We could get lost in the parables and the word translations, just as easily as Nicodemus did.

Nicodemus, thus, becomes the everyman, or the every-Christian.

He is our representative in the conversation with Jesus, and as such has great importance.

He has an open mind, the best of intentions, but—sadly—he just doesn’t quite get it, this time around.

Moving Forward & Welcoming You Back to Church

Moving forward I would just like to make a quick note.  The Pine Grove News will be published only once a month from now on, just as it was before the pandemic.  The mini sermons will still be appearing in every issue, on a topic that follows the Common Lectionary.

I will be in the office, three Tuesdays in a month and out visiting, so I will once again be in the community and seeing you all, and not just on Sundays.

I know, of course, it’s a bit of an adjustment.  It is for all of us, myself included.  However, as the country continues to open up and we go back to normal, we will make those small shifts in our life and those modifications where we find them.

I look forward to speaking to you all—through the Mini Sermon—in July and hopefully seeing many of you in Church as we continue to get more comfortable with reopening America.

God Bless you all and, as always, Stay Safe,

Reverend Averill Elizabeth Blackburn

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