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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion April 2, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion April 9, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
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Lent 4B March 14, 2021

Numbers 21:4-9
Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
Ephesians 2:1-10
John 3:14-21

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Lent, sometimes called Laetare Sunday, from the Latin laetare, rejoice, the first word in the entrance hymn of the ancient Mass for this day, “Rejoice O Jerusalem.” This Sunday is also called “Mothering Sunday.” In the British Isles, it is a time when folks visit their mothers. It goes back to the times when servants were allowed to visit their mothers on this day. In the midst of Lent, we observe a time of rejoicing. Herbert O’Driscoll wisely notes that all of our readings today speak of God’s healing. (O’Driscoll, The Word Today Year B, p. 27.)

In our opening lesson from the Book of Numbers, God’s people have to go around the land of Edom because the people of Edom will not let them cross their territory. As always, the journey of the people of God is full of challenges.

The people begin to complain—again. They complain to their leader. Moses. They ask him why he has brought them here to die. They totally forget that they were slaves in Egypt, making bricks for the Pharaoh, who kept increasing their quotas just to see exactly how much work he could get out of them. And they also complain to God.

The journey out of slavery is not easy. Whether it’s an addiction or a pattern of thinking, or the slavery of an abusive relationship that we have finally left, we humans tend to forget how difficult that slavery was. The first elation of freedom wears off, challenges come up, and we wrap our former slavery in a rose-colored haze of amnesia. Like the people of God in the wilderness, we remember the leeks and melons and forget the back-breaking work of bondage.

The people encounter some poisonous snakes, deadly snakes. God tells Moses to make a bronze serpent, put it on a pole, and hold it up. When the people look at the snake, they will be healed. In ancient times, snakes were believed to be objects of healing. Even today, the caduceus, with two snakes entwined on a pole and wings at the top, is a sign for physicians and medical workers. The text tells us that the people would “look on the serpent of bronze and live.”

In our gospel, Jesus refers to this passage from Numbers. He knows that he is going to be crucified, and he links that ancient healing for God’s people in the wilderness with his body hanging on the cross. We know that crucifixion was a horrible torture, and yet, paradoxically, we look on the cross as a sign of healing and life. St. John Vianney told a story of an elderly man, a farmer, who would take time to go into the church and gaze at the crucifix above the altar, just look and contemplate that crucifix. When asked what he was doing, he said, “I look at him, and he looks at me.”

In our own ways, we do that. We look at our Lord and he looks back at us with the deepest love we will ever encounter. We look at him and open our hearts to him and he fills our hearts with his love and our lives with his healing. This is what Jesus was doing on the cross. He was giving his life not only for us but to us. He was giving us his energy and his healing so that we can serve others as he did.

In our reading from Ephesians, Paul, or perhaps a devoted disciple whom I will call Paul, is tracing the spiritual journey of the human race. Once we humans followed “the ruler of the power of the air,” that is, we were self-centered. We did what we wanted to do. We were selfish; we had no idea that there was a difference between what we wanted and what we needed. This turned out to be a dead end. Paul says, “We were by nature children of wrath.” What a profound statement.  There is so much wrath, so much anger in our world. People post all kinds of angry thoughts and others respond with angry posts and it goes on and on. Yes, there are positive posts, but it can seem as though they are hard to find.

Paul writes, “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, made us alive together with Christ.” And then he writes, “By grace you have been saved.” Merriam-Webster defines grace as a, “Unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification, b, a virtue coming from God, and c, a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance.” Sanctification is defined as “the state of growing in divine grace.”

Grace is a gift from God. It’s nothing that we can earn. God pours grace out on us every day. The more we open our hearts and lives to God, the more grace, the more freely-given divine help, we receive.

And then Paul writes, “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” The motto of Grace Church is “By grace through faith.” The first case of Covid 19 was diagnosed a little over a year ago. We are still here. Grace Church was founded in 1816, 205 years ago. We’re still here. This pandemic has been very difficult. We have noted that. We have talked about how hard this time has been. I believe this is a healthy thing to do.

While we can see some parallels between us and God’s people in the wilderness, I think we can also thank God for the grace which has enabled us to remain faithful. We haven’t rebelled against our leaders.  We haven’t rebelled against God. We have a long history of using our in-person coffee hour as a time for close mutual support in the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, and we have continued to do that even in virtual space. Over this past year we have shared some major challenges and asked each other’s prayers. Grace is a gift of God, as are faith, hope, and love. We have accepted these precious gifts of God and we have used those gifts to grow in divine grace.

There is reason for rejoicing today, in the midst of this wilderness, this exile. We can rejoice in God’s gifts of faith, hope, love, and grace. I believe that, by giving us these gifts, our loving God has helped us to grow stronger.  God has helped us to grow in grace. As our psalm says, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, and his mercy endures for ever. And to paraphrase the end of the psalm, “Let us offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving and tell of his acts with shouts of joy.” Amen.

Trinity Sunday Year B RCL May 27, 2018

Isaiah 6:1-8
Psalm 29
Romans 8:12-17
John 3:1-17

Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday. The doctrine of the Trinity expresses our human experience of God in three persons—God the  Creator, God the Redeemer, and God the Sanctifier.

God the Creator. God created the world, from the tiniest subatomic particles to the galaxies; from the most delicate, tiny flower to the planet Jupiter. As theologian Mary Daly has noted, when we create anything—whether it be a safe haven for a child or a refugee or a rescue pet; whether it be a symphony, or a book, or a cathedral or a painting, or peace between two countries or two members of a family—when we create, we become co-creators with God.

God the Redeemer. Jesus who has come among us to save us from our brokenness and make us whole. Jesus is God incarnate, God embodied, God enfleshed. God walking the face of the earth, teaching us and healing us and making us whole, helping us to be born again into a new life based on love of God and love of others.

God the Holy Spirit. As David Brown has said, the Holy Spirit is God at work in us and in the world. Wherever conflict becomes peace, the Spirit is at work. Wherever creative work is done, it is done with the energy of the Spirit. So we see that God the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier are constantly working together to make us whole and to heal a broken world.

Theologian John Macquarrie talked about Being and about God calling things into being. He wrote that in any big project, such as the writing of a book or the creation of a building, there is the vision, the plan, and the realization of the plan. We have the vision of the building; we draw the plans in very careful detail; and then we carry out that plan.

God has a vision for the world— a world full of peace and harmony. Jesus is the plan. The Greek word logos means plan, model, pattern, blueprint. Jesus is the pattern for human life. The Spirit is the energy who carries out the plan. The Spirit is at work in us and in the world to realize God’s plan of peace and harmony.

Theologian Robert Farrar Capon, a favorite of David Walters, David Brown, and many of us, writes about creation in his wonderful book, The Third Peacock. Capon makes it clear that each created thing is an object of God’s infinite love, and that God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit rejoice in the work of creation. Thus, in the creation of, say, chicken number thirty-four thousand eight hundred forty-two, all three persons of the Trinity are cheering each other on, laughing and joyfully celebrating the wonder of creation. God’s love in bringing this wonderful, unique, beloved creature, chicken number 34,842, into being.

In our first reading for today, Isaiah has a vision of God, whose power and glory are almost terrifying. Stricken by his sinfulness, Isaiah confesses, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.” Then, doing for Isaiah what Christ would later do for all of us, God cleanses Isaiah from his sin. When God calls, Isaiah is able to respond to that call.

In our reading from the Letter to the Romans, Paul is reminding us that, because of the love of God, Jesus, and the Spirit, we have become as close to God as a child is to his or her mother or father. In fact, we are so close to God that we can call God Abba, “Dad” or “Daddy,” “Mom”, or “Mama”. We have received a spirit of adoption, and we are God’s children in the closest way possible. If we think back to the reading from Isaiah, with the angels flying about in the temple, the glory of God shining forth, the smoke and the sheer power of the transcendent God, our becoming God’s beloved children in this intimate way is almost mind-boggling.

In our reading from John’s gospel, Nicodemus, who is a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council, goes to Jesus by night. He is risking his position in visiting our Lord, and he may well be risking his life. But he wants to know more. Jesus tells Nicodemus that “No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus takes this literally and wonders how someone can enter his mother’s womb, so Jesus tries again, telling him that “No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.”

God the Creator has the vision for God’s shalom. Jesus is standing there in front of Nicodemus proclaiming the Kingdom and telling him that we enter that Kingdom through the water of baptism and the power of the Spirit because of the love of God expressed in all three persons. God has created the vision of God’s shalom of peace and harmony. Jesus, the living example of that vision, is inviting Nicodemus to join God’s shalom.

Nicodemus may seem quite flustered and overwhelmed at this point, but we know that the Holy Spirit is leading him into all truth. John’s gospel tells us two important things.  First, when the Council, the Sanhedrin, becomes more and more suspicious of Jesus and begins building its case against our Lord, Nicodemus reminds them that the law says that Jesus or any person being accused of an offense is entitled to a hearing.  Secondly, after Jesus is crucified, Nicodemus helps Joseph of Arimathea take down the Body of our Lord from the cross and give that beloved body a respectful burial. Both Nicodemus and Jospeh of Arimathea have developed such a devotion to our Lord that they risk their honored positions and their lives in taking care of Jesus’ body.

God in three persons, blessed Trinity.

God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit—Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier. God who loves each of us as the apple of God’s eye. God who loves the whole creation and is working to bring the creation into harmony. God who is calling us to help in that work and who is cheering us on and energizing us with God’s Spirit as we do that work.  Thanks be to God. Amen.

Lent 4B RCL March 11, 2018

Numbers 21:4-9
Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
Ephesians 2:1-10
John 3:14-21

In our opening reading today, we are journeying with God’s people. God has given them a great leader, Moses, and Moses has led them out of slavery . Now they are traveling in the wilderness toward the promised land.

They are also complaining. The longer they are away from their slavery in Egypt, the more they complain. They think longingly about the great food they had there, but they forget that they were doing the backbreaking labor of making bricks for the Pharaoh, and the quotas kept going higher and higher. This is so like us humans. God is trying to lead us out of slavery into new life and all we can do is complain.

Of course, the situation gets worse. They hit a point on the journey where there are poisonous snakes. When people are bitten, they die.

The people ask for God’s help, and God instructs Moses to make a little statue of a poisonous snake, put it on a pole, and lift it so that, by looking at the snake, the people can be healed.

In our gospel for today, the lifting of our Lord on the cross is compared with the lifting of that bronze snake which saved the lives of God’s people. Our Lord was also lifted high when he rose from the dead and when he ascended to be God. I love looking at our window which depicts the ascension. God so loved the world that God gave us Jesus. God so loved the world that God came among us. Jesus gave us a new commandment—that we love one another as he has loved us.

This gospel comes after the meeting between Jesus and Nicodemus in which Jesus talks with Nicodemus about being born again, not literally, but through the power of the Spirit. We are now in that new life.

Today is Mothering Sunday, a time when the penitential tone of Lent is lightened somewhat. It is also called Laetere Sunday, from the Mass text, “Rejoice, O Jerusalem.” There is a note of joy on this day. In the ancient Church, a rose was sometimes used in the liturgy as a symbol of the coming of spring. Some churches use rose vestments on this day.

In our readings that note of joy is struck mostly in our reading from Ephesians. Paul brilliantly traces our spiritual journey. Once we humans lived  following the “desires of the flesh.” When he speaks of the flesh, Paul means that we lived totally self centered lives. We thought about our own needs, our own wishes, our own plans. There was no place for God in all of this.

But God, in God’s infinite love, as Paul says, “made us alive together with Christ.” Paul tells us that God raised us up with Jesus and in God’s amazing generosity, God shows us “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Then comes that passage which we love so much: “For by grace you have been saved by faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God….”

Paul was the first Christian theologian, and he outdoes himself in this passage. He has given us the history of the human race and our own history. We humans were living lives centered on ourselves, and those lives led nowhere. God, in God’s great love, came among us and became our Good Shepherd, leading us to the good pastures and the still waters where we can find peace, and leading us into life that is rooted and grounded in him. He calls us to love and serve others in his name. As we focus on God’s love and the wonderful gift God has given us, we can certainly rejoice.

Gracious God, thank you for your healing, your unfailing love, your grace, and the gift of new life in you.  Amen.

Lent 2 Year A March 12, 2017

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

Lent is a time for journeying. After God’s people had been freed from slavery in Egypt, they journeyed for forty years in the wilderness until they finally reached the promised land. After he was baptized, Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness, accepting and absorbing God’s love, growing closer to God, and, through prayer, coming to a clear understanding of the nature of his mission and ministry.

In our first reading today, we meet one of the great heroes of our faith, Abraham. Abraham had a good life in Ur of the Chaldees. Ur was an ancient city located in Mesopotamia. It is located on the right bank of the Euphrates River 225 miles Southeast of Baghdad and about 9.9 miles from the city of Nasiriyah in Iraq.

Abraham had a wife, a large extended family, flocks and herds and many possessions.What Abraham and Sarah did not have, much to their sorrow, was children. God called Abraham to leave everything and to journey far from his home into a new land. God said that God would make Abraham a blessing. God also said that Abraham and Sarah would have children as numerous as the stars. Abraham accepted God’s call and became a great icon of faith for all of us.

In our gospel for today, we meet someone else who is on a journey. Nicodemus is a leader among his people. He is a person of deep faith. But there is something about Jesus which compels Nicodemus to go and see him. Being a member of the council of the elders, Nicodemus is taking a great risk to go and talk with Jesus because there are some people on the council who think that Jesus is up to no good, and, if they ever found out that Nicodemus had actually visited Jesus, it could cost him his job and maybe his life.

So Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night. Nicodemus tells Jesus that he knows Jesus is a teacher who has come from God. He is going to ask Jesus some questions. but, before he can do that, Jesus throws him a mysterious comment. Jesus says that no one can see the kingdom of God unless they have been born from above. What in the world does that mean?

Well, Nicodemus takes it literally. You can’t be born when you have grown old, he reasons. Only babies are born. Being a member of the council of the elders, he is old. Then he becomes even more literal. He thinks Jesus is talking about going back into the womb. Jesus throws him an even more mysterious comment. We can’t enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the spirit.

In our baptisms, we have been born of water and the Spirit. We are no longer of the flesh, that is, on the human level only. We have received the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We have the gift of newnesss of life. We see things, not only on the human level but also on the level of God’s vision of shalom, God’s kingdom of peace and harmony. Life has a whole new meaning for us.

We can see Nicodemus grappling with these new ideas. And then Jesus ends their discussion with the best of the Good News: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

What does this mean for us, especially now in Lent? There is a  wonderful hymn which says, “Love came down at Christmas.” Jesus came to be with us because of love. Jesus is love. God is love.

Into a world controlled by the powerful and ruthless Roman Empire, God came to be with us. God came to be with us to say to us, “Always remember, I love you, and I will be with you. I will be among you always.

And he says, “The journey can be difficult, It can seem impossible at times. Always remember that I am right beside you. Sometimes I will go ahead of you, like the Good Shepherd that I am. I will go ahead to show you the way. Sometimes, when it seems impossible to take another step, I will even carry you. I will always be with you. You are not alone, You are never alone.”

This Lent, we are following our Lord on his way to the cross, that instrument of torture and humiliation. Yes, our Lord died on that cross. Why? Because he loves us.  And because he was trying to show us another way to do things. Not by earthly power, but by the power of the Spirit, the power of love.

In a profound sense, our Lenten journey is a journey begun, continued and ended in God’s love.  As we accept and absorb God’s love, we are changed. We are reborn. We become new people. We look at the world and at people with different eyes, eyes filled with hope and love and compassion.

And that changes everything. It changes us and it transforms the world. God’s love heals and changes us and the world. By virtue of our baptisms, we are a part of this process of transforming the creation.

Love came down at Christmas. Love lives among us. Love has been crucified and has risen from the dead.  Love is with us always. We are never alone. He will walk with us, He will go ahead to show us the way. He will carry us when the going gets too tough. He is transforming us. He is transforming the world. May we follow him.  Amen.

Lent 4B RCL March 15, 2015

Numbers 21:4-9
Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
Ephesians 2:1-10
John 3:14-21

In our first reading, we join God’s people on their journey to the promised land. The people are impatient. They are complaining again.  They encounter a particularly terrifying challenge. They come upon poisonous snakes. When the snakes bite the people, the people die.

God tells Moses to make an image of a poisonous snake and put it on a pole. When the people are bitten and they look at the image of the serpent, they will live.  In a sense, the bronze serpent on the pole is an icon to allow the people to connect with the healing power of God.

Once again, in spite of the people’s complaining, God saves them.

God is constantly leading us to freedom, and we humans struggle with the journey, but God always takes care os us. When we are hungry, God gives us manna; when we are thirsty, God gives us water; when we crave meat, God gives us quail. Yet we forget God’s care and we grumble about how difficult the journey is.

Every one of those people who followed Moses out of Egypt knew that they were leaving a life of slavery and going to the promised land. Every one of those people knew that God was leading them. Yet how quickly we forget. Have you ever made a decision after deeply sincere prayer and  careful thought and then second guessed yourself and God’s leading? I think most of us have done that.

That is why these readings from the wilderness journey of God’s people are so important—because they remind us that we humans can so easily forget that God is with us, leading and guiding us. And we can let ourselves  become confused to the point where we think that the comforts of life in slavery are better than the journey to freedom.

In our reading from Ephesians, we are reminded that, when we humans were living according to the flesh, that is, when we were living self-centered lives, when we were wandering around in that wilderness of self-absorption, God, in God’s love, “made us alive together in Christ…and raised us up with him…” Before we humans even thought to ask God, God had already reached out to save us from ourselves.

The kindness and care and mercy of God are truly amazing. Before we humans even realized how much we needed God’s help, God came into the world to save us, to make us whole, to make us well, to heal us. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

In our gospel for today, Jesus refers to our opening reading. Like the bronze image of a serpent lifted by Moses to save and heal the people, Jesus will be lifted up to turn death into life. Herbert O’Driscoll writes, “Jesus sees himself as the healing serpent. raised by the obscene act of crucifixion yet giving healing to those who look.” (The Word Today, Year B Vol. 2, p. 31.)

We are walking the Way of the Cross, and it is not easy. We know that Jesus is our Good Shepherd, out in front of the flock, leading us, but it is easy to forget this when the going gets tough. We may be facing a particular challenge in our lives.  We have been told that God never gives us something that we can’t bear with God’s help, but we may be wondering about that. We may even be grumbling a bit. And it is okay to grumble to God. It is okay to say, “Lord, this is really tough. I need some help with this.” In fact, that is the greatest prayer there is—“Help!”  Lord, help.

When the people were struggling in the wilderness, God was right there. Before we even knew we needed God, God was right here with us. God, Jesus, and the Spirit are here with us now. God loves us so much that God walked into and through death itself so that we don’t have to be consumed by fear. Instead, we can be rooted and grounded in faith and we can have new life.

Are we struggling? Do we have fears? Let us look up and look into the face of our Lord and Savior. Let us see the love in his eyes. Let us feel the grace that he is pouring out upon us. Whatever may be troubling us, let us see and know that he is in our midst, that he is giving each of us the strength we need to walk with him and to walk in his light and life.

Are we full of joy? Are our lives full of peace? Let us look into the eyes of our Lord and see the peace and joy that He is bestowing upon us.

Whatever may be going on on our lives, let us look to our Lord. Let us ask him for what we need, and let us have faith that he is as close as our breath. He came to save us before we even thought to ask him.

Here is a canticle by St. Anselm of Canterbury:

Jesus, as a mother you gather your people to you;
you are gentle with us as a mother with her children.

Often you weep over our sins and our pride,
tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgment.

You comfort us in sorrow and bind up your wounds,
in sickness you nurse us and with pure milk you feed us.

Jesus, by your dying, we are born to new life;
by your anguish and labor we come forth in joy.

Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness;
through your gentleness, we find comfort in fear.

Your warmth gives life to the dead,
your touch makes sinners righteous.

Lord Jesus, in your mercy, heal us;
in your love and tenderness, remake us.

In your compassion, bring grace and forgiveness,
for the beauty of heaven, may your love prepare us.

May His blessing be with us always.   Amen.

Lent 2 Year A RCL March 16, 2014

Genesis 12:1-4a
Psalm 121
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
John 3:1-7

In our opening reading today, we encounter the great icon of faith, Abram, who will later become Abraham. Abram and his wife Sarai, who will later become Sarah, have a comfortable life. But when God calls Abraham to take Sarah and all their possessions and go to the land of Canaan and start a new nation, Abraham says Yes to God. The journey of Abraham and Sarah will lead them into whole new identities.

Abraham has no idea where Canaan is or how to get there. He is taking a journey into the unknown. But, if God wants him to go and found a nation that will be a blessing to all nations, even when he and Sarah have no children, Abraham is going to take that journey. He has faith that God will indeed bless him, and he has courage, the kind of courage that astronauts have, or sea captains have when they set out to find a new world.

Our psalm describes the kind of relationship we need to have with God when we set out on the journey of life. We need to know that God is going to be with us, God is going to do all that God can to protect us and help us. God cannot shield us from every adversity, but God will be there to guide us and comfort us. We are so fortunate that we can lift up our eyes to the hills and feel the loving protection of God.

In our gospel for today we have another courageous person. Nicodemus is a member of the Sanhedrin, the council that is in charge of the Temple in Jerusalem and is also the governing body of Judah. This group of men has a huge amount of power. They are the religious and political leaders. Nicodemus is a Pharisee, an expert on the law. He is a scholar and a very intelligent man. He is also wealthy, as are all the members of the Council. He is an astute politician, accustomed to the power dynamics which take place at the highest levels of any government.

Nicodemus has a lot to lose. He is at the top of the political and religious structure of Judah. And yet there is something about this Jesus which draws him like a magnet. It would be foolhardy to go and see Jesus in the daytime, so he goes to visit Jesus under cover of night. If anyone knew that he was doing this, he would lose his job, his position of respect, and possibly even his life.

The Pharisees and others are already keeping their eyes on this Jesus, thinking that he is a major troublemaker. Nicodemus clearly respects Jesus. He says, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do the things that you do apart from the presence of God.”

Jesus’ response makes a quantum leap into a whole new world. “No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” This blows Nicodemus’ theology right out of the water. He has never heard such talk. He goes to the literal level and asks Jesus if people have to go back into their mother’s womb and be born again. Jesus says, “No, the Holy Spirit does this. And then Jesus says that he is the Savior, the One sent from God because God loves us so much that God wants us to have life in a new dimension, starting right now. We have no idea what Nicodemus’ reaction is to this.

The next time we meet Nicodemus is in Chapter 7 of John’s gospel when the authorities are plotting to condemn Jesus. With great courage, Nicodemus asks, “Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing, does it?” The authorities accuse Nicodemus of being from Galilee, in other words, an ally of Jesus. (7:50-51.)

Our final meeting with Nicodemus takes place at the saddest time of all. Jesus has been crucified. Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin and a secret follower of Jesus, risks everything and asks Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body from the Cross.  Nicodemus comes with one hundred pounds of costly spices with which to anoint the body of Jesus. Together, they take our Lord from the cross. They are exposing themselves to ritual uncleanness by handling a dead body. Their careers will be over. Their lives may be in danger.

Yet together they gently and lovingly lift the beloved body off the spikes, reverently anoint it with spices and wrap it in cloths for burial. Then they place the body of Jesus in the new tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus have clearly been transformed. They have entered the kingdom of Jesus. They have been born anew.

We have no idea about the stages of Nicodemus’ journey, but we see these profoundly moving glimpses. He is willing to risk everything for Jesus. Just this one encounter with Jesus allowed Nicodemus to be born again. Just those few moments with Jesus began his process of transformation. What a wonderful example for us,

May we be open to the love of Jesus and the power of the Spirit.

Amen.