Sunday, 16 March 2014

Sermon: For this purpose

Genesis 12:1-4a
John 3: 1-17
a short sermon... which may become longer in the preaching! It's a busy service and lots going on today, so maybe short is ok! 
Blessings to those who read and those who listen, and on those who do both! 

Primulas in my garden: born again after a long grey winter

One of the most famous verses in the bible; possibly the very first memory verse you ever learned at Summer Bible club? The verse that is often quoted as the reason for everything else. It is featured in songs and hymns and posters and on wee bracelets...
What am I talking about?
John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he sent his only son, so that whoever believes in him shall not die but have eternal life.

Imagine for a moment if that were your purpose; your reason for living.
To bring hope, and love and life to the world.
Now, imagine also, that you are the one who first heard it.
The man who came in under cover of darkness: secretly, quietly, privately... seeking to speak with this teacher; seeking to know more.
Under cover of darkness...
Or maybe, rather, in the darkness finding light?

In the deep of the night, for those of us who wake, and pace, or think or wonder: many things can suddenly become clear
Suddenly make sense
Ideas come
And vague notions take on a new clarity
Nicodemus came to Jesus in the night, and there has been a long held assumption this was to protect his identity, so that no one else would know about his curiosity, his yearning to hear more; but what if it was simply because he sought illumination; he’d paced all night and could simply wait no longer for the answers to the questions which buzzed through his mind?
Nicodemus needed to move – to travel to go and see Jesus
Abram, a wise and faithful man; who also needed to move... moved because God commanded it; prompted it; promised that through that move would come great blessings

Abram was not a young man; and he had his troubles: he had no son, no heir, yet, he utterly believed the impossible: looking out at the night sky, he saw millions of stars... and believed God’s promise that this would be his legacy. How? Why?
Because as a man of faith he trusted God’s promise.

Because, even though it must have seemed like madness, he knew it was the right thing to do...
As a Jewish leader, as a man of faith, the example of Abram would have been permanently etched on Nicodemus’ heart and understanding.
He knew that:
God does strange and wondrous things.
Even if, in his day, no one had seen anything wondrous and strange for a very long time – until...this man came along.

And Nicodemus knew.
This man is different
This man has something to offer
This man I need to talk to; I need to ask and seek and learn.
So he came under cover of darkness
Seeking light
He came in the night, seeking a new dawn
I am sure he never expected to be invited to a new birth though!

Jesus knew he was dealing with an educated, curious and enquiring man. A man who wanted and needed answers.
Jesus answered with hard concepts, and deep theology
And then, then even this early in his ministry he speaks of all that is to come.
This continues even now to astonish me!
We are so often used to the phrase “the time is not right”, “do not tell anyone until...” and yet here, Jesus talks openly, frankly about what is to come.
The Son of Man must be lifted up
So that everyone who believes will have eternal life
This is not a conditional promise: there are no complex or hard conditions attached:
Everyone who believes in Jesus may have eternal life

Because this is how much God loves the world
This is how much God loves his people
This is how much God loves YOU!
It really is that simple
Love God
Believe in Jesus Christ
Receive the promise of eternal life
God sent his Son
To save the world
What a purpose!

What a promise!

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