210530 Trinity B Isaiah 6:1-8, Ps 29, Romans 8:12-17 John 3:1-17
+ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit Amen.
The portion of the Gospel according to St John read this morning is one of several conversations Jesus had which intimately lays bare the heart of the individual he is conversing with. The conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus is followed by one with the Samaritan woman from Sychar at Jacob’s well, the Gentile official whose dying son was at home in Capernaum and the lame man at the pool of Bethesda.
Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the ruling religious council, the Sanhedrin. This group of leaders were intensely jealous of Jesus because he undermined their authority and challenged their views and were often criticised by Jesus for being hypocritical.
Nicodemus was searching and believed Jesus had some answers. A learned teacher himself, he came looking personally and later came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, that he was who he said he was. Nicodemus did not know a lot about God. From the writings of the prophets, he knew the whole earth would be ruled by God and that the kingdom of God would be restored on earth and it would incorporate God’s place. Jesus revealed to him that this was not for Jews only, but for all people on earth and that to be part of it a person must be born again.
This was a revolutionary concept meaning that the kingdom was flexible and personal, and that the entrance requirements were to embrace the change that repentance would bring and the experience of Spiritual re-birth. In the turn-around of Nicodemus’ life, the love of the Trinitarian God was at work. Most Christians think of the Trinity as God in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but they are one. Can we think more deeply about this? The word we sometimes translate as “person” (hypostasis in Greek) does not mean an individual at all but would be better understood as “a state of being.”
Every week since Easter and leading to Pentecost we have been hearing of the love which flows from the Son to the Father and from the Father to the Son and to us as children of God. As heirs to the kingdom of God, can we think of the relationship between God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as a complex outpouring of love, from Father to Son, from Son to Spirit, from Spirit back to Father. This love is a total self- emptying love which can be thought of as a circle full of energy and power. This is the love which raised Jesus to life.
It is this love which Isaiah had for his people. It is this love that Paul had for the Romans. It is this love that Jesus had for Nicodemus. and it is this love that Jesus has for the Father and the Father for Jesus and which will provide resurrection for us all at the end of time. It is this love which God has for us. This is the love which we need to show to all the people in our lives.
God has a way of finding and changing people we may consider out of reach. It is because he searches out the heart of a person and knows it. It took a while for Nicodemus to come out of the dark, but God was patient with this “undercover believer.” Was Nicodemus afraid of being judged by his colleagues? In any case he made an appointment to see Jesus at night. Daylight conversations between Pharisees and Jesus tended to be antagonistic, but Nicodemus really wanted to learn. He probably got a lot more than he expected—a challenge to a new life. We know very little about Nicodemus, but we know that he left that evening’s encounter a changed man. He came away with a whole new understanding of God and himself.
When we are born again and follow the path of Christ, we find that in essence the seraph has been before us with the hot coal, and we find ourselves practicing a sanctified self-emptying love. Our selfish wants have no importance. This self-emptying love appears, in acts of compassion, acts of kindness and unconditional love towards others, both at the everyday level of our doing and with some alchemy of divine energy in our being.
There is power in this sacred doing and being to transform the darkest situation which appears to have no saving grace into something inspiring and hopeful.
For over twenty years now there has been discussions and many words written and said on various levels as to how we can be reconciled with the indigenous people of our land who have suffered all sorts of horror at the hands of people of power in the past and even now in our time. The time has come that more than a word is needed. “Reconciliation takes Action” to achieve and one of the ways we can come closer to the action is to begin to share our lives in genuine friendship.
Individually, can we be friends with our indigenous neighbours, rejoice with them in the achievements of their children, weep with them when a much-loved Aunty and revered Elder is ill or passes from this world to the next, sit with them in compassionate silence in their grief, and with loud courage speak up for truth and justice when we see that some action or law is patently unfair?
There are many ways we can be part of the sacred doing and being to transform our relationships with our Aboriginal neighbours and at first even a suggestion of doing this may be overwhelming. If we are willing, ways can easily be found.
From time to time our Grafton Regional Gallery has exhibitions of art and craft created by Yaegl, Bundjalung and Gumbaynggirr people and there are opportunities to speak with the artists. We can learn their spiritual journey and family history. We can learn our history of residential institutions and the stories of individuals of the stolen generation and listen, truly listen to the stories being told by survivors. We will be better equipped so we can begin to make changes in our own lives to become allies and deepen our relationships with Indigenous People.
By “being” and listening we can share the laying bare of our hearts and acknowledge the pain. Little by little there can be an extraordinary outcome for the future and for the Kingdom of God as we in friendship and love sing together,
may we be one with all your church above, one with your saints in one unbroken peace, one with your saints in one unbounded love; more blessèd still, in peace and love to be one with the Trinity in Unity (1)
and we will truly see our Trinitarian God at work. Amen.
(1) TIS 521 Lord Christ, at your first eucharist you prayed that all your church might be for ever one.
The Reverend Canon Camellia Flanagan TSSF