12th March, 2017
In this morning’s Gospel, we learn that Nicodemus is a very brave man. He senses revolution is in the air. So, under the cover of darkness he slips out of the comfort and safety of his home, and his status as a leader of the Jews, to seek out Jesus. He is eager to learn from the man preaching profound change.
His fellow Pharisees simply want to suppress the revolution, to preserve their power. But Nicodemus is fascinating by Jesus. He is full of questions. He wants to learn much more from Jesus.
His colleagues call Jesus a rabble-rouser. But Nicodemus addresses him with deep respect:
“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.”
With startling clarity Jesus describes the revolution:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have enteral 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.”
These words over-throw everything humankind thinks about itself. These words fundamentally remake our relationship with God the Creator. These words profoundly redefine what it means to be human. To be saved.
Over-throw…remake…redefine…means to be human…to be saved.
Present tense. Happening now. Just as real and alive for us today as it was for Nicodemus.
It seems another revolution of society, politics, economics and ecology is underway now, one shaking the very foundations of civilised society and the progress of humankind.
As far-reaching and testing as this is, it is by far a less profound revolution than Jesus’. But it is Jesus’ revolution which is guiding us now through ours.
Early last winter, a small change in my life made me realise something very big was going on in the world.
The revelation came to me in one of my favourite, ‘tho prosaic, places – the bike shop I’ve frequented for the past 15 years or so.
Steve and Craig, the two mechanics there, quickly noted the work I needed done on one of my bikes — yes, I do confess to having half a dozen, different ones for different purposes.
Then unprompted, they began telling me very energetically all about Donald Trump. They spoke of him not out of admiration or support. But rather wonder and amusement that he says and does…and seems to do so with impunity.
I was struck how engaged they were with him. How much time, effort and interest they invested in him. How keen they were to tell me about him…and to hear what I thought of him.
This was remarkable. In the 15 years I’ve been going to this family-owned and run bike shop I’ve had lively and interesting conversations with Steve and Craig about bikes – yes, you can! But I’d never managed much of a discussion about anything else with them.
In fact, so limited was their knowledge of me after 15 years, I learnt recently that they thought I worked for Westpac. Not just a bank. But specifically, Westpac. Perhaps that explained to them why I could afford so many bikes.
The revelation was how viscerally many people engage with Trump, for and against…in spite of, or because of, fake news, alternative facts, White House histrionics, unpresidential bluster and bullying, and an average of four seriously wrong statements a day by Trump since he took office, according to the Washington Post’s fact checkers.
The revolution is causing — in the US and many European countries — the rapid decay, and breakdown of the societal values, political processes and economic systems, the very bedrocks that have made possible prosperity and relative peace for billions of people over the past 70 years since the end of the Second World War.
Some of the causes are weaknesses in the systems and values themselves. There is much we must improve or even reinvent. But it is the exploitation of those, weaknesses and failures by the likes of Trump and similar far right politicians in Europe which is exacerbating the breakdown.
How much our societies will change is pretty much anyone’s guess – or, more importantly, we have very little idea yet in what ways we will be worse of better off.
Through this, though, I have felt hopeless. Hopeless, as in feeling feeble. And hopeless, as in without hope.
For a couple of years now, I’d felt I’d ceased to learn, I’d ceased to reach new understandings of how we might progress. I felt I was banging my head against a brick wall. I felt I had nothing new to offer other people who, like me, are searching or something better.
No matter how much I read, how many facts I amassed, how carefully I crafted my words, how snazzy were my PowerPoint presentations…I was very, very stuck.
Then, with that conversation with Steve and Craig nearly a year ago something began to change. Very slowly at first…but since the beginning of this year with increasing speed.
It seems to me, three connected, mutually supporting things are going on in my life…things I’m now experiencing with a vivid intensity.
First, is people:
I’ve long known how wonderful people are…’tho never perfect, of course, and sometimes awful…so perhaps I was holding something back, putting up some barriers for fear of being hurt.
But I’m finally letting go a little…and something quite extraordinary is happening. The most wonderful new colleagues are coming into my life, bring me new energy and purpose – above all, inspiration and opportunity for growth.
Second, is belief:
I’ve long known what I believe in. The three greatest things are love, and truth, and justice.
But now I know I have to fight, with others, for them…for all people.
The third, and greatest of all is the Holy Spirit.
I’ve long known in my life that God moves in mysterious ways through the Holy Spirit. On quite a few occasions, it just turned up. I was never sure, though, how to truly open up my life to the Spirit.
But now I’m think I’m starting to glimpse that. I’m trying to stop chasing my tail, trying to create a little time, space and peace for contemplation, meditation and prayer.
So, for me this morning’s readings are incredibly powerful.
In John’s Gospel, Nicodemus us every one of us who summons up the courage to leave the comfort and safety of our homes and status to seek God’s love…and in finding it, we are made whole.
And Genesis teaches none of us are too old to hear the world of God.
None of us will found nations and dynasties as Abram did…But none of us need to. If each of us joins Jesus’ revolution, we can each do our bit to secure this latest revolution.
All it takes is for an infinite number of us to make an infinitesimally small contribution, then we will help bring, love, truth and justice to the world.
– Rod Oram