the one where Jesus meets us where we are...
March 9, 2020, 8:23 AM

Sermon from March 8, 2020

Text: Genesis 12:1-4a & John 3:1-17

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen.

So, back in college I had a friend my freshman year who got really, really, into a faith group on campus. In his time with that group he found community, he delved deeper into his faith, he started pulling back from all those things that (they believed) turned him away from God.

As a part of that group he drank less, he prayed more, he started taking his studies (a little bit) more seriously. In many ways, we were happy for him. I mean really happy.

But, then we got a little worried about him. He became obsessed with everything. He became worried that everything he had done in his brief 18 years of life had already removed him from God’s love. It didn’t really help that this new group was kind of feeding that thought a bit.

I remember one day as I went into his room all his music was gone. All his CDs, his CD player, his music books. All of it. Gone. Anything that had to do with music was removed from his dorm room. And this was a guy who had a serious and a seriously good music collection. Rock, rap, country, R&B, classics, he loved it all.

I remember asking his roommate, what happened to it all. And he said, “that group made him burn it. All of it. It got chucked into a bonfire last night.”

I was worried about my friend. I was thankful for a friend that was more responsible, more aware of his faith, that valued his studies and friendships a bit more. But, I was also worried. I was worried that a group was using faith to remove anything that made my friend who the person he actually was. I was worried. And I wasn’t the only one.

Now, as I recall that time, I couldn’t help, but think about our first reading this morning. This text from Genesis that we do – as people and a community of faith – lift up as true faithfulness to God.

Here we have Abram who hears God speak to him, who feels God ever close to him, and follows God’s command given to him. And that command? Pack up everything that you own, gather your people, and go to a land that I will show you.

Abram does it. It’s faithful, but when you think about it, it’s pretty ridiculous what he does.

He leaves everything. He leaves his country, he leaves his family, he leaves everything that is him, and follows God’s command.

As I read that text, I wonder what his friends were saying. I’d like to think that his friends were a lot like me. I’d like to think that they worried about Abram as much as I was worried about my friend who burned his entire music collection for the satisfaction and appeasement of a new group that he had become a part of.

I think we always worry about our friends when they do incredibly trusting and faithful things in their call to follow God. In those beginning moments, it is difficult to see how ‘this act’ could lead to God. Where it seems so counter to conventional wisdom and so counter to what we know this person to be.

I can only imagine what Abram’s friends thought as he packed his bags, his family, his estate and headed off to literally only where God knows where. Remember, Abram had no idea where he was going. He was trusting that God would indeed show him.

Eventually, that trust and faith would lead to incredible things not only for Abram and Sarai, but for his friends, and even for us. For we are connected and grafted into that family history through Jesus who is our Christ.

And, here we are in Lent where you might get some side-eyes and more from those around you if you felt called to give up or take on something during this season that just might change your life in formative and faithful ways.

Those ways that go against what the world sees as ‘sound advice.’ That counters the culture around us. That becomes radical in its love and acceptance – like that radical love and acceptance that Jesus models throughout the gospels. People get taken aback when others actually start living into the things that Jesus talks about and invites us into.

But, here’s the thing I want us to understand. Being worried, prayerful, or inquisitive about what Jesus calls for isn’t a bad thing. Take a look at our Gospel text for today. This famous text where we get one of the most well-known verses in all of scripture.

Yet, it is derived from a conversation begun in anxiousness by Nicodemus. He is worried. He is concerned. He is asking questions. He wants to know more.

Jesus doesn’t throw him away. Jesus doesn’t tell him he’s wrong. Jesus doesn’t chide him, condemn him, or insult him. Instead, Jesus goes to meet him.

Jesus meets him during the night, away from the prying eyes, the whispers, the upturned noses, and more. Jesus meets Nicodemus where he’s at. Jesus has a conversation with Nicodemus in a loving and gentle way. Even if it is a brain buster that we’re still trying to discern today.

In your worries, your concerns, your questions – Jesus meets you. God is present with you. The Spirit guides you.

I think that the friends Abram might have had were comforted by God. I feel I was comforted by God as I spoke with my friend. I didn’t understand or completely agree with his radical shift in his life. But, as I look at him now, I can’t argue with where it’s led him.

He’s faithful. He’s active in his faith community. He has the love and support of his wife and family – whom he also loves and supports completely. God has been present with them through wonderful times and some pretty awful times. Reminding him and others always, that no matter what, God loves them fully and completely.

Though, one of the times I saw him – years after that night when he burned all his music, I asked him about it. Even he admits that might have been a rash decision. He still enjoys that music – he can’t deny that. But, I think he knows that no matter what, God was going to meet him in the midst of wherever he was.

Maybe he – maybe each of us – have our own Nicodemus moments. Those moments where we ask our Lord to meet us so that we can get our questions and our feelings out. And you know what, Jesus meets us there. Always. Not to thump us over the head with scripture, but to hear our worries and concerns, to hear our questions.

And when Jesus speaks – it may not always answer everything we’ve asked. It may not give answers that are clear and concise. But, those conversations in the night with God do give us something.

When our Lord meets us where we are, it is not intended that we stay in that spot. Nicodemus will show up a couple of more times in John’s gospel. Each time he grows a little bolder in his view and acceptance of Jesus. Eventually he’ll be a part of the group who takes Jesus’ body down from the cross and places him in a new tomb.

Nicodemus didn’t stay where he was. He grew. He moved. He was continually open to the Lord’s words and life. I don’t know about Abram’s friends, but I imagine God comforted them as they worried about their friend and his future. I believe our God brought me and those around me comfort in the midst of our worries about our mutual friend, too. As we prayed – Lord, let him be safe in you – I feel God definitely said, “He’s ok. I’m there. I promise.”

We all have those conversations. We all have those worries. We all have those seeds of faith planted in our hearts. Those seeds that grow into trust, love, and hope. Those seeds of faith that don’t let us stay where we are.

It reminds us of God’s promise given to the world. The promise, hope, and grace of God’s love. That in that love freely, abundantly, and prodigiously given we are saved.

All of us. Amen.

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