March 12 Sermon

What are you looking for?
A Reflection for three voices
For March 12 2017, the Second Sunday of Lent
By Rev. Dr. Thom Bower
Based on Gen 12:1-4, Psalm 121 and John 3:1-13

Nicodemus: Rabbi, teacher, I have come to learn.
Yes, I am a Pharisee, a religious leader among my people.
I pray I am wise enough to recognize that
even as a leader I continue to learn God’s ways.
So Rabbi, teacher, I am here to learn of faith.
I have seen your miracles.
I have heard your teaching.
I desire a more fulfilling life.
Can you instruct me in the ways of life?
Scripture: I raise my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.
Jesus: What are you looking for Nicodemus?
Why do you come to me at night?
Are you afraid others will see you consulting me?
Are you afraid your reputation will be stained?
Do you think this cloak of darkness will hide your lack of faith?
Do you think the night disguises your doubt-filled spirit?
What are you looking for?
Scripture: God won’t let your foot slip.
Your protector won’t fall asleep on the job.
No! Israel’s protector never sleeps or rests!
Nicodemus: Rabbi, teacher, I have come to learn.
I want certainty of faith, like that of our ancestors.
I want to know I am moving towards
God’s promised land of blessing.
I desire confirmation that I am doing what God wants.
And I desire confirmation that God is on my side.
Oh, I know God is everywhere so I am always in God’s presence, but
I want certitude that God is doing great things for me,
that I will benefit from seeking God’s ways.
Can you instruct me in the ways of life?
Scripture: I raise my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.
Jesus: What are you looking for Nicodemus?
You want the faith of your ancestors?
Do you think faith was somehow easier for them?
God said to Abram Go:
Go from Ur.
Get away from the settled areas
I am not providing you a map
I am not telling you the route
I am not telling you the final destination
Go on: get lost!
Go find the promised land – I’ll show it to you eventually.
You have to let go of the familiar to receive the new blessings God promises.
Now what are you looking for?
Scripture: The LORD is your protector;
the LORD is your shade right beside you.
The sun won’t strike you during the day;
neither will the moon at night.
Nicodemus: Rabbi, teacher, I have come to learn.
I want to be more full of life.
Every-day demands wear me down.
I am tired.
Some days I am without hope.
Some days I am uncertain of God’s ways.
I want to be filled with wonder like I was when I was a child.
I want to wake up looking forward to the day.
I want to be excited about the people whom
I will see throughout my day’s activities.
Can you instruct me in the ways of life?
Scripture: I raise my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.
Jesus: What are you looking for Nicodemus?
To perceive God’s reign
you must be born from above,
you must be reborn,
you must be born again,
you must be transformed.
You must rely on God more and
rely less on what you already know.
You are not misinformed, nor are you necessarily wrong.
But the renewal you seek is different than the past you know.
For God to do a new thing,
and for you to receive this blessing,
you need to depart from the things of which you are so certain.
What are you looking for?
Scripture: The LORD will protect you from all evil;
God will protect your very life.
Nicodemus: Rabbi, teacher, I have come to learn.
I cannot return to my mother’s womb to be reborn as an infant.
God has blessed me to live to the age that I am.
I am established.
I have professional credentials.
I really cannot start all over again as though I were a teenager,
let alone a newborn.
Some parts of my life are good, comforting.
They give me security.
I like the benefits of living in this urban area.
I seek greater security in the realm of God.
Can you instruct me in the ways of life?
Scripture: I raise my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.
Jesus: What are you looking for Nicodemus?
Can you feel that breeze?
That is the breath of God’s spirit.
No one knows where it began;
no one knows where it ends.
It pushes ships,
lifts kites,
inflates balloons,
shapes the mountains you keep looking to for help.
Certainly, you cannot give up the
wind and breath and spirit God has placed within you.
But what can you give up in order to follow God’s leading?
Can you give up certainty?
Predictability?
The comfort of a stable home?
Can you give up your reputation?
Those professional credentials you are so proud of:
what if you had to
work,
labor
live without them?
Belief does not require credentials.
What are you looking for?
Why do you say you have faith
when your trust in God is so tentative?
Scripture: The LORD will protect you on your journeys—
whether going or coming—
from now until forever from now.
Jesus: Now, just what are you looking for?

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