a leader of the Jewish Sanhardrin
this Powerful and respected leader
came quietly under the cover of darkness
to meet with and learn from Jesus...
I often wonder about that meeting
was it so amazing that Nicodemus was changed so much by it
or is that meeting the only one reported on in the bible
and the truth is that they met more often than has been noted.
we will never know whether it was the one meeting
or the many meetings
All we know is that meeting Jesus changed Nicodemus
As a Pharisee
as a leader of the Sanhadrin
Nicodemus was present at the mock trial
it was he who spoke up
saying that that the law requires that a person be heard
before being judged…
Nicodeumus from knowing and learning of Jesus
knew Jesus to be innocent
innocent. as Jesus was tried, tortured and killed
And at the death of Jesus we see Nicodemus
stepping out of the darkness
and into full light
as he accompanied Joseph another secret disciple of Jesus
to ask for the body of Jesus
not only did Nicodemus accompany Joseph
Nicodemus took with him
a mixture of myrrh and alloes..
the two of these leaders
these secret disciples took the body of Jesus
wrapped it with the spices and in strips of linen..
Yet is was only at the time of torture and death
that we see Nicodemus finding the courage to speak out
and by doing so he staked his reputation on all he was
the respect of others
his position as a leader
he was willing to give all this up
to care for Jesus..
Again we need to remember
someone considered a blasphemer could not receive
the rites of a proper Jewish Funeral
gave to Jesus as much of the rites as he was able
before the sun went down and the Sabbath began
Nicodemus is a man
similar to Saul
who held one view
and upon meeting Jesus
truly meeting Jesus
are changed beyond anything they could have imagined ..
The story of Nicodemus reminds me of
the life ofAugust Landmesser
a gentleman who we meet publicly in 1936
at the launch ceremony of a German ship
at which Hitler himself was present
when everyone else raised their arms in salute
and in allegiance to the Nazi Party and Adolph Hitler.
kept his hands down and folded infant of him
Why might a young man behave differently to the rules
everyone else was following?
Well.August joined the Nazi Party in 1931
believing in its philosophy and connections
believing he could be something big
make the right connections
Then he met a woman named Irma Exkler
a Jewess …
Remember the intolerance of the German ideal
the hatred of those different
who do not fit what Hitler believed to be right
the ones following the right rules..
having a relationship with Irma
must have meant his eyes were opened
he himself changed..
Nothing was public
in the open
until August and Irma were engaged…
and because August was countering the Nazi party rule
he was expelled from the Nazi party
and their marriage application
denied under the racial Nuremberg Laws..
August was imprisoned for not hiding his love of Irma
and Irma sent to a Euthensai centre..
just for being born a Jew
Change happened to August as he experienced love
anyone who denies love
is denying the love of God within them
And August changed by experiencing love
could not hide in the dark any more
his love for Irma
was more than his desire for connections,
for power, esteem and money…
By experiencing love
he knew the intolerance of the Nazi party
and he could not accept what he was
and needed to be who he was as someone in love and loved.
That is the same way that the heart and mind of Nicodemus
through experiencing the love and teaching of God..
So today I have a couple of questions in my heart
Are we who come to church
coming to listen - hear - learn
about Jesus under cover of darkness?
I know we physically come to Church in the day time
.. the darkness to which I refer
is the darkness of hiding
hiding our questions
our understanding or even our misunderstanding
through our hiding are we denying Jesus?
Or are we being bold in being Church
are we bold in speaking to others about being Church..
about living in the love of God
in and through Jesus..
Or do we come on a Sunday and that's it..
No more thought about meeting together
Or joining in with events
or gatherings which happen during the week..
Do we not want to be seen as followers
as disciples of Jesus.?
Nicodemus did not want people to see him with Jesus
He had a position to uphold
Perhaps he didn't want to have to think more deeply
about this man Jesus..
Yet though the conversations
todays reading show us that he did think deeply..
he did try to work out the incongruence of his leadership roll
and the teachings of Jesus
He even recognised God within Jesus
as he said.. 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 very presence of God
Jesus was born Emmanuel
God with us
Emmanuel speaks of God in Jesus
remember Jesus was fully human
but living in relationship
letting the Holy Spirit blow where it will
turns water into wine
feed thousands from a few simple loaves and fishes
brings Lazarus to life..
equips the woman at the well to bring others to him
to see who the Messiah is
Jesus, Emmanuel, our Messiah, our Redeemenr and our friend
tells us that to know him properly
we have to be born from above
we have to hear again the call of the Spirit in our lives
we have to hear again the call to covenant
to give of ourself and receive from God..
Nicodemus was eager
Nicodemus engaged… Nicodemus learnt
how… through experiencing relationship with Jesus
Nicodemus’ life was changed for ever
he gave up on all he held dear
and came to hold Jesus and all he offered
dearer than his own desires..
Nicdemus finally came out and become public
about his relationship with Jesus
But... and here's the thing
He became VOCAL AND VISIBLE … AsJesus was dying..
So I ask
Are we waiting for the Church here to die
before we all put aside the things which we are respected for
the things we hold power over
the things we prefer
the excuses we make
Are we waiting for death
before we testify to what we have seen
so others can receive our testimony
others can see God within us
One hour on a Sunday is not enough
enough time or enough space
to let the Spirit of God blow through our hearts and minds
enough to show others the presence of God within us?
I invite you again
to gather more than on a Sunday
I invite you to share fellowship
Share our stories
Share our joys and our sorrows
Share our lives
Together in mutually flourishing relationships
Today more than ever
we have to learn again
to be Church
Church who do not hide in the darkness
We have to open our doors
and our hearts
We have to be Church who meet together in the light
we have to be the ones who does not raise our hands
to the worlds bigotry
to the power of others ….. because its safe
The mossed missed thing about Jesus
about being a Christian
is… Jesus was radical
he stood up in the light against those who held power bases
he stood up in the light and confronted behaviours and beliefs
He stood up and taught us how to be Church
Meeting, eating, walking, worshiping, studying,
spending time together..
with his disciples
with those who came by darkness
so he could show us how to be Church
who would gather anywhere to be Church
stand up for the weak, the vulnerable, the poor, the needy,
So as the body of Christ here in our little patch of North Yorkshire
can we step out of the darkness
can we step into the light of being seen
can we confront behaviour that do not value all people
Can we be like August Landmesser
and be different to the crowd
walking in the light
and not the darkness.
Can we let Jesus change us
can we let him remove the scales from our eyes
as he Did to Saul
So we too can remove the yolk of oppression
from our hearts and minds
allowing our faith to be seen
in all we are and in all we do.