Our Gospel Reading this morning is the story of Nicodemus. It’s from the Gospel of John, and the last time I checked, they were pretty sure that it was written in what is now Turkey. It’s very Greek in its thinking, and I always like that. They think John was written “as a teaching story” to try to explain the Christ Event. It is not historical. It is theological.
Well, the story of Nicodemus only appears in the Gospel of John. The name Nicodemus is Greek, and was a fairly common name among Greeks, and later became popular amongst the Jews. This morning I want to look at the very last line of today’s reading. But before going there, I need to set the stage.
Some of you have heard me fuss about my barber. He is a deacon in his Baptist Church and very conservative. He is an officer in his lodge – I’m not sure which lodge, but I know I never want to go there. He is as far right, politically, as any person can be. And he attracts a crowd of like minded characters that come to the shop to kill time and share their views, and get all wound up.
Now, I don’t know what it’s like in a beauty parlor, but in a barber shop, once you are in the chair, you are trapped. You don’t want to get the barber upset, or horrible things can happen to your hair. And he does wield a straight razor to trim up at the end of the hair cut. The thing could do some major surgery, if the barber got too excited. And in the most heated moments of a “conversation”, my barber swings that chair around, looks me in the face, and says something like, “Isn’t that right?” And you’d better say “Yes”, or something horrible will happen. Don’t ask me why I go there. I DON’T KNOW! I’ve been going there for about 30 years. I don’t understand it.
Well, since the election of Obama, the main topic of conversation in that barber shop is politics. But PRIOR to Obama, “conversations” centered around religion – and the Bible, and sin, and evil, and all that good stuff. I knew I would get a homily out of it some day, and this is it. Frankly, I think I prefer the politics to the religion. But every time I read this passage from John, my mind drifts to that barber shop, with that razor waiving around to prove a point about Jesus.
The last line of our reading this morning is:
“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.”
Now, I have to tell you those old timers in that barber shop know this passage well. But they have missed the word “not.” In their righteous, Bible centered theology, Jesus – “the Son”, was sent to condemn the world. I don’t care what ill, or injustice, or wrong that can be found in the world, Jesus somehow got dragged into it as “proof” of how sinful it all is. You should have heard them when Obama got elected. Their only hope was in Jesus. Jesus would fix it, because it was WRONG.
Jesus becomes the “Great Condemner.” “Jesus SAYS this is wrong.” “Jesus SAYS you shouldn’t do that.” “Jesus SAYS this or that is evil.” “Jesus is watching us, and if we don’t get right, horrible things are going to happen to us, like the election of Obama. We’ve all heard it, in some form – hopefully not with a razor waiving around in front of us. Jesus gets “called up” to condemn all those little things that you, and I, and the next guy think are wrong. And in some cases, poor Jesus has the most incredible quotes put into his mouth – at least in that barber shop – to prove that something is wrong – to “condemn the world.”
Anybody can stand around and tell us that we’re doing wrong. It’s easy to tell someone that they are wrong. We do it all the time. It’s a “people thing.” But to “save the world”, now, that’s something special. That’s a “God thing.”
I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I know I wouldn’t begin by beating people over the head with what they’ve done wrong. That isn’t going to save anything. I think I’d start by just trying to be supportive of my fellow human beings as they try to live out their lives, as best they can. I think I’d focus on the positive. If I was trying to save the world, I think I’d begin by trying to model a “good life.” I’d try to show by example what a good and faithful life is. If I was trying to “save the world”, I’d be really concerned about the discouraged, the downtrodden, the abused, the ill, the elderly, the addicts, the depressed. I guess that’s where I’d start. I’d try to do some teaching – things that would make people feel better about themselves. I’d try to encourage people to get along with each other. I’d try to get people to laugh. There are a lot of things that I would TRY to do IF my job was to “save the world.”
But we are the Body of Christ in this world, today. You and I. We’re told that Christ’s spirit is IN us, and we are the body of that spirit. Christ’s commission is our commission.
We are in the Season of Lent, when we are supposed to be looking at the lives we lead – looking for ways to be more fully the Body of Christ, living in community. This week maybe we can ponder what we would do, personally, in our own little ways, to “save the world”, and then see if we can find some little opportunity to accomplish just a tiny little bit of it. If all of us just here in this room, this week, found 1 or 2 opportunities to make this a better world, and we added it all together, it would be a better world. All of us working together as the Body of Christ, with Christ’s Spirit in us and driving us can make this a better world, this week. We can do it! You and I can do it, in just little ways, but we can do it.
“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” – using us.
March 8, 2020