Sermon for 2nd Sunday in Lent - March 12 2017

Sermon for the Second Sunday in Lent, Year A
March 12, 2016
The Rev. Evelyn Wheeler, Rector

Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalm 121; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17; John 3:1-17

Nicodemus comes by night to see Jesus and find out who he is.

And Jesus talks to him about being born from above, born of the Spirit, born anew.

It’s very confusing.

This is everything about Jesus in John’s gospel – he never answers a question the way anyone expects, and he rarely does what anyone expects.

What made him so interesting, though?  Miracles and signs?  Perhaps that was a part of it.  The things he said about God?  No doubt.

But it was also a matter of how he responded to the people around him.

He challenged them.

As he challenges us.  To think larger.  To live in the tension of not knowing.  To be … vulnerable.

Nicodemus was vulnerable, though it’s not clear that he knew it altogether.  He came by night – was that because he had a day job, or was it because he was worried what his coworkers would think if they knew he had come to see Jesus?

Jesus, who had only recently said “I will tear down this temple and rebuild it in three days” – just after kicking the merchants and money-changers out of the temple grounds.

More mystery.  More confusion.

But even if it’s not in the text, I think the key word is vulnerability. 

Jesus refused all the power that was his to claim.  Son of God, John called him; Lamb of God.  We heard about the temptations last week, and the Transfiguration the week before.  Jesus chose the place of vulnerability instead of the place of power and glory.  All the way to the cross on which he died.

Why is vulnerability the thing?

Vulnerability is something all of us share – and most of us don’t want to admit to.  No, we value self-reliance, independence ….

But it’s vulnerability – the sense that we need someone else, the sense that we cannot do it all on our own, that builds connection and sympathy and empathy.

I got to thinking the other day about how people sometimes say they accomplished something – building a business, for example – and all it took was hard work and a little luck.

That’s not all, though.  Because they had parents, they had teachers, they had employees, they had books and computers, phones, and friends, and roads and electricity and cars and air and water and the systems that support them – laws and banks and monetary systems, governments and trade – the list of things and people and institutions that support everything we do and are, the way we are.

And we are vulnerable to any failure anywhere along the line.

Our lives are built on trust – trust in things we don’t even know about and don’t understand and can’t begin to count.

That’s the main thing God has done for us – knit us together in a web of trust and relationships that sustain us.

Jesus didn’t just come to save us; he came to show us the face of God.  And he did it by being vulnerable. 

By being open with each person he met, by letting his full humanity be present in every encounter.  He could do no other and be who he was.  He would do no other because he was the one he was, the Son of God, the Lamb of God.

It is our vulnerability that ties us to one another – the sharing of our stories, of sorrows and joys.

We love because we see the vulnerability of others, and because we love, we do not fear our own vulnerability.

We come in the nighttime to the light, we are renewed and reborn in the light of the Spirit, the light of God.

It makes no sense at all; yet it is the only thing that makes sense in the end.  We become one, as we are made to be one, with Christ, in the power of the Spirit, in the presence of God.

God has given us vulnerability so we can trust – and God is worthy of our trust, for all we need comes from God – water and Spirit, flesh and Spirit, earthly and heavenly, as mysterious as the wind, as wondrous as mercy.  As powerful as vulnerability. 

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