Bishop Greg wanted all of us to remember the Seafarers this Sunday. They are gone from their homes for long stretches of time, I am sure that they miss their families and get lonesome for them. Well, in Seattle they have a Mission for Seafarers. This is a place that the brave and courageous men and women get to come to. The Center provides a place for them to call and communicate with their families—often half a world away, for relaxation and also for the ones that can’t leave the ship, they provide a vital communications link to their families via mobile Wi-Fi devices and phone cards. This is a vital mission that is always in need of financial help. Bishop Greg urges us to give generously to this needy cause.
This Trinity Sunday, I have a story written by the Rev. Deborah J Spink. It is a great story about Nicodemus.
My name is Nicodemus. You may know me as the man who misunderstood Jesus. I was born a Jew and spent my life studying the Law. I loved it so much I became a Pharisee, a keeper of the Law. I knew the Law inside and out. Go ahead, quote one sentence and I will tell you chapter and verse of the scroll it came from. I was so respected in my community I was asked to become a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of Israel in my day.
The Sanhedrin had disagreements now and then; it was our way of life to argue things back and forth. We enjoyed arguing over point of the Law. And somehow, with the help of God above, we had even learned to adapt to Roman rule. Life seemed to be going well, that was until this Jesus of Nazareth came along. We all heard the rumors, Jesus performed miracles! He was able to turn water into wine, help the lame to walk, the blind to see. His disciples called him Rabbi, teacher, yet he talked to all the wrong people: prostitutes, drunkards, tax collectors (those Roman puppets who gouged us every opportunity they got), the unclean (was he crazy touching the unclean?), and just sinners in general! Who did he think he was?
And yet—there was something about him. The way he spoke, the authority he had, the truth he revealed. He was not afraid to speak the truth and it had a way of cutting clear through your soul. I went to see him that fateful night. I had to know who he was, why he was doing what he was doing. I went at night so none of my respected Sanhedrin colleagues would know that I went to talk with this rabbi Jesus. I had heard that he and his followers camped out at the Mount of Olives each night outside the city walls, so that’s where I went first.
I found him as I had been told and he freely and willingly talked with me. Rabbi Jesus told me no one could see the kingdom unless he wa born anew. I didn’t understand what he was saying. How can a man be born anew if he is as old as I am? Was I supposed to somehow re-enter my mother’s womb? No, he said I misunderstood what he was saying. Not born again, but born from above. In order to see the kingdom of God I had to be born from above, to be born by water and the Holy Spirit. What did he mean?
I left that night bewildered, but from that moment on I followed him closely, I heard his teachings, listened to his parables, watched him heal people; and I watched how he interacted with the crowd, how he reached out in love to the lowliest of the low. I even saw him raise people from the dead! I found myself starting to defend him before the Sanhedrin. I told them they had to see him for themselves, listen to his teachings, see his works, and how he really cares for the people, all people. They would not listen.
You know the story. They used one of his disciples to turn him in. Then they had him arrested on trumped up charges. They called their meeting at night hoping that no one would hear what they were doing, particularly me, but I found out. They brought him to Pilate and maneuvered the Romans into doing their dirty work for them. They had him crucified, hung on a cross like a common criminal of the state. They put a crown of thorns on his head, mockingly calling him the King of the Jews. I watched his body writhe in agony as he died. I heard his last triumphant cry, “It is finished!” but did not realize at the time what he meant. I went with Joseph of Arimathea to retrieve his body. My tears sealed his burial cloth.
It wasn’t until the Sabbath was over and the first day of the week with all its glory was upon us that I began to understand who this Jesus really was. It wasn’t at night, but at the dawning of that first Easter morn that I came to understand what he had been trying to teach me that night so long ago. Death could not hold him. He was ALIVE! Born anew! Born from above! Born from death into life, life everlasting. I began to see; I was old but felt young. I was a sinner but now I was made clean! I was under a death sentence, but now I had the gift of life everlasting under Jesus. It didn’t matter what I had done or what I had left undone. What mattered was that Jesus loved me and I love him.
Jesus loved me enough to want me to love him, to follow him, to freely give my life to him, to be born anew form above. To experience the kingdom of God here and now, within me and around me. So I gave my life to him. I am a follower of the Rabbi Jesus. I will shout ti from the mountaintops in the light of day! It is the best decision I have ever made. Now I spend my life listening for his voice. Following his ways in all that I do, in every relationship I have. Jesus’ work on the cross may be finished, but in me it has just begun!
I am studying his teachings trying to put them into practice, trying to walk the second mile and it has made all the difference. I spend my life now sharing Jesus with everyone I meet. It doesn’t matter what your age, gender, ethnicity, status, or even sins are. God loves you. Gods wants to be part of your life to renew, reshape, and recreate; to give you new birth here and now. Jesus shows us no matter how bad life gets, even to the point of death, new life is possible. A new beginning is possible. God wants you to experience what it’s like to enter the kingdom of God for yourself and oh, what birth it is! Amen!