Fulcrum sermon thoughts for 16th March 2014


Sunday 16th March 2014

Genesis 12:1-4a and John 3:1-17

The phrase “scientia potentia est” (Knowledge is power) is an apt aphorism for our time. Knowing things is the basis of decision making in our society - report after report is written outlining facts and distilling research, we are then told we now have the tools for making the right decisions; knowing the right person can ease the passageway into employment, promotion.

 We see in the encounter with Jesus, Nicodemus  opens up the conversation “we know...” but in the ensuing conversation Jesus points out that ‘not knowing’ is a better place to begin. Nicodemus has come to Jesus in similar vein to the priests and Levites investigating John the Baptist (1.19). He comes with his background and his status, his knowledge and his power.

 Yet this is not enough - for Jesus tantalizingly begins to deconstruct the basis of his knowledge, saying that he must start again. Being born from above, learning to see afresh, learning to live differently. In the face of Nicodemus’ own certitudes Jesus offers a new way of seeing, living and being.

 In v.8 Jesus words strike at the heart of anyone’s foundation of living - “the wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

 Can we live without knowing? Can we live in the dynamic of walking with God who does know? Dare we let go of what we know so that we may know afresh? This is not to say that we do not live without certitudes. Jesus himself says in v.11 ‘Very truly I tell you...we speak of what we know...” We need knowledge and certitudes to help us grow, understand, think and create - but they can close us up into ourselves; they can build walls of self-righteousness and they can prevent us from listening to others.

 In knowing Jesus we give up our own certitudes for his. In knowing Jesus we let him shape us and form his identity within us. In knowing the one who gives true knowledge (John 8.32 - this truth shall set you free..) we start at a place of re-discovery and relationship.

 Jesus comes to ‘save’ (v16) us from ourselves - to set us free to to live the very life of God in us and through us. This only happens when we now the one who saves.

 Abram in Genesis 12 starts on a journey from a place where he knows to a place where only God knows. “Go from your land , your family, your father’s house to a place I will sow you.” (12.1) That journey does not start with a known destination but a trust in what God will do and where God will lead. There is a frailty and vulnerability in this journey. When we start out on our own journey of faith we are only asked to trust. We do not need to work it all out. We do not need to know it all. Only to know the one who leads.

2 thoughts on “Fulcrum sermon thoughts for 16th March 2014”

  1. Thank you John
    Another thought provoking reflection Knowing/ discernment I have sometimes found , does not always rely on knowing the one who leads, I back this up theologically if you like with how God uses unexpected people in unexpected ways.. God uses us all in ways that we do not expect, so when we are looking, or as you phrase it discovering, we know the voice of our God. The reassurance , that there is a way, Jesus is the way but what does that really mean? it means that we are to be Christ like yet we cannot because we are not divine we can only ever be poor imitations of the ways of Christ. But a lot can be learnt in imitation. We sing about things we do not know, we pray about people we do not know, we support people we do not know, likewise we criticize people we do not know and we make judgements about people we do not know. What does Knowing God mean in all that. We are told that our ways are not Gods ways, but we can only imitate the actions as described in the Gospel, some of them I would not want to imitate because they were simply not nice. but the analogies of the parables help us to understand, but even they contradict one another ie the parable of the coins, today is another budget day we are told not to bury but to multiply wealth in what ever form that is held, but we are also told to share our wealth in what ever form that takes. So knowing God is making the right decision for circumstance at the right time. Timing is everything as all conductors know. But it is not always about a persons desire to do the right thing at the right time, but whether we have the ability to do the right thing at the right time. Part of the tools to do that is the learning of the spiritual skills which God has instructed us in. But there is another thing about this no matter how good you get at those skills Gods Job will never be available .We will always in the dynamic of Christianity be part of the greater picture and plan , our ability to see how God sees will only ever be fleeting glances. The question is do we believe that a fleeting glance is enough to make sound judgements, r do we really just have to live in faith , that others will recognise the good motivations. Then we get to the deeper question of Good and Bad , when good people do nasty things it hurts so much more and when People we deem to be bad do good things the light seems so much brighter. Trust too often seems like a luxury when actually it should be a basic. Trust and Obey for there is no other way to be happy IN Jesus than to trust and obey. If we choose Jesus we need to be able to trust. That is the hardest calling of all.

  2. John’s good ‘thought’ on St John’s gospel underlines the film noir hilarity of this moment.

    3. 1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

    Someone here introduced Yo Yo Ma at a party as a band leader who likes children and plays cello sometimes.

    And one of the world’s most powerful economists introduced Bono to a meeting here as a kind of pop musician who was interested in development economics and global poverty.

    And now something like this–

    “Rabbi, our spies report that John says that you are the One, that you turn water into wine, and that you chased animals and moneychangers out of the Temple the other day, so naturally, being impressed by your scholarship, we wondered how you would interpret those puzzling verses in Leviticus 14:43-53 on the tsaraath of a house…”


    Despite traditional hagiography depicting Nicodemus as spiritually open and personally compassionate, I’ve always imagined him as a smooth but somewhat menacing ‘fixer’ for the powerful, sizing up yet another troublemaker who can work a crowd. What are his strengths… weaknesses…? Is he a threat… perhaps an opportunity…? His night encounter with Jesus seems a clandestine encounter in the C1 equivalent of an underground car park. And why Nicodemus? Anxious people with much to lose and a need for control trusted him– spiritually open and personally compassionate?– and perhaps he’s done this before and will do it again.

    “We know…” Was that a polite way of telling Jesus that he had been watched? Lulling Jesus into the confidence that leads to indiscretion? What sort of conversation did Nicodemus expect to have with an opening like that?

    Whatever he expected, he already looks silly to the reader. By this point in the gospel, the reader knows that Jesus is somewhat more than even a God-sent teacher, as Yo Yo Ma is more than an occasional cello player and as it seems understated to describe Bono as a kind of pop musician.

    Even if Nicodemus’s certainties were not so sinister as I freely imagine, they were nevertheless those of a wealthy and powerful man. John aptly describes their deconstruction. And by the end of the gospel, the fixer had found his way past them.

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