Rev. Andrew Cunnington
8th March 2020
Courage To Take The Next Step

If anyone is interested in organ lessons – please come to the school chapel at 12.15pm next Monday for an introductory session.

Well I was interested! But when the day came I was at home with a cold, and the following Monday when I poked my head round the chapel door, some boy was already, when playing the organ with all the accomplishment of a professional . I would be way behind him. So I crept back out of the chapel and never came back.

Did you see that Findon Cricket Club are holding trials for the under ten’s- said my good friend John – next Saturday morning – how about we give it a go! Well, I really wanted to be a cricketer, but when I heard that some of the really sporty types in my school were also going, I realised it wasn’t for me. I didn’t show up.

Concern was being expressed by my form teacher to my parents as to my academic progress. But he does seem to enjoy writing – said the teacher – and some of it’s quite good. I could get him an opening on the Worthing Herald if you think he would be interested. Just tell him to have a word with me about it. Indeed by that time I was already writing a newspaper every month – with a circulation of just my Mum and Dad and Grandma. All written out in pen. Page upon page. But the real thing was a different question. I never asked the teacher. I never went there.

Just think if I had taken those three straightforward opportunities – each one requiring just a single easy step. I could have been an organ playing, cricket loving, journalist.

But I preferred to stay as I was.

So I marvel at the courage of Abram. 75 years old with no children and yet when God calls him to be the Father of an entire nation – through which all the world would be blessed – he just gets up and goes with it.

No, Nicodemus is my sort of man. He has this lengthy chat with Jesus. He asks some penetrating questions about why following Jesus might feel as if you were being born over again, but there is no indication here, that he could take the simple step of throwing in his lot behind our Saviour.

I think Jesus is yearning with all his heart that Nicodemus might have said yes. I think he was hoping this man would have ended up numbered amongst the twelve. But he can’t make the move. He stays right where he is.

Even the wonderful poetry of the final verses of that reading does not move this man. He is not going anywhere.

Abrams call is not just a call to follow me – it is totally outrageous in what it suggests. Through you, God says to this old age pensioner all the families of the world will be blessed and I am going to make a great nation of you.

And he simply says – OK then I’m up for that.

I wonder how your Lenten observance is going just one week in? If you are still looking for a focus, how about trying to be an Abram. In every situation you find yourself in – how can you be a blessing to others rather than running alongside the culture of the day and cursing others. Nearly every news item invites us to do the latter – exposing the shortcomings in people all the time and before we know where we are – we are doing it ourselves in our personal conversations and even in our hearts.

To bless others so that such an attitude might become an infection – so that all the families of the earth would be so touched. It can grow or be withheld by the extent to which you and I become a blockage.

Abram did not find it all plain sailing – trying to be a blessing meant he got tangled up in all sorts of tricky situations. But he was determined to accept the call.

In contrast Nicodemus. It’s true that he weaves his way in and out of the Gospel narrative – as a bit part in the background. He hovers around the edge of Jesus’s ministry, attracted to this man, challenged by his teacher, and yet something is there that will not enable him to completely join in.

And in the end he leaves it all too late.

When Jesus dies, Joseph of Aramaethea – another hesitant disciple – makes his family tomb available for the body of Jesus to be placed in, and Nicodemus turns up with one hundred pounds of perfumed spice with which to anoint the dead body of the one he wishes he had followed.

He blesses Jesus – when what Jesus wanted was that he might be a blessing to others. And he never got round to doing that.

What is extraordinary about this is that such embalming would not have been permitted under the very Jewish law that had held Nicodemus back from being a follower, and the amount he brought along was way in excess of what would be required for one body. It was a truck load he came along with.

And of course the gift would turn out to be superfluous anyway. You don’t need to preserve the body of one that is walking and living and breathing in Galilee.

Poor old Nicodemus. Wrong time. Wrong place. Wrong gift. Too much and too late.

He had sat on the fence for three years and this was the outcome.

Nobody seems to be able to say what happened to him after that great and misplaced offering.

Did he become part of the Easter story and that once he had seen that Jesus was risen – he gave himself over completely to the sharing of the Good News – I’d love to think he did!

Or did he slip back into the ways of law observance and see his dallying with Jesus as no more than a blip, something he kept to himself.

These two characters ask a great deal of us.

Where is the Abram in you? To see your whole existence as trying to be about being a blessing to others. Not always succeeding. And let me tell you there are many here who seek to do that -and I know for I have looked into their eyes and so have you.

And where is the Nicodemus – the one with too much to lose in the courts of the great and the good on one hand, the man with a lower self esteem than we would give him credit for.

How these two vie for supremacy in your life and mine!

Jesus calls each one of us all of the time. He never gives up whispering in our ear or tapping us on the shoulder.

Age doesn’t matter. Nor does ability or intellect. Nor does the view other people have imposed on you about your limitations.

Abram or Nicodemus. Being a blessing or withholding a blessing. Walking with Jesus or standing stock still. Living in the moment of his living presence, or waiting until it’s too late.

Then the strange twist to it all. The journalist who was part of his local cricket team and played the organ on Sunday… I suppose you might say that’s not what God wanted in my case… but actually how do we know that?

JOHN 3: 1-17