|Published on Tue, 10 Mar 2020 00:00|
2nd Sunday of Lent-10.30am
Who knows what I have got here in my hand? What is this usually called?
Yes, a family tree. A family tree is drawn to show us how all the people on this paper are linked together. It is the family tree of a Ratcliffe family. Now why have I got this tree? It’s one of our family’s trees. My husband Roy’s mum was called Lucy Ratcliffe before she married Douglas Tattersall, and so this family tree shows how all these people are linked into the name at the top; Bonas Ratcliffe, an unusual first name. That is as far back as we have got in the 1700’s, when we researched this family tree.
At the bottom of this tree is Roy’s name, my name, and our children’s names. But as this tree was drawn over 35 years ago, we have yet to add onto this tree more names of those who have since married into our family and the names of children who were not born when this tree was drawn.
Now why have I brought this to show you? How do family trees link into today’s readings? Well, in our readings on our pew sheet today, the reading in Genesis describes how Abram is told he will be the father of a great nation, His family tree would be massive if one could trace and draw it! And in the Romans reading, Paul mentions the descendants of Abraham. Descendants are the children, grandchildren and all the relations of the person at the beginning of a tree (or as far back as one can find out about the earliest person who links into your surname). And I shall tell you in a few minutes how the Gospel reading links into family trees.
In our Gospel reading, we heard of Nicodemus. Nicodemus is described as a Pharisee. A Pharisee is a Jewish male who believes in strictly obeying the laws of the Jewish faith. Nicodemus had come to see Jesus at night as he was interested to learn more about Jesus. But he was concerned that other Pharisees would not approve of him seeking out Jesus, hence his visit at night.
Nicodemus had said to Jesus, "Teacher, we all know that God has sent you to teach us. No one could perform the miracles that you are doing if God were not with you."
Then Jesus said something so amazing and so confusing for Nicodemus to understand. Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot be in the Kingdom of God." "What do you mean?" exclaimed Nicodemus. "How can a man be born twice?" How would that work?
When we are physically born, we take our place in our family tree and as we have seen, it’s not a green tree growing in soil. It means we are part of our family, and family trees like the one I have shown you portray how a family is connected; parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, cousins, aunties, uncles and all our ancestors. But we also belong to another family tree, God’s family tree. We are all described as brothers and sisters in Christ, a spiritual family tree. We turn to Christ and acknowledge Him as our Saviour, who came to Earth to save us. And this spiritual tree began with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. And this family of God continues to grow.
More people are joining us all the time and there is always room for more because God wants us all to belong to Him, and to love and care for one another, one large family!
When Jesus spoke of being born again, He didn’t mean that we have to be born again, start life again as a new baby. Jesus explained that a person is "born again" when the Spirit of God enters into his heart. A person’s body is born from his human parents. But a person’s spiritual life is born from God’s Spirit.
God wants each of us to love and care for one another, to look after each other and share what we have in the world He gave us. AND when we do things that God would not want us to do, such as calling names, fighting, be unkind and rude, we MUST show we are sorry and ask God to forgive us. He is willing to forgive us if we demonstrate that we are sorry and want to apologise. At this time of Lent, it is a good time for saying sorry and starting again.
So, I would like us to just have a few minutes of quiet whilst we think of the things which we have said or done which were unkind and have upset others, and then I shall say a prayer on behalf of us.
“Loving Father, we thank you for creating us to be members of one loving family and we ask for your forgiveness when we have hurt others by what we have said or done. As we belong to you, may you keep watch over us and strengthen us in all that we do this coming week in Jesus’ name. Amen
Nicodemus (Thursday service)
“How can we be born again?” Nicodemus asks Jesus. In order to be born again, we need to welcome the Holy Spirit to come within us, a baptism into a new life with Him.
Everyone who turns to God, trusting and expectant, begins a relationship with our heavenly Father. Life is a journey with Him. When we are baptised, we are baptised with water and the vicar says, “I baptise you in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” But this relationship (like all positive relationships) is not just a one-way relationship. We need to pray to God each day, to ask Him to lead and guide us on, as we journey with Him.
Nicodemus had come to speak to Jesus when it was dark, as he hoped he wouldn’t be seen by His peers, the Pharisees. He had heard about and probably seen Jesus healing people and performing various miracles, and he wanted to find out for himself, if this man truly was from God. That is why He has come to question Him. HE is impressed by what He has heard and probably seen (the signs as he called them) and he wanted to know more about Jesus. Yet Jesus doesn’t applaud NICODEMUS for coming to see Him. Instead he tests him; saying that if He is not able to believe what is in front of his eyes, how will He believe things which are not visible, as when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives guiding us?
Jesus doesn’t want Nicodemus to believe just because He perform miracles. He wants Nicodemus to recognise for himself who Jesus really is, and who he is pointing to; Jesus wants Nicodemus to understand that it is through the power of God that He performs these miracles. Nicodemus came to question Jesus, to make up his own mind as to whether he should remain with the Pharisees or join Jesus’ followers, - a life changing decision for him.
In all our lives we have decisions to make each day, some of which may be life-changing. We heard of Abraham (in our first reading) who made a deeply life-changing decision to do as the Lord told him, and leave his country and virtually all of his relations, and start a new life, becoming (as described) as the fore-father of the Jews. He set out on a journey to the Promised Land.
We cannot always see where our journey is taking us; if the plans we have will come to fruition or not. But the decisions we make now, may affect and continue on into the life of our children and their descendants, just as happened with Abraham. What we do, and how we behave, can have an affect our families and those closest to us.
As I was thinking about life’s journeys, the words of a hymn I sang during assemblies, in my role as a school teacher, came into my mind: The words of the hymn were: “The journey of life may be easy, may be hard, There'll be danger on the way. With Christ at my side, I’ll do battle as I ride, ‘gainst the foes that will lead me astray.
Will you ride, ride, ride with the King of kings? Will you follow my leader true? Will you shout 'Hosanna' to the lowly Son of God Who died for me and you?
As the hymn says, journey on with Christ at your side! As Nicodemus realised who Jesus was, we know he too must have continued to follow Jesus, as his final mention in the Bible is after the Crucifixion where he assists Joseph of Arimathea in recovering Jesus' body and preparing it for burial.
We need to ask Jesus to be at our side, leading us on in our journey of life, and guide and strengthening us in the decisions we make. And just as Jesus described to Nicodemus “of being born from above,” let us too invite the Holy Spirit come into our lives, and journey on with us, so we grow ever closer to God. Amen