Sunday Sermon – Lent 2 – 20/2/05

This has been an extraordinary week.

The Shoe project which has just ended has surely made for one of the most interesting weeks in the 150 year life of this congregation.

I have found it an extraordinary time. I have sat in the church for much of the week. And watched. And talked.

I have seen all kinds of things. I have heard stories of faith. I have heard stories of despair. I have seen the glow of faith alive in children lighting candles. I have seen tears fall which have been waiting to fall for a long time.

This week has been an extraordinary combination of things and has given me much to reflect on.

In particular, as I think about it, I realise that it has brought together a number of themes which have been important to me in my ministry here over the last five years and which I have been trying to preach and teach during that time.

They are easy things to identify.

? The importance of welcoming people into church. (And giving them excuses to come inside).

? The absolute certainty that everyone is utterly loved and accepted by God. (And this week, to acknowledge that one of the consequences of that is that it is unacceptable for people to live in a state of fear).

? The importance of being a community which preaches God?s justice in what it does.

? The importance of being a community in itself.

These themes have been knitted together before my very eyes this week.

As I look at the Bible readings this morning, a number of things strike me, which I want to name as part of our reflection on the word this week.

The first is that there are not many women?s voices in them. How much of the discourse of the church has been the clamour of men?s voices. Because of the week we have had, I find myself when I read the story of Abram answering God?s call to move on, wondering what the woman Sarai who was married to him thought about it all.

When he reflected on this, St Paul certainly wasn?t interested in that question when he wrote the book of Romans which we also heard from this morning.

And the gospel passage is, once again all about what men said to one another.

Indeed, the only female voice we hear in this week?s bible passage is the voice of God. God?s Spirit blows wherever God wills.

It is long past the time when people of faith must ask themselves ? by telling the story of faith mainly through the eyes of men rather than women and men together, have we lost something? Have we caused something? Have we contributed to something?

Children, women and men all have stories of faith to tell ? believe me, I have been hearing some of them this week.

The time is long overdue when we live our faith as though God loves children, women and men. And that means asking questions about language, storytelling, myth and power.

As we worship today, there are just a few of the shoes left ? now up on the windowsills, along with the stories of some of the women who gave them to the exhibition.

Those shoes tell stories. Those shoes ask questions.

Those shoes tell us of the prevalence of fear and violence in society. Something which is not acceptable on any level.

Those shoes sit silently. Quietly. Yet they preach more powerfully than ever I will.

They make us ask ? what can we do to teach people how to live in relationships which bring dignity, hope and grace to individuals and to the world.

The gospel reading this morning is all about that in a way ? the bringing of dignity, hope and grace to individuals and to the world. (It is that last bit that is important ? the combination of the individual and the global). For God so loved the world, that he sent his son ? for everyone. The individual and the world.

As I look at the gospel passage, I find myself thinking of what must have been running through Jesus?s mind as he looked at this troubled person. Someone who had come to him at night. Someone who should not have been seen talking to him. Someone whose association with the rebel rabbi would have done him no good.

Jesus seems to look at him with such compassion. And behind all the words there is compassion. Often this is the way that God deals with us. God?s grace is like the music going on behind the words themselves.

Nicodemus, Nicodemus, you are loved. Truly loved by God. The love God has for you arises out of the love which inspired the creator to make you. The love that God has for you comes through the Son who sits in front of you ? teaching you, cajoling you, inspiring you. The love that God has for you comes through the Spirit who breathes the very breath you breathe.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

Imagine what your life would be like if God loved you as much as Jesus says God loves Nicodemus.

Imagine it.

Believe it.

Accept it.

And live that love. For it is true. You are accepted and loved and blessed by the one true God.

Whatever emotion or experience you have brought with you to this place today. And as a community, we bring together in one place at one time all kinds of losses, griefs, hopes and dreams. Whatever you bring today, do not leave without letting the truth, the deep truth run through your imagination – that God really loves you.

Blessed be God for ever.



  1. Anonymous says

    Re: Sunday Sermon – Lent 2 – 20/2/05
    Thank you for such a moving and inspiring sermon following this most moving and extraordinary week.

Speak Your Mind