It is never clear how certain or public Nicodemus's following of
Jesus was. Perhaps he never committed himself wholeheartedly, or
perhaps, like many people around the world today, his commitment
was secure, but he had to be cautious about how public he made it.
Whatever the ultimate outcome, Jesus tried to nurture and enlarge
that faith rather than condemn him.
How did Jesus resist temptation? Where is the hope for us as we
ON THIS final Sunday before Lent, the collect prays us into a
world where suffering and glory belong together, both for Jesus and
for us. We pray to be conformed to the image of Christ; to become
EACH passage this week asks to be read out loud rather than
silently, because hearing it helps to articulate its repeated
"Subdue it and have dominion" is best understood in the context
in which Genesis 1 was written down. In the sixth-century world of
exile in Babylon, this was a mandate of hope. God promised the
exiles not perpetual landless existence, but their own land to
subdue and care for. This was no licence to exploit the land, but a
promise of a healthy and godly relationship with land which they
did not then have.
THIS week, we hear, as we did last week, about God's
commandments. The readings are demanding. Moses, in his farewell
address, set a stark choice before the perverse people whom he had
shepherded through the wilderness for years: life or death.
The Kingdom of heaven, here among them now, is not something for
the future, as the Pharisees taught. So they must go and live
accordingly, exploring and embodying what the law looks like when
lived not as legal requirement, but as a response to being in a
world of God's grace and righteousness.
JUST before Christmas, a few years ago, the choir had an evening
off; so we said evening prayer. Afterwards, I met a family who were
sitting in the nave. There were three generations: grandparents,
parents, an uncle, and a tiny baby just three weeks old, wrapped up
warmly in a white shawl.
Isaiah dared to look forward to the ending of oppression by a
superpower, and the beginning of joy for a downtrodden people. As
we hear of South Sudan, Syria, and the Central African Republic, we
gain an idea of how radical this vision was of the shining of God's
light in places that were walking in deep darkness. There was an
ending because there was God's beginning.
THIS week, we pray that God will make his heavenly glory known
in the renewal of our lives. If anyone needed his life renewing, it
was God's servant in Isaiah, who was so exhausted by his
faithfulness to God that he felt he had wasted his time and his
life. Was it all over for him? No, because he added, bravely: "Yet
. . ." There is always a "yet" with God.
God rarely goes for the predictable grand announcement; he seems
to prefer to pop up in unexpected places: the first people to hear
of Jesus's birth were shepherds, and now Isaiah tells us that God's
servant will not cry out or make himself heard in the street.