Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Bethany Bullet - June 2, 2015

Historians debate about the voracity to which the 16th President of the United States clung to religion, but there is no denying that in the midst of the greatest crisis to ever face the country, Abraham Lincoln looked heavenward for guidance, wisdom, and mercy.  While the Civil War raged, he wrote the following in a dispatch, "I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day." 

For Lincoln, crisis created conversation with the Creator.  

On this Trinity Sunday we focus on our parish theme for this year, God at Work and we will see how our God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is at work, even in crisis. 

Our text is the Gospel lesson (from Sunday) from John chapter three.  It begins by describing a man name Nicodemus.  The text tells us that he was a Pharisee who came to visit Jesus at night.  That alone tells me that something is brewing inside of Nicodemus’ head.  You see, Nicodemus was not your typical Pharisee.  Something drove him to seek out the Rabbi, the Teacher, the Christ.  Nicodemus was a man in crisis.

During Jesus’ public ministry, the Pharisees were always looking for ways to put Jesus down, to catch Him doing something wrong, to back Him into a corner with a loaded question or to make a public display in an attempt to show the people that Jesus was a fraud.  But Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night.  He seeks not to put Jesus down, or make a public display, but to engage in conversation with the Creator.

Nicodemus had heard the conversations as the Pharisees have gathered together.  We can only imagine what those conversations were like.  Speculation and conjecture most likely filled the room.  Who was this man from Nazareth?  How can He do such things?  Is God really with Him?  We have got to do something before more people start following Him! 

As Nicodemus takes all of this in, he starts to wonder.  Perhaps this is the Messiah?  Could it be that this is the One we have been waiting for?  Soon a crisis of faith washes over him.  He needs some answers, his own wisdom is not sufficient, and he seeks conversation.

It is easy to think that there is a list of events that can easily be defined as crisis. Such events as earthquakes, fires, murders, and disasters are easy candidates. While this is certainly true this is by no means an exhaustive list.
Any life event can take on crisis proportions if it is experienced as sudden, intense, unexpected, or emotionally super-charged.  Somehow, we cannot make sense of what is happening or why it is happening. Without answers we are left helpless. We simply do not know what to do to control or master the situation. Wave after wave of emotion sweeps over us and we are unable to predict when or if this awful situation is going to end.

Any event can be a crisis if it wipes out our ability to make sense out of what is happening.  We feel helpless; the victim of events beyond reason and certainly beyond our ability to exercise some form of control in our lives. 

Nicodemus was in crisis.  His world view was being challenged and was in danger of collapse.  Nicodemus comes to Jesus here in this text because he realizes that despite his character, his standing in the community, something is missing. Jesus confronts him with the compelling message that God's grace is for those who are sinners, period.  And, neither religion nor un-religion can overcome mankind's real problem with God, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, all need to be born from above, born again by grace!  Nicodemus was in crisis. 

In conversation with the Creator, Nicodemus hears what has become one of clearest and most memorized gospel messages in all of Scripture, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Where is the crisis in your life? Perhaps it’s a crisis of faith like Nicodemus, or impending calamity like Lincoln.  Or perhaps its health concerns, employment worries, relationship struggles, financial hardship, debilitating guilt for past indiscretions, worry about the future, impending strife in the world, doubt in the existence of the Triune God…or countless others that seem to come our way.  One thing I do know is that you are dealing with some form of crisis in your life right now. 

We all deal with the crisis of sin.  Since Adam and Eve the crisis of sin has affected everyone and can be seen in all the other crisis of life.  Sins pervasive power makes us feel like we have no control, like there is no hope.  But even in this crisis, God is at work.  In fact, it’s where we see His most important work. 

The Triune God comes to you this morning to remind you that you are not alone, that He loves you deeply that your past mistakes have been erased by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In Christ you have been forgiven!  Our works are insufficient but His work is all sufficient. 

God loves you, and no matter what crisis you are facing, you are never separated from the love of God.  As Paul pointed out in our reading for this morning, “I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love which Christ Jesus our Lord shows us.” (Romans 8:38)

When crisis comes, it’s time to have a conversation with the Creator.  To talk to God in prayer, to give the worry over to Him knowing He is always with you.

On September 4, 1864 President Lincoln responded to a letter from Elizah Guerney, thanking her for her prayers. He wrote:
"The purposes of the Almighty are perfect, and must prevail, though we erring mortals may fail to accurately perceive them in advance. We hoped for a happy termination of this terrible war long before this; but God knows best, and has ruled otherwise. We shall yet acknowledge His wisdom, and our own error therein. Meanwhile we must work earnestly in the best lights He gives us, trusting that so working still conduces to the great ends He ordains. Surely He intends some great good to follow this mighty convulsion, which no mortal could make, and no mortal could stay."

Not only does crisis create conversation, often time’s crisis compels confession.  Lincoln confessed the truth of God’s will in the face of crisis and so did Nicodemus. 

We don’t hear anything more about Nicodemus until later in the story.  In John chapter 19, he resurfaces.  As John records the crucifixion and death of Jesus, Nicodemus confesses his faith in his actions. 

“Later Joseph from the city of Arimathea asked Pilate to let him remove Jesus’ body… Nicodemus, the one who had first come to Jesus at night, went with Joseph and brought 75 pounds of a myrrh and aloe mixture.
These two men took the body of Jesus and bound it with strips of linen. They laced the strips with spices. This was the Jewish custom for burial… Joseph and Nicodemus put Jesus in that tomb…” (John 19:38-42)

A nighttime conversation with Jesus changed Nicodemus and now he confesses his faith by taking care of the Savior. 

He meets Jesus in His death and in so doing his life is changed forever.

The same thing happens to us.  Paul said so in Colossians 2, “…you were placed in the tomb with Christ through baptism. In baptism you were also brought back to life with Christ through faith in the power of God, who brought him back to life.” (Colossians 2:12)

Crisis compels confession.  For many of us, that first confession occurred when the crisis of sin was washed away from us at Baptism.  Our sinful nature was drowned and we rose victoriously in Christ.

In Baptism we are claimed by the King, and His name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was place upon us.

As we face the continued crisis of life we are compelled to confess continually that Jesus is Lord, give to Him all those things that have us bound.  In Him we live and breathe.  It was the Father who created us, the Son who redeemed us, and the Spirit who calls us to faith and continues to hold us in the middle of the crisis of life.   
God is indeed at work in crisis.  As crisis creates conversation and compels confession we are called to give witness to the Triune God. 

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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