Over the last few weeks sermons have focused on conversations Jesus held with two very different people. Nicodemus is a powerful man and a leader. Then there is an unnamed Samaritan woman, whose morality is in question because of her many relationships. She has no power, influence or social status.
Nicodemus is asked to examine how power works and understand the damage it can do. Jesus talks about his future death on the cross, saying that when he is “lifted up” people will need to look at him to be saved. Here salvation is achieved when people see how they use their power to cause pain. Nicodemus will be saved when he accepts the need for sacrifice. The Samaritan woman did not have to sacrifice to find her way to salvation; she had nothing to give up. This woman’s path to salvation was found when Jesus showed her respect and she discovered her voice.
These contrasting stories tell us that the path to salvation may be different depending on who we are and what position we occupy in our culture. Some of us need to acknowledge that our use of power is damaging, and that we must start to live sacrificially. Some of us need to realize that we are deeply loved by God, need not be ashamed, and can stand up and speak God’s truth with power and force.
The Greek orthodox church gives her a name: Photini. Do you notice that Photini, not Nicodemus, speaks out about Jesus message of love? Nicodemus remains within the power structures of Israel, trying to influence them from within, but he seems afraid. Photini cannot contain herself. She preaches.
Find the two sermons on our website:
Over the next two weeks, the Lectionary has given us an extraordinary gift. We are invited to eavesdrop in on two conversations Jesus had with two very different people. These conversations fit into our Lent themes perfectly, they are difficult and require artful negotiation by both conversation partners, and by the end all participants have grown and gained insight.
In the first conversation a powerful man and religious leader is inquisitive about this new teaching, but fearful of what his colleagues might think if they heard he was going to meet with Jesus. So he goes at midnight, in secret. Their clandestine conversation explores some of the deepest theological territory in the New Testament, but it is also sublimely simple. We have to be reborn in order to fully grasp the love of God; and Jesus came not to judge but to save. Nicodemus struggles with the message and is reduced to being an infant in the face of the younger teacher. It is only as he is willing to explore these new ideas as a child that he will benefit from them. Nicodemus has to adopt a 'beginners mind,' and when he does he is transformed.
In the second conversation, next week in our lectionary, a women considered morally bankrupt meets Jesus in the middle of the day when she goes to draw water. She cannot go in the cool of the morning, when the other women of Samaria are making their trip to the well, because she is ostracized. We will discover she has had five husbands and is now with a man she is not married to. Jesus breaks about every taboo imaginable, by speaking to a woman, who is a Samaritan, and of questionable character. He does - this without judging her. He treats her with respect, as a human being with intelligence and appealing to her spiritual core as he introduces her to new ideas about worship, faith and love. She is not invited to be a child by their conversation, she is invited to step into her own dignity.
Both conversation partners are ashamed, but for different reasons. Jesus invited them both to embrace new ideas and self respect.
Join us for the next two Sundays as we get a chance to listen in on their dynamic conversations with Jesus.
From the UK, Matthew loved US culture from the first time he picked up a Fantastic Four Comic when he was 12.