Lent Two sermon at All Saints Church, Boyne Hill 8th March 2020
Theme ‘Coming out of the Shadows’
Nicodemus and Simon of Cyrene as the outsiders. 8th station of our book ‘Walking the Way of the Cross’
Gospel John 3: 1-17
On this Sunday as part of the 10am Eucharist we had the joy of Baptising Clara Mei Ling Pang. We welcomed Clara’s family from Estonia and China.
How confident are we as disciples of Christ?
When I was a curate between 1993 and 1995 I ran two youth clubs on a Friday night back to back and then a group for teenagers on a Sunday evening at my home. Those were the days. At the Sunday night group, we had wonderful young people who shared discussion groups and went to Leicester (where my co-leader at the time hailed from) and visited her parish that shared ministry with Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus. We as a group visited that parish and learned so much about multi faith parishes and community cohesion which is too a key part of ministry in Maidenhead.
Two of the members, twin boys from a local Methodist church were great fun and were junior magicians. They were very good too and entertained us on those Sunday evenings. However, one day when I was visiting the local comprehensive school, I saw one of the boys in the corridor and called out to him. He pretended (In front of his friends) not to know me. Now I know some of you here today are thinking ‘I wouldn’t have blamed him’ but it did hurt me at the time. Imagine today 25 years on, what it must be like to proclaim that they are a Christian or a person of faith?
This Friday some of our congregation led by our churchwardens stepped forward to ask a man from NLHF – the National Lottery funding to seek understanding on how this church of ours might be eligible for a grant. We had spoken to schools and the local community about connections that we have and how the church supports community. The local school Comprehensive had spoken to us about using us for history and religious education classes and topics. One topic was the Tractarian Movement and the Victorian philanthropists. The Hume sisters and their funding of our Alms Houses are a good example of this work.
Sadly, we were told that you cannot use anything that is encouraging the proclamation of the Christian faith. We could speak about the architecture but not the faith.
So, what about our characters in our theme today? Nicodemus wants to remain in the shadows and keep quiet. It is difficult for him to make a decision, as he is a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews and a member of the Sanhedrin. He could lose his exalted status by standing up alongside Jesus. Jesus challenges him to come out of the shadows and demands a full commitment.
Yesterday at baptism preparation I said that baptism is the beginning of a journey of full commitment. We went through the meaning of the water, the story of Moses, the baptism of Jesus, the oil pointing to the cross and the Holy Spirit, the candle that we light from the Paschal light and the pilgrim shell that I used waking across Northern Spain to Santiago. The journey that we share towards the promised land of the heavenly banquet. The Candle a sign that parents and godparents are passing on the baton of light of God’s love to the next generation.
Nelli and Leon the parents here today said afterwards this is significant. This is a journey of life.
Does Nicodemus follow? Does he wish exclusion from his community even if he finds a new one? He
later spoke for Jesus at the Sanhedrin and helped Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus’ body. We do not hear much more.
In the ‘Walking the Way of The Cross’ Philp North looks at another outsider, a Cyrene, a Libyan, someone whose face and dress stood out. This was an outsider says North who was easy prey to the soldiers. By drawing near to Jesus however he found the dignity that the soldiers tried to deny him. North says labelling a person like the poor, the gay, the youth we don’t need to identify with them. We don’t need to hold real relationships with them. However, it is the people who are the outsiders who are closest to Jesus. If we look to Christ then, you see that he sees not outsiders but precious people. St Mary’s Church and The Roman Catholic Church 15 years ago recognised this as they formed All Sorts. A once a month group that has at its heart the fact that God loves All Sorts of people. This group encourages and gives value to the life of people with learning difficulties.
Today we see that at His baptism Jesus was loved by God, ‘With you I am well pleased’. Nicodemus was given that charge to follow. In a way so was Simon of Cyrene though in a harrowing way. Today the parents and godparents of Clara Mei Ling hear that voice ‘You are my beloved daughter with you I am well pleased.’
May Clara never be afraid to come out of the shadows during her life as a disciple of Christ.