THE 2ND SUNDAY IN LENT AD 2020
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
John 3:1-17 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again. ’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
For God so loved the world? The whole world? Really? I must confess that I find that a little hard to believe at times. For God so loved some people? Yes, that’s a little easier to accept, especially if it is, that God so loved the people that I think are lovable. But God so loved the world? Where “world” really means every human being who has ever lived, or ever will live, on this vast planet circling around our sun?
Love for a world of God denying God hating people? Love for a world of selfish self centred people? Love for a world of mean spirited nasty people? Love for a world of bigoted bullying people? Love for a world of hateful murderous people? Love for a world of sexually immoral adulterous people? Love for a world of covetous grasping people? Love for a world of wasteful creation destroying people?
Love? Really? Love for people like Jew hating Adolf Hitler? Love for people like abortion champion Henry Morgenthaler? Love for people like sexual predator and murderer Paul Bernardo? Love for people like militant atheist Richard Dawkins? Love for people like terrorist Osama Bin Laden? Love for people like betraying Judas? Love for people like denying Peter? Love for crucifying Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate? Love for people like those who have hurt and harmed me?
Love? Really? Judgement. Condemnation. Hellfire. Yes, I can get those from a good and just God. In fact sometimes part of me wants it, even righteously demands it, especially when it comes to those who pervert His truth and deny and reject His Son. I’m with James and John there, who wanted to call down hell fire on the Samaritan village, that wouldn’t receive Jesus because His face was set for Jerusalem. Yes, with this world judgement is something I can get, easily seeing in things like this coronavirus Covid 19, simply our just desserts.
Love for such a world as ours seems like such a human impossibility, but thankfully, as the Lord makes clear today is a Divine reality. And what a love it is. Based on what this love does, it clearly is not just some lukewarm affection in the heart of God. No, it’s definitely not that, nor is it a love of duty or obligation, like when brothers and sisters are told to kiss and make up. Neither is it the desiring love of young lovers, who want to possess another as their own. No, this love in God is in its rawest, purest and truest form.
The giving of His Son leaves no room for doubt about that. Such a love, again, is simply beyond human imagining, especially when you know and understand what that giving actually meant. A love that would give up His only begotten Son to be lifted up on the cross like Moses lifted the serpent up on the pole in the wilderness? Yes, that’s a love that hard to wrap our poor minds around. A love that would make His perfect well-pleasing Son, who knew no sin to be all sin, so that He could pour His righteous Divine judgement on Him to spare those who actually deserved it? Yes, that’s a love beyond the understanding of our weak hearts.
A love that would make His holy Son to be a curse, so that the cursed might be forever blessed? Yes, that’s far too deep for poor shallow people to grasp. A love that would turn deaf ear to the groans and cries of His beloved Son, panting out His final breaths under the weight of the world, so that the forsaken might always be heard and helped? Who other than God could ever fathom such a love? No, no, this love is simply beyond poor sinners like us to understand. We have no feeling, no passion, no emotion in us that we can compare it too or connect it up with, no, not even the love for our husband or wife, parents or children. This love, as with all the things of God, is something that we simply have to stand before in awe and wonder.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son. Yes, He did. And He has put me here in this pulpit this morning to make sure that you hear, that each one of you is part of that world, that He so loved that He gave His Son for. Yes, For God so loved you, wherever you may fit into the lists of the sinners of this world, that He gave His only Son for you. Yes, God so loved you, even with all your faults, failures and sins, that He gave up what was most precious to Him, His only begotten Son to suffer and die on the cross to save you.
Hard to believe, yes, it is hard to believe, in fact impossible to believe, which is why He poured out His Holy Spirit on you in your baptism, so that by His power you might believe it in spirit and truth and live your life in its reality. Your baptism, you see, is a baptism into the life of Jesus, into His death and resurrection, where God says clearly to you personally, that He so loved you that He gave Jesus for you. What is true of the world in general was personally proclaimed for you at the font.
And yes, because the reality is one that is hard to truly hold on to and live in, God doesn’t stop at the font, no from there He leads you to the altar, where once more His love in all of its fullness is turned to you personally. In the bread and the cup God’s incredible love continues to give what is most precious to Him, His only Son for you. Here with His body and blood Jesus removes any doubt, that we are part of that world that God so loved that He sent Him to suffer and die for it. With His body that hung on the cross and His blood that flowed freely from it, the Lord wants to deepen you in the truth of God’s love for each of you in Him. With each bite of the body-leavened bread and each sip of the blood-soaked wine He wants you to hear loud and clear, “for God so loved you.”
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son. Yes, He did, beloved, and it is in the truth of that love that He wants you to live your lives. In the face of all your sins and guilt He says, “Look to my Son on the cross and believe in my love for you.” With all your worries and cares He says, “Look to my Son on the cross and put your trust in my love for you.” When it comes to your fears of sickness and death, He says, “Look to my Son on the cross and take courage in my love for you. Yes, the Lord says, in all things, “Look to my Son on the cross and be at peace in my love for you.”
For God so loved the world? The whole world? Really? Yes, beloved, He did and that includes you and thankfully me. Amen.