I love the story of Nicodemus. It is a story that I can easily read my way into.
Nicodemus is of course a devout Pharisee; he is accustomed to rules, regulations, hierarchy and, certainty. And yet he is intrigued by Jesus. He is so intrigued that he approaches him under the cover of night, so not as to be seen by other members of his class. My own journey into faith and ordination was in many ways carried out under cover. I didn’t want too many people suggesting that I had gone all religious! And, yet in some ways there is nothing wrong with approaching Jesus under the cover of darkness. It is in the darkness that light, true light, can really shine & sometimes we need to create the time and space to work things out without pressure from others. Lent is, of course, such a dark, yet potentially illuminating, time.
What I really like about Nicodemus is his willingness to engage imaginatively with Jesus. He is aware of the rules and rituals that constitute Pharisaic life yet he doesn’t feel that they quite feed him. Rather than looking for rules, rubrics and rituals to sort him out and lead him to a relationship with God, what Nicodemus is looking for is a relationship. Like Abraham Nicodemus is to learn that entering into a life enhancing relationship with God means ‘going from your own country and your own kindred. ’ In turn this opens up the possibility for spiritual rebirth or conversion. In Lent, we must allow ourselves the opportunity for being converted, or reoriented towards God, once again. How can we do this? How does re-birth and spiritual transformation occur?
Well, despite what I said just now, rituals, such as setting aside time for personal prayer and devotion, and coming to church to hear the word of God and share the sacrament are invaluable, but in and of themselves they are insufficient. We need to re-learn the art of approaching private devotion and corporate worship imaginatively, with our hearts and minds open. Like Nicodemus we must be fascinated with the person of Jesus, and not simply the dogma and doctrine of the church.
Lent challenges us to become fascinated with and by Jesus. When we allow our fascination to guide us the relationship with Jesus grows and, we become more Christ like in or attitudes and behaviours. We become less concerned with preserving the status quo and more concerned with being light. We also need to allow ourselves to be encouraged by Nicodemus. Yes, for now he comes under the cover of night. But, we next encounter him asking to look after the body of the crucified Jesus. In other words he steps out in full glare and declares his love for Jesus. This Lent let’s allow ourselves to go on the same journey as Nicodemus; the journey from fascination to discipleship. Amen
Rev. Andrew Lightbown