3.5.23 First Sunday Life Together The Rev. Katie Holicky, Assistant Rector
It’s nice to have friends isn’t it?! I really cherish friendships. What do you like about being friends with someone? Being friends can be fun, silly, joyful, feel warm, feel like love, and sometimes being friends means really showing up for each other. Really being there to support one another, even when we don’t fully understand where to go next with them.
Some of my favorite internet images these days are those of unlikely friendships. Maybe you have seen these or have seen one of the many shows or movies highlighting unlikely friendships between animals. Here are some that really spoke to me this week. (Show pictures of: 1.Orangutan and Dog 2.Cat and Parrot 3.Lion,Tiger, Bear (oh my!))… these animals seem so different; like they couldn’t possibly be together and look, there they are! If you are like me and wondering about human examples… one of my favorites I came across this week was singer and actor Lady Gaga and the classic national treasure of a singer Tony Bennett (show picture).
And we can get a sense from these pictures that these friends, maybe in part because their friendship is so unlikely, that there is a lot of love and joy shared between them. I would guess that maybe they learn and grow in different ways because of their unlikely friendship.
I think this may be true for Nicodemus and Jesus too. (show pictures of Jesus and Nicodemus) As Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night, we get the sense that there is a trust and friendship that helps to make this visit possible. It happening at night time also tells us that Nicodemus is having some big and hard feelings about his friendship with Jesus. At night he is less likely to be seen or found out. He’s being a little sneaky because he is nervous or maybe even scared for people to know about his relationship and connection to Jesus.
You see, he was a Pharisee. One of the types Jewish leaders who Jesus spoke out against very regularly. Many Pharisees were following the way of the colonizing empire of Rome that hurt people. Jesus speaks up and tells them and others they are wrong to not put God and God’s way of love first. Yet, in Jesus receiving Nicodemus we also see that Jesus holds love for everyone, and especially for folks who want to try and come along the way with him. And Nicodemus clearly knows that there is something to all that Jesus is doing and teaching that makes him want to know more from his friend.
So, what are we supposed to learn from these unlikely friends? Well, “Nicodemus seems to be on Jesus’ side, but never with complete openness…the Gospel’s writer may have hoped to encourage such (people) to grow into full belief” (TBC, 342). I really feel for Nicodemus! Have any of you ever felt odd about sharing your faith with others? Especially as we live in a place where many many folks don’t go to church or even really understand what church is about? I have! I have felt odd about fully speaking my faith at times because just like Nicodemus felt… there feels to be a stigma or cultural shame.
I felt like this sometimes as a kid too. When my lifelong friend, Birdy, and I would feel unsure about our faith but still wanted to share it we would say, “GOD bless you”, really emphasizing the GOD, when someone sneezed in hopes that maybe that would count as proclaiming our faith.
As I have felt more comfortable talking about my faith I have found that sharing with others can be a powerful balm, or healing, to them and the world. Especially for folks who have been hurt in church or faith communities and who can find healing in those of us who share our faith that is steeped in God’s love for all people no matter what.
Nicodemus helps us to learn that our faith is meant to be shared. We are meant to tell folks that we are children of God and followers of Jesus. That is how we can be part of sharing God’s love with the world. Doing this also helps us to claim the fullness of our transformation in God. For example, we have this part about being “Born of water”; we are meant to think about our baptism (show picture of baptism). Which is a new communal identity and so an inward and especially outward transformation (TBC, 342). And, “To be ‘born from above’ is to accept this transformation, and so to begin a new life in every respect, individual and collective, spiritual and social” (TBC 342). In all of this, the great lesson of sharing our faith comes from the BIG truth that Jesus is trying to teach Nicodemus. God loves us! God loves us SO very much that God gave us Jesus. And we GET to share that love with others.
The thing about unlikely friends is that they tend to find the capacity to bask fully in their friendship, to profess or tell of their shared love (show pictures of unlikely friends, elephant and dog, Mathra Stweart and Snoop Dog). They help us to grow in ways we could never imagine. That is what we are invited to today. To grow in ways beyond our imagination that help us to fully claim our faith for ourselves and those in the world around us. So, How might you show your faith to folks? (show God’s love) How might you talk about your faith to folks? (tell of God’s love)
May it be so!