Br. Andrew Colquhoun, OHC
Year A - Lent 2 - Sunday, March 16, 2014
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
|Nicodemus visits Jesus at night|
A couple of years ago in the refectory during Lent a guest almost knocked me over getting to the side table – “I’ve given up gluten for Lent” said he. “Why?” asked I. “Well, I think it may be healthier. I wondered later whether that was more righteous than giving up chocolate – who knows – he’s still around – I could ask him.
It’s Lent again!
The Lectionary for today shows us two God seekers – neither of whom is to be despised or denigrated. Abraham gets touted the most, of course, and probably rightly so. He is the model of faith – monastic in his response to God’s call to leave everything and walk into the unknown. Maybe he heard a voice, maybe he just, like most of us, got a feeling that he needed to go.
My brothers, have heard me on this before but one of my conversion moments came when I heard a saying of Yogi Berra. He said: when you come to a fork in the road, take it.
A light went on and I remembered all the hours and agonizing times I had spent trying to discern (I almost hate the word now) what God’s will for me was. How could I figure out what to do and be faithful? Mr. Berra hit the nail on the head for me – don’t dither at the crossroads, keep going. Sounds like Abraham maybe. I can almost hear Sarah, saying “Where?” Abraham: “We’ll know when we get there but God said we would become a great nation and be a blessing. Sarah, I hope, said, “Yes, but how much do I pack?” They went and it was reckoned to them as righteousness. Abraham got the credit but Sarah did the packing and did most of the work, I bet. And off they went home.
So that’s maybe a Lenten clue… don’t try to figure or manipulate the righteous response – just keep going. Gluten or no gluten, keep walking faithfully into whatever these strange days will bring to you.
Then there’s Nicodemus. We criticize him because he doesn’t get it. Brothers and sisters, I’ve been a disciple for the better part of a century and I don’t get it. I love Nicodemus because like the good and faithful Jew he was, he argues with God. He doesn’t take anything at face value. I don’t think he was so literal minded as we try to make him… that’s how Jews argue about Torah. That’s how they get into the heart of Scripture. That’s how they plumb the depths of God’s lovingkindness. They argue and then they pray. They mourn and then they dance.
Nicodemus stuck with Jesus in spite of his puzzlement. His longing brought him from the darkness of a place of God’s absence right to Jesus’ presence. I love Nicodemus – he asked the questions I ask. And I love Jesus because he wasn’t meek and mild, because he looked at this longing human being and said “You’re not getting it.” And he taunts him on closer and closer to the light of God’s heart.
I love that these men didn’t just exchange tracts and agree to disagree. I am grateful that Nicodemus didn’t just say “Thank you, Jesus” and go away empty. I am grateful that Abraham and Sarah plodded on to the maternity/geriatric ward against all sense. And Nicodemus, I’m sure he, like us, was broken open and filled completely when he heard: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
That’s what Lent is about, then. Not groveling, not guilt-ridden, not punishment and certainly not emptiness. But fullness and joy and relief and heading home.
Giving up gluten and chocolate is a fairly feeble sacrifice…maybe a whole heart and a love overflowing among the poor and the lost and lonely is more what is desirable.