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March 12, 2023

Willing Departure vs Stubborn Refusal

Pastor KJ Kim

Psalm 121; John 3: 1-17

Today is the third Sunday of Lent, in the middle of our Lenten journey, we come and stand in front of the story of Nicodemus, who can be regarded as representative of twenty-first-century believers. He is spiritually open and curious, yet also rational. He is committed and brave enough that he makes an appointment to talk with Jesus, face to face. However, Nicodemus is not ready to go public with his interest in Jesus, so he makes the appointment in the middle of the night.

Jesus invites Nicodemus, as he invites each of us, to start his journey to a new self, to a new life, and to a new identity. Jesus knows that neither Nicodemus nor contemporary believers can do this on their own.

It is God who will give birth in water and Spirit. It is God who will give the gift of newness. It is God who will create a resurrection life over and over again. Thus, we are here to get together in the name of Christ because God still works hard for us and for our faith. God conceives us as Christians and nurtures us in the wombs of our faith.

Believe it or not; like it or not, we look into the eyes of people like Nicodemus every day of our lives. Many believers and unbelievers whom we interact with are Nicodemus-like—having faith, sometimes deep faith, and being spiritually curious enough, but keeping faith in their own sphere.

We all still hesitate to leave the old world—our old self, our old identity, our old habit—leading us into the moment that we drop out of writing the new stories of God’s newness. The departure issue before us is not a problem, but it is a calling-issue. Thus, we are situated, I suggest, for our Lenten journey between the willingness departure of Abraham and the stubborn refusal of Nicodemus.

The choice laid before us is whether we stay or to go, for participation or dropping out, eventually for a new life or for death. The Psalmist already seems to know that we, travelers, may stumble on our way to arrive in God’s destination. We, travelers, may be weary, being afraid, falling asleep, and facing a risky threat. And we, travelers, always wonder about where our help will come from, not from elsewhere, but from the Lord our God.

Let’s keep making a great departure from the darkness, from the uncertainty of our life, from the extra stresses of post-pandemic challenges, and from the difficult circumstances that make us anxious and concerned.

Let’s keep making a great departure from self-indulgence and from self-sufficiency to self-denial and self-reflection by prayer and by reading and meditating on the word of God.

Let’s keep making a great departure from a Nicodemus-like believer to an Abraham-like believer
who never hesitates to leave an old world for God’s newness and for God’s promise.

Thanks be to God.

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