Sermons
Summer Worship Service begins at 9:30 AM
Third & Adams Street, PO Box 9774, Moscow, Idaho USA | (208) 882-3715

Beloved - February 11, 2018

John 3:1-21

This is a fairly well-known section of scripture, at least verse 16 is, and it is packed with meaning. We could probably spend a month studying just this passage and learn and see something new each week. What we have is a Jewish leader who is intrigued by Jesus, but who isn't comfortable coming to Jesus in the temple as he preaches. Instead, when does he come? (At night). In the Gospel of John, the night is the time of temptation, of rejection, of

unbelief, and of ignorance. He wants to hear from Jesus, but maybe he's not sure he wants the other Jewish leaders knowing of his curiosity in this new unorthodox leader. He starts by acknowledging that Jesus is a rabbi....a teacher...someone set apart and different because he wouldn't have such power if he weren't sent by God. But instead of saying, "Good job Nicodemus, you have seen me for who I am." He says, "no one can truly see unless they have been born again." Which Nicodemus takes literally...how can you be born a second time!?!" But what Jesus was really saying was born "anew" or born "from above"....being born in a different way...given new life through water and the Spirit.
To which Nicodemus says, "What?!? What on earth does that mean?" And Jesus replies "You don't know?....but you're a leader—you make sure people know the laws." Which, in my estimation is a bit unfair. Yes, Nicodemus is a Jewish leader....and yes he knows the laws...but the Jewish purity laws that related to baptism...." of the water" really only dealt with water....water as a symbolic cleansing....to help make someone pure before they went into the holy places. Being born from above...of the Spirit...that's a new teaching.
Now, upon first glance, it seems like Jesus is a bit gruff and unforgiving. After all, Nicodemus is there in earnest, wanting to learn more, to understand better, to know Jesus and Jesus keeps brushing him off. At least that's how it seems. But really, Jesus wasn't brushing him off. He was more speaking a language he didn't understand.
Think of it this way. How many have ever had something that you didn't know you didn't know until you knew it?! I don't know about for you, but before we got married some people said: "Marriage is hard." But I had no idea what they really meant until I knew it...until we had lived through some of the hard parts for ourselves. The same is true of parenting "It's the hardest thing you'll ever do." Except you have no idea how really true that is until you live it. You don't know what you don't know until you know it. Same could be said of getting older...your body starts to fail you, it's not what you expected or imagined, only, you didn't know what you didn't know until you knew it.
It's a lot like that for Nicodemus. He's seeking head knowledge and understanding and Jesus is pointing to heart knowledge and divine understanding. And even though Nicodemus is earnest, he can't know what he doesn't know until he knows it. Jesus could talk all day, but until Nicodemus has that thing that hits his heart, he simply won't really understand.
Something similar is often true for a lot of us. We seek to know and understand with our heads....something that can only be fully known with our hearts. We might think we get it until we have the heart experience that changes everything and shows us the things we really didn't know all along.
I want to share the story of a girl who didn't know what she didn't know until she knew it....couldn't really understand until something profound hit her heart.
I read this story in a book by Lee Strobel. It's based on an interview he did with her as an adult. She was born in Korean, likely the daughter of an American soldier and a Korean woman. She shares that she was 3 or 4 and it was the time of the harvest festival. There was candy and games and beautiful dresses, and yet her mom was so sad. There had been a lot of arguing...her mom needing to make a choice...getting married but not keeping her daughter, or suffering for her life.
Eventually, her mom made her choice....getting married and sending her daughter to live with an uncle. A few days later they walked down a dirt road with a handkerchief satchel to the train station. Her mother helped her board the train, told her not to be afraid and to get off with the others. And she left.
A preschool-age child, alone on a train, to an unnamed destination and an unknown uncle....
At the end of the line, she got off the train. She waited and waited and no one came. she found a wheelbarrow with straw where she could stay warm for the night and stayed there. Then she learned the ways of the streets. Stealing food from the farms. Hiding where she could. Using old cans as cups. Doing her best to avoid abuses, though she still faced many. She ate wild locusts and field mice. And she was regularly called a "toogee". She was a half bread, a bastard, unwanted, unloved and unlovable.
She tried for years to make it home to her village and find her mom. But of all the places she went, she never found either.
One time when she was caught stealing food, someone tied her to a water wheel and let it go. Fortunately, someone was there to save her. Finally, someone approached her and offered help. They took her to an orphanage where she was safe. She was one of the oldest kids, so she became responsible for caring for the infants. And when potential families came, she would get the kids ready to meet those parents. One day a couple came looking for a little boy and she got a baby ready and took him. The man showed such care and love for the kids, snuggled them in and held them. Never before had she witnessed such affection. Her heart began to race...she knew it was a good thing...she just didn't know it for herself. The man gave the baby back and then approached the girl. He touched her face. caressing her with kindness and she was overwhelmed. she wanted that affection, but she couldn't tolerate it. You know what she did? She yanked her hand off his face, spit in his face and ran away. The couple left.
The next day they came back to do the paperwork to adopt a child. Not the baby boy they thought they came for, but for the older girl. They took her home and named her Stephanie. They raised her as their own. Sadly, Stephanie was so scarred by what had happened that she could only believe she had been adopted so she could become their house servant. She kept expecting them to make her do all the laundry, all the dishes, all the cooking, and cleaning. Only it never happened. But she kept them at arm's length emotionally—waiting for them to use her as everyone else had.
Then one day, as a teen, she was talking with a friend and sharing about her expectation of being made a house servant. The friend said, Stephanie, you're their daughter, they're not going to do that to you. And that day she got it....really got it. She got him end ran to her mom and said: "I'm your daughter!!!!!!" And the mom said yes. The mom who had been raising her for years....trying to get through, showing her love, hoping to soften the hardness that had grown in her heart and Stephanie finally got it. She was their daughter, not because of what she'd done or what had been done to her, but because they chose her and chose to love her.
The same is true for us with God. We are God's sons and daughters....not because of our past, but because God chooses us and loves us. God chooses to love us through all the hard stuff. We've faced neglect, abandonment, isolation, fear, abuses, hardship, feeling rejected and alone and God chooses us. Regardless of what others have done, we are God's beloved children, deeply loved and cared for.

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