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Lent 2 and second week of Lent

with Dorothy Marshall

PWRDF Diocesan Representative for the Diocese of Edmonton

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LISTEN: Click the red circle above to hear Dorothy read the Gospel, or read below. 

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.”

Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?”

Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”

Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

“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. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

REFLECT: Click the red circle above to hear Dorothy’s reflection, or read below.

Nicodemus was a man who, as a Pharisee, would be very familiar with the Jewish scriptures. He would have known all the “rules” he was expected to follow to be a good Jew. In fact, the Pharisees were known to be VERY BIG on rules. He believed that to be right with God, he would have to observe all the requirements and observances; he would celebrate the feast days exactly as prescribed in the law and make the appropriate sacrifices. Nicodemus would have been a stickler for Sabbath observance and ritual cleanliness and, he would have been looked up to in his society; a man of knowledge and position.

In our Gospel reading, we hear how Nicodemus knew that his life was missing something. Following all the rules wasn’t enough; there must be more. He wanted to be closer to God, but he didn’t know how. So, under cover of darkness, he went to visit a controversial young rabbi, Jesus, to find out.

When I was a child, like Nicodemus, I felt a yearning for a closer relationship with someone, but in my case, it was my father. Like many men of his day, he was distant to his children; an enigma. He worked all day and often had evening meetings, so he wasn’t at home very much. He was a good man though, highly thought of in the community. As his children, I think we feared him; not the usual “afraid” kind of fear, but the Biblical kind of fear – awe and respect.

In my pre-teen years, I had my own “Nicodemus” kind of experience. I really looked up to my father, and felt that there was something missing in our relationship. I wanted to feel closer him; to feel special. I wanted to know him better. As one of five siblings I wanted to feel that I was important to him. I came up with a plan. In those days he was an Anglican priest, with a three-point parish. Every Sunday morning there was a service at the church in our city and then an afternoon service at one of the two smaller rural churches. I started traveling with him in the afternoon services after attending the morning one; I wasn’t feeling especially holy – it was nothing to do with God – I simply wanted to spend meaningful time with my Dad. I even went so far as to attend the Wednesday morning early communion before school. This was a said service; pretty boring for a young girl in those days! Like Nicodemus, I was willing to go to great lengths to build this relationship with my dad. It was important to me.

Years later, as a young mother living in another province under strained circumstances, and far from friends and family, I again had a “Nicodemus” experience. But this time it was about God. I had been struggling for a while, not happy with my inner self, and started filling my lonely days reading books about faith. Now, I had gone to church my entire life but these books kindled in me a thirst for something that was missing in my life; a relationship with God. Until that point I don’t remember ever having heard anything about a relationship with God. I knew OF God, I believed IN God, but I didn’t actually KNOW God personally. The more I grew to know him the closer I wanted to be. And I realized that this relationship with Jesus needed to be nurtured and strengthened; it was a life-long journey.

And part of that growing relationship was coming to the understanding that being a disciple of Jesus meant that I needed to actually LIVE my faith, just as Jesus did. I had to live out my love of Jesus through how I loved others. Of course, that includes loving the “others” who I don’t know and will never meet – those who are not part of my local community but are still my “neighbours.”

As the PWRDF Representative for the Diocese of Edmonton, I have the opportunity to live out my faith by supporting those who enable people around the world to live better lives. I am part of a team of people who share my faith and together, with the support of Anglicans across Canada, we work with partners to enable sustainable solutions that make a lasting impact in people’s lives – and we do it out of love.

This is all part of what Nicodemus was searching for with his clandestine meeting with Jesus – a faith that is real, alive, and actively living out God’s love – not by getting caught up in following a bunch of rules, but by living in a loving relationship with God and with our fellow man.

March 9, 2020

Listen to the Gospel reading at the top of this page again.

What words, ideas or phrases stand out for you?

March 10, 2020

Listen to the Gospel reading at the top of this page again.

What is Jesus/the Gospel saying to you?

March 11, 2020

Listen to the Gospel reading at the top of this page again.

What is Jesus/the Gospel calling you to do?

March 12, 2020

PWRDF programs live out God’s love in so many ways. Along the border between Thailand and Burma, DARE (Drug and Alcohol Recovery Education) program has been treating and preventing substance abuse and addiction in the refugee population. “Where the government and homeland offer only fear and death, the people of PWRDF offer love, kindness and friendship, which has been consistent over so many years,” says DARE founder Pam Rogers. Read more here. 

March 13, 2020

In September 2019, a category five hurricane tore through the Bahamas. Maritimers know the perils of living in hurricane zones, and in fact felt the tail end of Dorian. Read how Canadian Anglicans came together to respond to this disaster. 

March 14, 2020

Your Saturday Sabbath. A figure stands in awe of a magical sunrise. Consider how God has touched your life. Illustration by Rini Templeton.

Illustration by Rini Templeton

Next week: Third week of Lent with Allison McDougall