This summer, Riverside Radio presenter Andy Bungay invited Ian to join him for a three-part series of interviews on some of Ian’s favourite subjects. ‘Sunday Joy Recess’ aired for three Sunday mornings (August 1, 8, and 15 ) while regular programming was taking a break. Catch up now with Ian and Andy in dialogue, plus music, soundscapes, and poetry.
Nicodemus is someone we only hear about in St John’s gospel. And he is an intriguing figure. We know that he was a prominent person in Jerusalem – religious and political leader, a Pharisee like St Paul, someone learned in scripture and theology. He was probably quite an old man and a wealthy one. But he was clearly fascinated by Jesus and he was the sort of person who asked questions and was open to review his deeply held convictions.
And we know what got his attention in the first place, because St John actually tells us. It was that famous moment when Jesus, an obscure carpenter’s son from Galilee – a stranger and outsider, with no credentials or status – comes to Jerusalem and creates mayhem in the Temple precincts. He picks the eve of the most holy festival, Passover, and makes the sort of dramatic protest that would be the envy of such modern movements as Extinction Rebellion.
As St John tells it, Jesus makes a whip of cords and drives the sacrificial animals and the money-changers out of the building, saying: ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market place’ Other gospel writers say he used equal force but stronger language – turning over the tables and accusing the stall holders of making His Father’s house a den of thieves.
It was this act that seems to have piqued Nicodemus’ curiosity. Rather than seeing Jesus’s behaviour as something he could just discount, he saw it as, to use his own words, ‘a sign that indicated the presence of God.’
Then Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night – probably not out of fear or embarrassment but because that was then the traditional time of the day for religious discussion – and calls him rabbi, ‘teacher’, and begins to question him. In the conversation that follows he hears about the idea that it is possible to be born again of the Holy Spirit and is told what has become one of the most celebrated summaries of what Christianity is about:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him – or has faith in him, or trusts him – may not perish but have eternal life.
There is a lot in that Gospel reading to think about, but I just want to note three things. Both Jesus and Nicodemus agree that the truth and wisdom come from God. They have no difference of opinion concerning God as the originator and creator of all things. But where Jesus fits in and the role of the Holy Spirit there are matters for further exploration.
Today is, as you will have noticed, Trinity Sunday, a day when there is an ancient tradition that clergy do their best, using skilful or bizarre analogies, to explain the doctrine of the Trinity – how what appears to be three things: God, the Father, God, the Son and God, the Holy Spirit, are actually one thing. The oddest example I have come across recently is the one where God was compared to a hairdryer. That should be obvious. The Holy Spirit is the warm air, Jesus is the electricity, and God the Father is the entire dryer! But all this seems to entirely miss the point, and it confuses as much as it enlightens.
The Christian experience of God is threefold. God meets us in three ways. We acknowledge this whenever we worship together and whenever we pray individually. Nicodemus was tentatively exploring that with Christ himself. He could sense something of God in Jesus’ prophetic act in the Temple but he is struggling with the idea that God can work great changes within himself – hence his confusion about being born again.
The God who is Trinity is glimpsed by Nicodemus as he seeks to make sense of who Christ is and what he means. Like us, he was stumbling around in the dark, if you like; groping towards the God who was coming to meet him, the God who loves everything he has made and who shares our life and walks with us and can be experienced in our hearts and guts. God met in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is the one who can overturn our expectations and bring profound truth and great depth to our lives.
From Sunday 5th July the church is going to open between 9am and 11am for informal prayer. People are welcome to come in, preferably by arrangement with the church office, for silent prayer and reflection. There will be readings for the day and occasional prayers led by a member of the clergy or congregation.
This re-opening has been done after careful thought and a thorough risk assessment has been undertaken.
Over the summer an experimental programme of services will be developed and the Eucharist re-introduced. St Barnabas will also continue its online presence on Twitter and Facebook. Online services will also continue to be available.
Collect and Readings for the Day
O God, the protector of all who trust in you,
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:
increase and multiply upon us your mercy;
that with you as our ruler and guide
we may so pass through things temporal
that we lose not our hold on things eternal;
grant this, heavenly Father,
for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. AMEN
Zechariah 9: 9-12
greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10Hewill cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the warhorse from Jerusalem;
and the battle-bow shall be cut off,
and he shall command peace to the nations;
his dominion shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
11As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.
12Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
today I declare that I will restore to you double.
Canticle – Song of Solomon 2: 8-13
|(It’s not too later to read Ian’s Church Times article on the turtle dove: https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2019/20-december/features/features/it-might-soon-be-just-two-turtle-doves)|
voice of my beloved!
Look, he comes,
leaping upon the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
9My beloved is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Look, there he stands
behind our wall,
gazing in at the windows,
looking through the lattice.
10My beloved speaks and says to me:
‘Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;
11for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
12The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtle-dove
is heard in our land.
13The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away.
Romans 7: 15-25a
15I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Matthew 11: 16-19, 25-30
16‘But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another,
17“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn,”
18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a
demon”; 1 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton
and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’
25At that time Jesus said, ‘I thankyou, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 9Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
Your prayers are asked for:
Jim Mingo, Max, Oliver Donlan, Christopher Browne, Hailey Tse, Saffron Barnes, Gerard Henry, Richard Baker, Patrick Cross, Sarah R, Rick Darke, Sarah Leigh, Jill Stopps, Marianne & Jim, Billy
Your prayers are asked for the work of: The Parish of the Holy Family in Zimbabwe
Anniversaries: Julia Durrant
In accordance with current Church of England policy, we have suspended all public services and gatherings until further notice. We had hoped to keep the Church open as a quiet place for private prayer and meditation, but regret that we must now close the building completely for the indefinite future.
For the next few weeks, extracts from our services will be on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/stbarnabasuk
and on Twitter https://twitter.com/stbarnabasuk
You do not need to be on Twitter to follow the St Barnabas Twitter feed. It is embedded in the Homepage of this website and can be accessed there.
Owing to the Covid-19 outbreak, we are unable to meet for face-to-face discussions of our Lent book as planned. We encourage you to keep reading, however, and make use of social media to connect with others who are following Dr Valerio’s seven-week exploration of what Genesis 1 tells us about our place within Creation.
Discover rich supplementary resources at https://spckpublishing.co.uk/saying-yes-resources
Or join the dedicated Facebook Group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/2692935007469931