Numbers 21: 4 – 9
Psalm 107: 1 – 3, 17 – 22
Ephesians 2: 1 – 10
John 3: 14 – 21
If it feels as though you have walked into the middle of a conversation today, it’s because you have! No wonder, then, if you are shaking your head, and thinking to yourself, where on earth did all this come from? You’re not the only one to feel that way today. I bet a number of people are thinking to themselves, did I miss something?
Our gospel lesson today is the second half of that famous encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus. You’ll remember the story. Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night, in a sense secretly, declaring Jesus to be a teacher who has come from God. It is the first glimmer of faith by Nicodemus, who we will see again at the end of the gospel, when, with Joseph of Arimathea, he makes provision for the Lord’s burial, by bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds.  But all of that comes later, much later, almost at the end of the story. Today we’re near the beginning, and Jesus and Nicodemus have that mysterious, almost mystical conversation about water, and being born again, and entering a second time into a mother’s womb.
Numbers 21:4-9 / Psalm 107 / Ephesians 2:1-10 / John 3:14-21
It seems to me that there is a common theme in the lessons appointed for today, and that this theme captures the essence of what it is that Christians believe about God and about humanity.
What shall we say about the human condition? What can we say about God, and about God’s activity in our lives and in the world? What is at the heart of the Christian message, the “good news” we have to offer to others? Wherein lies our hope? Today’s lessons offer us rich insight into these questions.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing, not the result of works; it is the gift of God.”(Eph 2:8-9)
You are on an elevator with a stranger. He turns to you and asks, “Are you a Christian?” You say “yes.” He says, “Why are you Christian?” What would you say? You’ve only got the length of an elevator ride. What would you say?
You could do worse than quote these words from today’s reading from the Letter to the Ephesians. For me, they sum up the very essence of the Gospel: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing, not the result of works; it is the gift of God.”
Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day, and it’s a special day for me because I arrived at Lorgan Airport from London on St. Patrick’s Day 1999 to begin my life as a postulant here at the Monastery. I remember feeling very, very anxious. It was a bit like starting a new school. The sinking feeling – how will I get on? How will I perform? Will I fit in? Will I be able to do the work? Will I make any friends? Will they understand my accent? Perhaps you’ve had similar experiences: starting a new school, college or a new job. How well will I perform?