Romans 8: 12-17
John 3: 1-17
A gardener, one day, noticed a chrysalis attached to the wall of his tool shed. He kept a close watch on it, and one day observed that the chrysalis had begun to open. While the gardener stood and watched, the split gradually grew longer and wider until eventually the head of the emerging butterfly appeared. For the next hour the man stood transfixed as he observed the tremendous struggle put up by the insect as it fought to free itself from its leathery prison.
At last with a mighty push and twist, the butterfly was free, and slowly unfolded its wings to dry in the sun. As he watched, he saw the wings take on the most lovely and beautiful colours; and then the butterfly flew away.
A year later the same man saw yet another chrysalis which was beginning to split, and he decided that this time he would help matters on a little. Fetching a razor blade he very gently and carefully slit the chrysalis open and released it from its leathery prison. It emerged with complete ease. The creature spread its wings to dry and flew away. But there was one big difference between the butterflies. The second had no colour to its wings.
The gardener the realised that life without struggle can be a life without colour.
Life without struggle can be life without beauty.
(story taken from Assemblies for School Children's Church by R.H.Lloyd)
I think Nicodemus struggled, just like that butterfly. He came to Jesus by night. Why?
Could it mean that he was afraid to approach Jesus in broad daylight, with the questions he needed answers to? Was he afraid he would be spotted?
I very nearly missed out on one of the greatest blessings God was to give me, because I had too much pride to respond to a call forward at a church renewal service at Durham. I too was a teacher, and all I could think of was, "Would anyone recognise me?"
I imagine Nicodemus thinking those very thoughts, "What will people say?"
Of course the use of the word 'night' may also be symbolic of the blindness of the Jewish ruling council, who were deeply suspicious of Jesus, and perhaps Nicodemus, in drawing so very near to the 'Light of the World' was only just beginning to see.
Yet Nicodemus emerged from his chrysalis, from his prison of doubt and questioning, to make a stand for Jesus.
In John 7vv50, we hear him defending him.
In John 19 vv38 along with Joseph of Arimathea, he musters up the courage to ask for the body of Jesus.
He had spread his wings by the end of John's gospel, and had flown free. No longer did fear have control of him. His whole situation was transformed.
He was now nailing his 'true colours 'to the mast.
Our epistle today has something very real to say about the struggle and sufferings, of life…that if we really are children of God, then we are heirs of God and co-heirs of Christ if we indeed share in his sufferings.
It is fairly easy to understand that we are God's children, but to be co-heirs is a more difficult concept to grasp.
Heirs to what?
Heirs to glory? Yes.
Heirs to abundant life? Yes.
Heirs to eternal life? Yes.
Is this all we inherit? No.
We also inherit the same kind of struggles that Jesus faced.-opposition, challenge, hatred, persecution, betrayal and denial. …isolation and desolation.
There will be suffering, and as Christians we must be prepared to deal with this fact, before we experience crisis time.
Understanding what scripture says about suffering won't remove the pain, but it will prepare us to trust God in the midst of trial, and to rely more on the Comforter who is always ready to draw alongside us in our troubles.
In this life as Christians, we will find ourselves in situations where we think there is no way out, we will find ourselves in battles, in deadlock, in dark tunnels of despair, we will find ourselves floundering and lost in stormy oceans where the waves seem to swallow us up.
All this Jesus himself faced, in order that God's kingdom could grow.
This is what we have also inherited, as Christians born of God's spirit. The kingdom we have inherited must keep on growing..
Many years ago I remember that a friend once remarked to me, that she had had nothing but trouble in her life since she became a Christian. She was shocked. In her new found faith she he had looked towards Jesus as some kind of talisman, who would protect her and guard her from all harm, and who would shield from coming anywhere near trouble.
If this is what we think then our faith will flounder!
I suppose you could say that she was hoping for a gardener with a razor blade to come along and ease her passage through life.
We can of course avoid the struggle, and run away and hide; or cut ourselves off, or drown our sorrows in the best way we know how, but that again is to take the easy way out. That again is to have our chrysalis cases cut open, to allow us an easy passage.
Because we are God's CHILDREN, we also have inherited a way of dealing with struggle.
First, we must realise that we are not CONDEMNED by our heavenly Father. He is a number one dad. (Abba).
Which father of any worth would condemn his children? Surely God wants us to come through our struggles. He wills us to, rather like the gardener in the story. He is behind us all the way. He wants to save us, and through us, the world.
God says to us through these scriptures today, that we are not condemned, we're not cursed or forgotten, we're not to condemn ourselves and think ourselves unworthy of his love, that we have not been written off.
Then, by imitating his son, Jesus, we can place him at the heart of a difficult situation and follow his example, and see the transformation take place, as we begin to:-
speak like him in that crisis,
think like him,
act like him,
love and forgive like him with the help and grace of the Holy Spirit, and others should be able to witness the family resemblance.
In this reading on Trinity Sunday, we see the Father, Son and Holy Spirit at work in our lives.
In our gospel reading we are told that God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Difficult situations can be turned around because of Christ.
There was once a dear lady of 90, who served for many years on a P.C.C, and one evening when an argument became very heated indeed, and two men were using abusive language towards each other, she raised her hand and asked a very gentle question.
"I wonder what would our dear Lord Jesus would have said in this situation?*
"What's he got to do with it?" they snarled.
He has everything to do with it! Because he is a Redeemer, he can win back situations where we need rescuing, and where his world needs rescuing.
The struggle is worth it. Eventually we will be able to help others because of our own experiences.
We will find that the testing of our faith develops perseverance, and through perseverence we become mature and complete.
If more Christians throughout in the world had really had the mind of Christ throughout the ages who knows how different our world would have been today.
To struggle in our own particular chrysalis and stay with it, rather than take the easy way out, is a process by which our lives can be enriched, (believe it or not!)
It is a process by which we learn.
It is a process from which we can emerge in full colour and one day we shall rise in glory,
and fly free!