Ernest and Nicodemus Get Curious – The Rev. Michelle Meech
March 05, 2023
Today’s sermon is a story designed for our All Ages Worship.
Nicodemus met Jesus in today’s story. Nicodemus was a pharisee. The pharisees were people who liked to be very sure of things. They read a lot of scripture, they called it God’s Law. And they were convinced that they knew the right ways to worship God. They believed they knew the right ways to please God. They learned from the older teachers how they were supposed to think and believe. And no one ever questioned anything.
Then, one day, Nicodemus was at the Temple along with many others. It was close to the Passover and many of the Jewish people were there to make sacrifices. Nicodemus thought to himself, “I don’t like that these moneychangers cheat these people and that the priests of the Temple have convinced these people that they have to make sacrifices. But it’s just a part of the way things are so there is nothing I can do. As long as I follow the right path, God will be pleased with me.”
Then, suddenly there was Jesus. He was upset. He was so upset that he turned over the tables the moneychangers were using and scattered the animals that were being bought for sacrifices. As he was doing this, he said: “This is God’s house! Stop treating people so carelessly!”
Nicodemus had been so concerned about being sure and being right, that he had never considered that there might be a way to change things. He had never considered that there might be another way to be, or that the world could be any different than it is. So, for the first time in his life, Nicodemus stopped worrying about being right. And Nicodemus got curious.
Being curious is kind of like being an explorer. Maybe you explore something you don’t know. Or maybe you explore something you do know because you realize there may be more to explore that you hadn’t considered. This is what happened to Nicodemus.
And it reminds me of the story about a young person named Ernest.
In a small town, just behind an ordinary house filled with too little fun, a young person named Ernest had decided that he would explore the depth of his pond. So, he tried sticking a stick, and dipping a hook, and sinking a stone… but nothing touched the bottom.
Ernest thought this was exceptional. So he put on his explorer clothes, got ready by stretching and taking deep breaths, and he dove right in. Down between the fishes and the frogs, past the squid and the sharks, and all the shapeless things, into his pond forever deep.
He dove into lightless areas and through sunken treasures. And swam into murky waters and through wispy, playful seaweed. Ernest dove and dove, further and further. Until at last he came up on the other side.
And the other side of his pond was so big! And filled with life! There were all kinds of things happening there. There were small things that he could barely see. And tall things that he could never hope to reach. And every size and shape in between.
And all of it was his to explore. As he explored, he found there were things that were also a little ghoulish and ghastly. Things that were unimaginable. But Ernest was brave, so he explored those too, sometimes in conflict and sometimes in friendship, but always with curiosity.
Then he took a minute, considered all he had explored and said, “Just imagine, all of this was hiding in a pond.” And he thought that was exceptional. He decided he was done exploring for the day so he got ready for the swim back. Into lightless areas, that seemed a little more lit up and through sunken treasures. Into murky waters that seemed clearer somehow and through wispy, playful seaweed. And back into the world that he knew.
But the world didn’t seem quite the same anymore. His house seemed a little less ordinary and his town seemed a little less small. There was always something to explore and someone to meet. There was always the exceptional just waiting for him.
You see, Ernest thought he knew his house and his town and even his pond. But he didn’t, not really.
It’s the same with Nicodemus. He thought he knew God. And he thought he knew what God wanted. Nicodemus thought that God wanted him to be right. He knew that there was suffering in the world, but he thought that as long as he was right, that’s all that God could ask for.
When Jesus showed him something new about God, Nicodemus thought, “This is exceptional.” And he got curious. He went to talk to Jesus to find out more. Even though Jesus said things that confused him, Nicodemus kept asking. He was brave and he kept exploring… just like Ernest did in the pond when he found things that were ghoulish and ghastly.
We don’t know the end of the Gospel story, but I’d like to think that Nicodemus discovered something just as exceptional as Ernest did. I’d like to think that Nicodemus learned that God sent us Jesus so we would learn that it is more important to reach out to one another and take care of each other, than it is to be right. Because God’s laws are really about taking care of each other.
I’d like to think that when Nicodemus talked to Jesus, he started to understand that God loves everyone. Not just those who follow God’s laws. Not just those Nicodemus thought were righteous. But everyone.
God loves young people and old people. God loves straight people and gay people. God loves black people and brown people and pink people and white people. God loves people who like to eat cookies and God loves people who like to eat tunafish.
God loves you. And God loves me. And that, as Ernest says, is exceptional.