Second Sunday in Lent

Readings – Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalm 121; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17; John 3:1-17

In 1774 Benjamin Franklin wrote in Poor Richard’s Almanac the following —

Tart words make no friends.                                                                                                   A spoonful of honey will catch more flies                                                                                   than a gallon of vinegar.

We don’t need to take his word for it.  Vinegar, negativity, dehumanizing others, and throwing mud, do attract others, does gather a crowd.  Just tune in to some T.V. programs, internet news, and Facebook posts. 

Yet, the sweetness of gracious words mends our souls and binds us together as a community.  We all need more sweetness in our lives.  We all need to share our own sweetness more abundantly. 

Listen to the words from the Gospel according to St. John addressed to the lurking in the darkness Nicodemus.  Nicodemus, a Pharisee and “leader of the Jews”, came to Jesus at night out of fear.  He was fearful of losing his standing as a leader, so he hid his curiosity about Jesus. 

Jesus responded with these words, these sweet words:

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.

Jesus responded with these words, these sweet words:

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.

This is honey, more than a spoonful of honey, in two sentences. 

You and I have sweetness in our own hearts.  We were “born of the Spirit”.  That’s why we are here today!  We have been given the gift of eternal life, each and every one of us!  Our journey of faith, like Abram, is to share our particular sweetness as we travel through life.  We take the sweetness we have been given, and we put it to use.  Like Abram, we have been blessed so that we can be a blessing to others, so that we can pass on the sweetness, each in our own way, according to the gifts we have received.  Rather than build bigger and bigger barns to store our giftedness, horde our treasures, and store our honey, we are to give it away, not knowing the result of our generosity, or needing a “thank you”.

The friendly can listen to the lonely.        The singer can sing.                                                 The baker can bake.                                The administrator can organize.                                  The teacher can instruct.                    The author can write.                                           The healthy can care for others.                The strong can lift and carry.                  The seamstress can sew.                                                                                                              And the retired can be generous in so many ways.

We all have the sweetness that can be generously shared.  As we age along life’s journey, we discover new sweet spots to share with children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, students, friends, and with neighbors.  God never stops gifting us with sweetness until the day we enter into the heavenly realms.  So, we never cease to gift others as long as we have a beating heart. 

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son”, he gave us his best honey, he gave us pure sweetness, to show us how to live fully the sweetness within us.  May the same be said of us, the people of God’s grace, that we loved the world and poured out our goodness to make this world a better place. 

Back to Nicodemus, he came out of the night following the crucifixion.  He requested the body of Jesus.  He lovingly took it down from the cross.  Tradition tells us that he gave him to his mother Mary, to hold in her arms one more time before placing him in the new rock tomb and rolling the stone across the entrance. 

How do we know this?  Nicodemus’ name is remembered to this day because he came into the light, and became a member of the earliest gatherings of the One who rose from the tomb victorious over death.  Nicodemus shared his sweetness in response to the sweetness that had been shared with him on a dark night. 

Back to that old Pennsylvania printer of Poor Richard’s Almanac–

Tart words make no friends.                                                                                                   A spoonful of honey will catch more flies                                                                                   than a gallon of vinegar.


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