"The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (NT) proclaims,witnesses and shares the Good
News of God's Grace in Jesus Christ."
Deutsche Internationale Schule Johannesburg 125
1Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
3Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
“Mom, where is my shirt?” “In the wardrobe!” “No, it́s not!” “Yes! Just look properly!”
“I have looked properly - it is not there!”
So, Mom comes, opens the wardrobe. “There it is!” “It wasn't there just now”, James insists. “You just did not look properly!” she responds with irritation. It́s the same story, almost every Monday morning!
There is story in the Bible about someone who did not stop to look, despite the fact that his colleagues and friends told him there is nothing to find.
We read about this man in John 3.
Nicodemus was a learned man, a recognised leader in society, part of the ruling council. Like everybody else in the ruling council he had heard about Jesus, and what he did and said.
But he came to a different conclusion than his peers. They had looked, and saw nothing that convinced them that Jesus was special. And so they stopped looking.
Nicodemus however was not so sure. He wanted to look again, look deeper. But when your friends and colleagues have already ruled that there is nothing, it is a bit risky. And so he went by night. (Remember, no street lights, load shedding all the time!) No one could see him. But he wanted to see.
What must have amazed him most is when he realised that Jesus knew his deepest question, without him asking it.
When you read the story in John 3 Jesus, after being greeted, responds with: “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again”
Nicodemus had not asked about this - but Jesus knew that this was the real issue, “the shirt that Nicodemus was looking for”!
It was at this stage that Nicodemus realised that indeed there was more to Jesus than the others had seen. Sadly, right up to the end, they refused to look deeper. Rather, their mind was made up, and nothing would change it.
Looking deeper, being curios, wanting to find out more - that is one of the qualities of us humans.
Yet, in the history of mankind there were always times when others wanted to determine what I can look for, how far I can search.
Often it has been like a tug of war between religion and research.
Nicodemus was the one who wanted to research more. His colleagues decided to stick with what they believed to be true, without searching further.
A thousand years later, during the middle ages, the Church did not encourage curiosity. The Church told the people what to believe, and they had to accept it. No questioning, no searching.
There were various “Nicodemusses” - At the time of the reformation Copernicus published a document stating that the earth is not the centre of the universe, but a planed revolving around the sun. He was laughed at. 50 years later Galileo Galilei refused to stop looking and further developed the theory. Yet the Church banned his teachings, declared them a heresy, and placed him under house arrest for the rest of his life.
They refused to be challenged, refused to look for more.
Martin Luther also was a Nicodemus in his time. He refused to accept some of the teachings of the Church, and started looking in the Bible for things that had been overlooked. He, like Nicodemus, again discovered that Jesus Christ brings life, forgiveness, free of charge, to anybody who comes to him.
He too was challenged by the Church, but fortunately he could not be silenced, and thousands joined him on this journey to look for more, to ask questions, not to just accept it when others say: “This is how it is”
Martin Luther did not, however, limit his curiosity to matters of faith. In fact, he was keen that Christians should learn about Nature, Science, History. For him Faith and Knowledge went hand in hand. Strong faith needed sound knowledge, and sound knowledge was incomplete without faith.
So concerned was he about the lack of knowledge, that he wrote letters to rulers and major cities, urging them to establish schools for boys and girls. Yes, also for girls, who in those times were totally ignored. In 1530 Wittenberg opened its first school for girls.
Luther was very frustrated by the low level of education, especially amongst the clergy. In one such frustrated moment he stated: I believe that all the knowledge of all the clergy in Germany together will be less than that of a single roman legionary in the ancient Roman empire! No wonder, he said, that the Roman empire could expand so vastly: even the normal foot soldiers were well educated!
If we consider this, it makes sense that the Deutsche Schule Johannesburg was established by the Church. The local Pastor Kuschke started in 1890 by teaching just one child. A small beginning.
Again it was like a Nicodemus, someone eager to do more, to look deeper.
I mentioned already that in the course of history there were times when faith and research, or shall I say Faith and Science where working hand in hand, and other times when they were seen as enemies.
We need to understand: there are questions that faith cannot answer. And there are questions that science cannot answer.
This school was started by a pastor, but he did not only teach matters of faith - he knew that the human being is not only a person of faith, nor only a person of knowledge.
You young people are on your journey through life.
Be curious. Ask questions! Challenge science and challenge faith.
Last week “homo Naledi” was introduced as a new species of the hominoid family. For some Christians this is a huge challenge to their faith. Dońt be afraid of such discoveries. Rather be curios.
I believe that God is the creator - and all these discoveries are part of his creation, it is exciting to learn more.
For some scientists it is a further proof that there is no God, that evolution happened by chance, without interference of a creator.
“Mom, where is my shirt - it is not there?” - “Look again, it is there”
In the same way I believe that if you keep on looking you will find traces of God all over. Just look again!
But most of all, I believe that when you start looking, you might, like Nicodemus, discover that the Lord has more answers than you have questions, that he knows your deepest questions and concerns, and will answer them.
Curiosity does not always kill the cat - in fact, any body who has a cat knows: It is curiosity that helps the cat to catch the rat!
Be curious. And if people tell you that “there is no shirt”, dońt give up too soon. You are on an exiting journey through life. May you make many wonderful discoveries. May you never become complacent and think that you know all the answers.
And, from time to time, take that “journey at night” to talk to the Lord - especially if others say that there is nothing. You will be surprised!.
Accept one another, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Romans 15:7
Darum nehmt einander an, wie auch Christus euch angenommen hat zur Ehre Gottes. Römer 15:7
Julle moet mekaar aanvaar, soos Christus julle ook aanvaar het. Dan sal al die mense vir God prys.
Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendour, doing wonders? Exodus 15:11