Sermon 25 February 2024

Prayers from 24 December 2023

 John 3:1-17  Dangerous Secrets

We all have secrets in our lives.  Family secrets.  Friend secrets.  Work secrets.  Marriage secrets.  Adoption secrets.  IVF secrets.  Nuclear secrets.  Tumour secrets.  Cancer secrets.  Criminal secrets.  Even inner secrets we try to keep from ourselves.  You know?  It’s a long list, to be sure.  And some secrets sometimes covered in white lies.

Vue Cinema

She had followed him in her car to Vue Cinema.  Mindful not to be seen, she kept a distance from her husband as he purchased a ticket for the new Marvel Comics movie.  He then purchased Haribo gummies and a soda.  She waited until he walked out of the theatre after 2 hours.  “Where is she?” she said.  The husband was startled.  Shocked.  Floored.  “Where is she?”  She did not want to make a scene but she had trouble controlling here volume.  There is no she.  No other woman.  The wife saw that he was telling her the truth.  She said, “You mean you lied to me about going to poker night with the guys and instead you came by yourself to watch the new kids’ movie?”

After a pause he said, “Well, sometimes the bills, the kids, the travel gets to me and I just want to escape to the things that I grew up with as a child.”  And she says, “But I like Superman too.”  And my friend, like an idiot, says, “Actually, Superman is DC comics.”

You didn’t actually say that to her did you?  I asked as some of us met up for dinner.  “Yeah I did.” <Urban head wag.>  For reasons unknown to me the boy likes to go urban on me from time to time.  All I know is that you cannot UNSEE that.  I said, “OK…Christina Aguilera, let’s take it down a notch.

I asked my friend, “Why don’t you JUST take her to those Marvel movies? They are terribly innocuous, NOT like that King Lear incident when we were postgraduates.  What happened with Shakespeare’s King Lear, Sang?  Well the feckless director changed the ending to an outlandish happy ending where Edgar marries Cordelia.  We were so incensed at this hack job that we all stood up and walked out.   It would be akin to setting The Merchant of Venice on Mars.  And do NOT give Elon Musk any ideas.

But back to the story.  He says, “Well, I want to take her but she would talk all the way through the movie asking things like, Who’s that?  That’s the HulkWho’s that? That’s Iron ManWho’s that?  That’s ThorWhat’s happened to Iron Man?  Has he gained weight or  something?  No, that’s a new suit called the Hulkbuster created solely for the purpose of restraining Hulk…oh never mind.

Well…I can see where you’re coming from….

Exegesis

Why does Nicodemus come in veil of night, hiding himself? He wants things on the hush hush. Anonymous.  Secret.  Jesus was seen as a fringe figure so there was a real possibility that Nick could be suspended without pay if the high ups found out.  He might lose his next promotion in the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court.  Lose friends.  Lose valuable contact.  Shunned by the establishment.  The dinner invitations sure to dry up.  But it was an open secret that Jesus’ preaching had real authority and power and people were listening to what he was saying.  An open secret.

Even the question Nick asks is about a secret.  Perhaps THE SECRET.  Had he phrased it in a different way, he may have asked Jesus, “What is the secret of life?”

James Taylor may have had helped Nicodemus with that one had they been contemporaries.

The secret of love is in opening up your heart.

It’s okay to feel afraid, but don’t let that stand in your way.

Cause anyone knows that love is the only road.

And since we’re only here for a while, might as well show some style. Give us a smile.

Not bad.  Not bad at all, James.

But Nicodemus is anxious.  “Rabbi, how do you get into the Kingdom of God?”  And Jesus says, “You must be born again NOT from your mother but from ABOVE.”

The Greek word here is anothen which means “from above” or “from top to bottom.”  It is the same word that is used on Good Friday when the veil of the Temple was torn anothen, “from top to bottom,”  As it often happens in John’s gospel, somebody listens, but does not HEAR.  NOT second time, once more.  No. Anothen.

By the way, the “you” here is the plural you.  So if Jesus were Scottish, he would say “Yous all must be born from above.”

I have a fellow Kirk minister friend who was called to a rather posh charge for her first charge.  That they had called her was a surprise even to her for she felt that she did not have the capacity to put on airs after having been raised in the tough inner city.  After one Sunday service an older member with all the letters behind his name teased her by saying, “Well, there were a quite a few lambs in your sermon today.”  It annoyed her even now as she shared the story with me.  To which I said, “Look, unless no one has to guess whether that YOU is singular or plural.”

“Well how then can I be born from above?” Nick asks.  And Jesus says Pneuma.  The Wind.  The wind comes and then it goes.  You cannot control the wind, Nick,” Jesus says.  “Cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

That’s the secret, Jesus says.  But when something is secret no more, it is dangerous.  Dangerous? Nick says.  Jesus nods his head.  Dangerous.  The Wind is a dangerous thing.  Jesus was also speaking from personal experience after having escaped some hairy moments involving the crowd…for his moment had not yet come.

C4

In 1993, 6 identical bombs concealed in 6 identical tool boxes were sent to 6 different addresses in northern part of New York State.  4 of the bombs exploded.  Killing 5 people and injuring 2.  The ATF (Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms), the federal arm assigned to investigate bombings were called in.  Each package sent via federal post were difficult to trace and weighed about 16lbs each.  Not all bombs reached their target.  Building a bomb is actually quite elemental.  It requires 4 basic things.

  1. Explosives
  2. Trip wire
  3. Detonator
  4. Shrapnel

 

Propelled by the dynamite, each piece of shrapnel travels 10 times faster than a bullet, moving 15,000 feet per second.  The shrapnel can tear through solid pieces of concrete.

Explosives are split into 2 categories. High explosives and low explosives.  High explosives like dynamite and C4 (C4 as in plastics and NOT CH4 as in our Kirk hymn book) are the most powerful used for demolition and excavation or for military purposes.  They are extremely stable requiring a great amount of force from a detonator to set them off.  C4 has the consistency of something in between play-doh and cottage cheese.

Low explosives include flash powder used in firecrackers on Guys Fawkes night and smokeless powder used in shot gun shells.  They are easier to ignite than high explosives.  It is the explosive of choice for amateur bombers.

It was clear to the ATF that the damage caused in these cases was caused by high explosives.

You might be wondering how I know this stuff.  Watch any crime show: 48 Hours. FBI Files. Real Crime.  Newspapers.  All I can say to all of you is PLEASE do not Google any of this because I can assure you that MI5 will show up at your door if you do.

They eventually found the 2 men responsible because it is not easy to hide where one acquired these materials.  One obvious destination is a quarry or a demolition company.   And they always leave a paper trail.   But the most important question when the 2 men were arrested was: How these 2 men with no military or law enforcement training managed to make this bomb?  The answer is as banal as it is CHILLING.  They went on-line and simply ordered a manual entitled: How to make a Bomb.  A manual protected under Freedom of speech and information act.

Secrets are dangerous when they are secrets no more.

Dangerous Secrets

Rosslyn Chapel, Edinburgh.  Rosetta Stone, Egypt.  Roswell, New Mexico.

UFOs and aliens.

What is the chance that we are the only sentient beings in the WHOLE of creation?  The WHOLE of creation, of ALL THAT IS?  Is it a mathematical improbability?  NO, it is a mathematical IMPOSSIBILITY.

So why are we kept in the dark?  Because secrets are dangerous when they are secrets no more.

OPEN SECRET

Open Secret: When Galileo proved that earth revolved around the sun he was made to recant to perpetuate a lie because the church could not stand for it. IT WAS JUST TOO DANGEROUS.

Open Secret: The earth is NOT flat.  But today we have “flat-earthers” who are trying to bring STUPID back.

Open Secret: We have a gun problem in the United States.  There was a shooting at the Super Bowl Parade.  At a Super Bowl Parade! BTW, AR-15 does not stand for Automatic Rifle.  It stands for ArmaLite Rifle.

Open Secret: A good guy with gun is NOT an answer to a BAD guy with a gun.  The parade had more than 800 armed law enforcement personnel.  The open secret is that the good guy with a gun can only respond AFTER the people have been shot.

Open Secret:  The rise of Napoleon Bonaparte had at least one massive inadvertent consequence: the creation of Germany as the self governing Prussian states came together as one to become Germany. Where is your evidence?  First Reich, the Holy Roman Empire, lasted 1000 years.  Charlemagne, first king of the Franks.  Second Reich, Bismarck, out of victory in the Franco-Prussian War.  And the Third Reich.  Well, we all know who was in charge of that.

Open secret: Whenever there has been a war between France and Germany, all of modern Europe became destabilized.  Where is the evidence?  1870. 1914. 1939.

Open Secret. The country that is wholly impossible to defeat and occupy is none other than the USA.  Surrounded by 2 vast oceans, it has a natural moat and the 2 bordering countries who are allies.  More important perhaps because it has 393 million guns when its population is 330 million.

Open Secret: It was France that was wholly wary of the German reunification after the fall of the Berlin wall.  They tried to slow down the process by throwing the bureaucratic book through Brussels.

Open Secret: Ukraine has to win this war outright for it is THE litmus test for the will of NATO.  Because Putin is a liar, the next country he will have to attack is a NATO ally and the Third World War will be ignited.

Open Secret:  Alexei Navalny is more dangerous to Putin DEAD because he will live on as a MEMORY, an IDEA and IDEAS are un-killable.

Open Secret: Do this in MEMORY of me.  As often as you partake of my body and blood.  Do this in memory of me. Jesus is unkillable because he has already DIED and is now resurrected.  He is dangerous because he IS Spirit.  Pneuma.  And the Spirit cannot be killed.

Open Secrets are dangerous when they are secrets no more.

Conclusion

Because the secret of LIFE, I think Jesus is saying, is that we have ALREDY been given the ANSWERS to the EXAM.  Follow me.  Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.  There was a father who had 2 sons.  My ancestor was a wandering Aramean.  Be born from above. It’s like having all the answers sitting right there in front of you for a Pub Quiz Night or for a game of Trivial Pursuit.  Right there in the OPEN.

Secrets are dangerous when they are secrets no more.

Do this in memory of me.  Hallelujah.

 

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Thanks be to God.

 

Rev Sang Yoon Cha

25 February 2024

Prayer of Approach, Confession and Assurance of Pardon

Blessed are you, O Christ, our God; you were before time began, and came to the world to save us.  Blessed are you, Sun of righteousness; you shine with the Father’s love and illumine the whole universe. Blessed are you, Son of Mary; born a child you shared our humanity.  Blessed are you, son of David; born to rule, you received gifts from the wise men.

Blessed are you, heavenly King; teaching and preaching, healing and comforting, you proclaimed the kingdom.

With all the voices of heaven we celebrate the coming of our Saviour.

Let heaven and earth shout their praise. With all the creatures on earth we sing and dance at your birth. Praise and glory to you, O Lord Jesus Christ.

Prayer of Confession

Yet, Loving God, even this week, we have not loved you with all our heart or served you with all our strength; we have been blind to the vision of a renewed world. In your mercy, Lord, pardon and restore us, that we may recover the love you have given to us in Jesus Christ. Remembering his birth, death and resurrection, we may serve you with joy all the days of our life. Amen.

ABSOLUTION

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.

Hear then Christ’s word of grace to us:

Your sins are forgiven.

***The Lord’s Prayer

Our father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name; Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done. On earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors; And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, And the power, And the glory, Forever. Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

Gracious God, as a star rose, and drew people from great distances to Bethlehem that they might greet the Christ-child; Draw us, your Church, and all of your people to you – that we might be the Church and the People who you call us to be.

As you gave Mary your Holy Spirit, filling her with the delight of your Presence; Fill us with your Spirit, and renew our lives.

As Gentiles streamed to Jesus’ Light, and Kings to the brightness of his rising; Draw our nation, our leaders, and all in authority, to His brightness.

As angels sang ‘glorias’ to you and proclaimed peace on earth, and goodwill among all peoples; Bring us your peace, and bring an end to and terror and strife

As shepherds were drawn away from their flocks by night; Draw those who do not know you yet to the knowledge and love of you.

As Jesus was born in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn; Be especially present with those who have no where to lay their head, those who are vulnerable, and those who are hungry.

As the Holy Family gathered together in Bethlehem, and traveled together to far off lands; Bless all families, especially the families of our parish, and protect those who travel.

As your son came to proclaim the forgiveness of sins, and the gift of Life Eternal; Give to the departed eternal rest and let Light perpetual shine on them.

O Lord our God, may the Light and Hope of this morning, and of your Son’s Incarnation reassure our hearts that you are among us, that you hear our prayer, and that you will be with us always, even to the end of the age. In the name of Jesus of Nazareth we pray.

Prayers from Watchnight Service 24 December 2023

Prayer of Approach, Confession and Assurance of Pardon

Omnipresent God, long ago you sent your angels through the midnight of the sleeping world to tell the shepherds Christ was born in Bethlehem: come to our dark world, and stir our hearts to hear again their message of your love in Christ.

On this night of expectant wonder, we tread again the path to Bethlehem and to the child whose birth was heralded by prophets, proclaimed by angels, and welcomed by shepherds.

Embracing God, in the quietness of this hour, touch our understanding with your Holy Spirit, that we may know again in true reality the wonder of your love in Jesus Christ; and though there was no room in Bethlehem’s inn, help us to make room in the busy-ness of the world, in our daily lives, that our lives may show Christ’s love, and our hearts receive Christ’s peace.

Prayer of Confession

Jesus Christ, born in a manger and poor, welcomed by working women and kings, come to our world and heal our deep divisions, that we may be not white and black, male and female, employer and employed, but the children of God, seeing you, our Lord, in one another. All thanks to you, generous God, for the gift of Christ, light in our darkness and hope of the world, whom you have sent to save all humanity.

So at this time we bring to your feet all those moments this week, when we put ourselves before you.

With singing angels, let us praise your name, and tell the earth this story, so that all may walk together, one with another, may feel our hearts inflamed and our souls sustained.

ABSOLUTION

In this Holy hour, the sleeping babe, the prince of Peace declare to you that your Sins are forgiven.  Amen.

Let us now pray the family prayer that the Lord taught us…

***The Lord’s Prayer

Our father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name; Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done. On earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors; And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, And the power, And the glory, Forever.

Prayers of Intercession

God of darkness and silence, you have pierced the quiet of this night by the utterance of your Word in our flesh. May your word of compassion and reconciliation resound in us and through us.

In this holy night angels proclaimed the peace of your righteousness. Strengthen all who work for peace and justice.

In this holy night you came to us in a child cradled in a borrowed bed of straw as there was no room in the inn. Open our hearts to the needs of the homeless and the hungry.

In this holy night shepherds and outcasts heard your good news. Give us grace to spread your gospel of joy and liberation.

In this holy night we rejoice at the coming of this time of re-creation. Be with those who travel, enrich our rejoicing, and strengthen the bonds between us.

In this holy night Christians throughout the world are celebrating Christ’s birth. Unite us in one family that we may shine with the one light that scatters all our darkness.

In this holy night your living Word leaped down, shedding light on all who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death. Give strength and peace to all who suffer in body, mind, or spirit.

In this holy night heaven and earth embrace and in your true child you give us power to be your children. Fulfil in your love all who have gone before us in the faith. May we, like them, remain faithful to the mystery of the Word made flesh and live in your eternal light.

Hear these prayers we bring to you and fulfil your purposes in us in the name of Jesus, your incarnate Word.

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