Year B Trinity John 3
John 3:1-17

For years, the opening of "The Wide World of Sports" television program illustrated "the agony of defeat" with a painful ending to an attempted ski jump. The skier appeared in good form as he headed down the jump, but then, for no apparent reason, he tumbled head over heels off the side of the jump, bouncing off the supporting structure down to the snow below.

What viewers didn't know was that he chose to fall rather than finish the jump. Why? As he explained later, the jump surface had become too fast, and midway down the ramp, he realized if he completed the jump, he would land on the level ground, beyond the safe sloping landing area, which could have been fatal. Surprisingly, the skier suffered no more than a headache from the tumble. To change one's course in life can be a dramatic and sometimes painful undertaking, but change is better than a fatal landing at the end.

This is the problem Nicodemus is having. Jesus tells Nicodemus that he is facing a fatal landing if he does not change directions. But Nicodemus knows only one way and that is the way of earth. It is the only way that any of us knows. Suddenly Jesus appears on the scene and begins speaking of Heaven, of being Born Again. Nicodemus hears the words "You must be born again," but he is confused. So he asks, "How can a person go back into his mother's womb and come out again?"

It is surprising to us that Nicodemus is so confused. He's a religious leader and should understand spiritual lessons but somehow he feels he has missed some crucial truth. And, there is a reason he is going to Jesus. He has an inkling that Jesus might be able to provide that missing important detail. Nicodemus has somehow been headed in the wrong direction and now he must change his course. This he knows but Nicodemus seems hesitant. He seems uncertain about making such a drastic change. Why? What makes this remarkable man slow to take Jesus at his word? What is confusing him?

  1. First, Nicodemus was a religious man.
  2. Secondly, Nicodemus was a powerful person.
  3. Third, Nicodemus was a man of pedigree.
  4. Fourth, Nicodemus was an educated man.

Heart-Healthy Christians
Romans 8:12-17

Beach and bathing suit season has begun. And I've noticed something -- I wonder if you'll agree with me. The coolest new hot trend is "tiny."

No, not tiny swimsuits -- those have long been fashionable, at least since Brian Hyland's 1960 hit single "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Polka Dot Bikini." No, the new big thing is small . . . small and smaller portions of food.

Worrying over waistlines has encouraged the food industry to re-package their goodies into "100 Calorie" snack bags. Teenie Weenie versions of Oreo, Chips Ahoy, Fudge Stripes -- all our favorites shrunk down so that each cookie only has a few polka dot calories apiece. With such down-sized delights it takes a decent handful to count back up to 100 calories, so we can snarf down a whole "snack sack" without growing our gut. Or so we think.

Then there is Burger King "buddies" and McDonald's "mini-meals." Fast food outlets are offering greasy goodies in smaller sizes. They aren't "diet foods," but these slider-sized, two-bite burgers don't carry the calorie content of their bigger brothers. "Super-sized" is out. "Skinny-sized" (a.k.a. "scrawny-sized") and paltry malty is in.

We all crave a certain amount of richness in our foods. The amount of fat, the layers of creaminess gives food a different feel in the mouth and a deeper sense of satisfaction in the stomach. In order to experience the richness of some food and yet not doom our diets, we make some interesting choices. We drink a Diet Coke with our Snickers bar. We put Splenda in the coffee we drink with our Krispy Kreme doughnut. We munch down celery sticks, stuffed with cream cheese or peanut butter. We cut the richness and sweetness in one place, so we can indulge in it in another.

Unfortunately one of those places where a lot of Christians have chosen to "cut the fat" is from their faith. I'm not sure what has happened, or why it has happened. But I am burdened this morning with the conviction that the contemporary church has an awful lot of what might be called "One Calorie Christianity."

What is that, you say?

One-Calorie Christianity is a religion that is bland, boring, tasteless, lifeless, joyless, and safe. What makes it that way? How can it be that way when we are not a poser, puny-faith people, but true sons and daughters of God, as Paul puts it in this morning's biblical reading?

First, one-calorie Christianity is sugar-free.

Second, one-calorie Christianity is soaked in formaldehyde, making it a formaldehyde faith.

Third, one-calorie Christianity is fat-free... presents Leonard Sweet