A Sermon for the second Sunday of Lent – 5th March 2023

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

“The Road goes ever on and on down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone, and I must follow, if I can, pursuing it with weary (eager  p.35) feet.
Until it joins some larger way, where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.”

Since coming to Zurich, it has been my privilege to hear many stories about how you all came to be here.  The stories vary, obviously, and each is individual, and ongoing – staying here and creating a life is a life-long journey.  But each one who has come here has done so by taking the decision to leave a place they know and understand, and move to somewhere completely different, unknown in most cases: I think I am safe in saying that Switzerland does not feature too highly in the curriculums for Geography or History in the UK, or other countries from which many of us have come.  Many of us have opened the door and followed the road down the way it leads us.  Until in many cases it has met other roads, other travellers and our journeys have merged, altered, moved forward.

And the readings today are about taking the first steps on a journey.  Abram is told to: “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” And, at 75 years of age, he does just that. And not just him, his whole household is uprooted from the safety of their homeland and marched out to a land, somewhere, promised by God.  Abram sets off holding just faith, faith in God, in the fulfilment of God’s promises, somewhere, sometime.  And as Paul tells us in Romans, “Therefore, the promise comes by faith”.  Abram followed the road, pursuing it with sometimes eager, sometimes weary, feet, no doubt, but ever on and on.

The faith to set out into the unknown, to go where the wind blows, trusting in the promises of God.  “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.” These are Jesus’ words to Nicodemus.  Nicodemus, from the Jewish ruling class, who knew the law, knew about the promises, and knew about Jesus.  But who also knew what his fellow Jewish leaders felt about Jesus and so came by night to find answers.  And, as usual, finds more questions – Jesus invariably answers questions with more questions, or with parables, very rarely with direct answers.  Jesus wants Nicodemus to really look at what he is seeing, listen to what he is hearing, and use his knowledge and understanding to see the truth. To listen and believe, to have faith that in Jesus, God is fulfilling the promises God has made to humanity, to creation: the promise that God loves all, that God loves, so loved, the world that “ he gave his one and only Son” not to condemn the world, but to give us eternal life. 

Nicodemus is asked by Jesus to take the first steps on a new journey of faith. To build on what he knows from the law and the prophets and follow a new path, the path of Christ.  A path which requires faith in the faithful God. A faith which is seen in action – the stepping forward, acting on the call of God.  The God who kept the promises made to Abram, and who keeps his promise forever.  Abram’s faith leads to him uprooting his whole household and following the call of God.  Nicodemus is asked to have faith to stand up and follow Christ. 

Photo by Nathan J Hilton on Pexels.com

And that brings us back to our journeys. Not our physical ones of moving from one country to another, or not necessarily – who knows where the wind of the spirit might take us?!  But our faith journey.  Jesus calls us to take the steps of faith into the unknown. To trust in God to lead us safely through our lives.  Because turning to Christ, following his lead, his message does mean stepping out into the unknown.  As Bilbo told Frodo: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door … you step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”  When I started my journey to priesthood, each step was a step into the unknown, none more so than leaving family and home and coming out here.  But these are steps I do not regret. Some have not been easy, but all have been fulfilling and exciting.  And each step taken forward on this road leads us closer to the knowledge of God, to the foundation of God’s kingdom.  Taking the leap of faith, knowing that the wind of the spirit will take us somewhere, but that our journey is held in the love of God. This leap of faith is not easy – I believe I have mentioned before that Jesus never promised that following him would be the easy path.  But to have faith is to act on it – faith is not just something we say, it is something that we do, that we have to act on – like Abram stepping into the unknown.  But we do not set out alone.  God is with us. The God who so loved the world that Jesus came to be our guide on the road of faith.  And the path is not unknown to God – Jesus has walked it before us, and now as our guide walks alongside us.

Wherever our faith journey leads us, we are strengthened by the spirit.  Taking that first step, or the next step, along the road can be as simple as taking up a new role in the church, responding to the call of God to lead a rota, to consider our time, talents and treasure for God.  Or it can lead to looking at our own vocation: what is God calling me to do? Where is God calling me to go?  Look at the opportunities God is offering you here and now to go through the door and down the path into God’s future.  What talents God has given you to act faithfully in God’s world.  And then, pick up your staff, open that door and join Jesus on the road, hand in hand with the Spirit, “until it joins some larger way – Where many paths and errands meet. And whither then? I cannot say.” 

Photo Mark Sellin


Jackie Sellin
Assistant Chaplain

Tolkien JRR (2004) Lord of the Rings P.74 Harper Collins Publishers.  Pp35/73, 74.

Kitchen M, Heskins G, Motyer S (1998) “Word of Promise: a Commentary on the Lectionary Readings” Canterbury Press

Leave a ReplyCancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.