Christian Hospitality: Come Into the Light

John 3.1-21

The Flower called Nicodemus
What kind of flower is pictured on the cover of the bulletin? It opens only at night (it closes in the daytime) and just for a few short weeks around the start of summer. The evening primrose, nicknamed the Nicodemus flower.

The Person of Nicodemus
The story of Nicodemus is the story of a secret visit, a visit made in darkness. You see Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a member of the Jewish ruling council (the Sanhedrin, the highest legal body among the Jews). Nicodemus was a teacher himself, and now he seeks out another teacher, Jesus. But he comes at night, when others will not see him. Why? Perhaps he is fearful what the others will think. Perhaps he is uncomfortable with others seeing him seek out another teacher.

My Fears
I in some ways can relate to Nicodemus’ fears. I’m an introvert, which is defined as drawing strength from being alone. When I first moved into the Valley one of the first invitations I received was to the “famous” community July ham and turkey dinner. Having been here just a few weeks it was way out of my comfort zone to walk into a room full of people I didn’t know. It was just that I didn’t know them, but they might know me.

Church Fears
Many people fear going to a place for a first time. Many people fear attending a church service for the first time or even if they attend regularly and move to another area, they fear attending a new church for the first time.

Especially in churches our size, in communities our size, there is discomfort in being a stranger where everyone else knows one another.For those who haven’t attended church, there are questions as to what to expect; what will it be like. It used to be churches would have first-time guests stand and give their names. People don’t like to do that anymore. They don’t like to be singled out.

And knowing all that, sometimes we invited people to church and we think we’ve done our job, but we leave them to deal with all these fears on their own.

Removing Barriers
So how do we remove these barriers?First, let me remind you that when you invite someone to church they might not say yes the first time. It usually requires numerous invitations over a period of time. And if you don’t know the person, it takes longer.

-Build relationships
This week I was speaking to someone who told be the story of inviting a new neighbor to church. The person didn’t come, but she kept building a relationship with this neighbor, with visits and shared interests. And after some time this neighbor came and continued to come. It’s about building a relationship with people and caring for people as well as being invitational.

-Invite them to come with you. Pick them up. Travel together. Or if that is not possible for some reason, like the size of their family and your family prohibitive, then …

-Meet them at the door.

-Help them with parking.

-Greeters (friendly; restrooms; welcome brochure/sign guest book; help with children)

-Be welcoming. Whether you have invited the person or not, whether you know the person or not, be welcoming.

At Quest Community Church, Lexington, they don’t just visit with the people they know, they look for people they don’t know. After church they look for guests. To welcome, to help, to make them feel comfortable. The mission of their church is to reach people who don’t know Christ, and they are constantly putting that into practice.

-Invite to other events

Sometimes it is easier for people who are unchurched to come to church-sponsored events other than worship. The above applies (go with, meet, be welcoming).

Nicodemus: The Rest of the Story
The Flower: The Nicodemus Flower or Evening Primrose, grow in poor soil or even in the desert. They grow in unexpected places. Sometimes people grow in unexpected ways.

In John 3 we don’t know if Nicodemus gets it. Jesus gives him this teaching about being “born again,” a term that is fairly common to us in referring to believing in Jesus Christ and accepting the salvation that comes only through him. But Nicodemus is really confused. Jesus is speaking in spiritual language and Nicodemus is thinking in physical language. And at the end of John 3 we are left hanging.

But later we find out that Nicodemus does come to understand who Jesus is and what his mission is.

Nicodemus speaks up in the midst of the Pharisees who are speaking negatively of Jesus. Nicodemus encourages them to hear what Jesus is saying.

Nicodemus is with Joseph of Arimathea to take Jesus’ body down from the cross, treat the body with spices and to bury it.

John 3.21

“But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light…”

Nicodemus came out of the darkness into the light. Nicodemus fears were conquered as Jesus Christ was revealed to him.

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