Who Was Nicodemus?

Nicodemus questions Jesus

 

Nicodemus Moved by the Holy Spirit
By Xuming Sun

This year’s Easter season, I learned about a Biblical person, Nicodemus, through Pastor’s teaching and our children’s lovely performances.
On the second Lent Sunday, our gospel reading revealed this well-known quote from Jesus –
• For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
These words were delivered to a single audience, a Pharisee, called Nicodemus, who belonged to Jesus’s challengers’ club and visited Jesus that night. I was thrilled at the moment. Why is this Pharisee different? What drove him to approach Jesus in an isolated way on a lonely night? How did Jesus greet this Pharisee that night? Is Nicodemus going to follow Jesus or just collect more evidence of thought crime? I soon forgot about following up on my questions until Trinity’s Good Friday service. Sitting in the parish hall suddenly I heard in the gospel reading that it was Nicodemus who brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes and helped to take down Jesus’ body from the cross. Isn’t this the perfect answer to all my questions?! Nicodemus indeed loved Jesus. He did not give up and leave Jesus and I am quite sure that he was a solitary man as he reached the blood-shed cross to help those weeping women bury Jesus.
Nicodemus also appeared in the Gospel when he spoke inside his group, among Pharisees, on a slow search to truth (John 7:50). Nicodemus said-
• Does our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he does?
On this past Easter Sunday night, when all the Trinity activities were completed for the 2017 Easter season, I was in bed and listened to Radio Vanticana (broadcasted in Chinese). A sermon given by Pope Francis said (English translation are from website) –
“Why then are we here to recall the death of a man who lived 2,000 years ago? The reason is that this death has changed forever the very face of death and given it a new meaning… …The cross is the living proclamation that the final victory does not belong to the one who triumphs over others but to the one who triumphs over self; not to the one who causes suffering but to the one who is suffering……It is the definitive and irreversible ‘no’ of God to violence, injustice, hate, lies—to all that we call ‘evil,’ and at the same it is equally the irreversible ‘yes’ to love, truth, and goodness. ‘No’ to sin, ‘yes’ to the sinner. It is what Jesus practiced all His life and that He now definitively consecrates with His death.”
Nicodemus was a perfect vessel to reveal Jesus’s Way, Truth and Life. May I myself also be a vessel to be used by the Holy God to deliver HIS will.

A Post-Lenten Devotion by Muriel Davis

A Post Lenten Devotion
By Muriel Davis
Even though Lent has passed and we are now in the season of Easter, I decided to share with you this inspirational devotion given to me by Linda Seubert, a member of Trinity who moved upstate but still is an ardent contributor to Trinity and visits us from time to time.
The devotion below by Michael Buerkel Hunn is not only specific to Lent but something we should reflect on and use as a guide in our daily spiritual life.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1
When I was a kid, I loved collecting rocks. While visiting a relative, I learned of a marvelous invention- a rock polisher. It was a machine with a motor that would continuously turn a coffee-can sized cylinder. You put your rocks in the cylinder, turned it on and left it tumbling. In time those rocks bumped up against one another and broke off the sharp edges and ground down the rough spots. The rocks came out of that coffee can looking like jewels to my childhood eyes. The rocks weren’t transformed into gemstones but they sure were shiny and beautiful in their own right.
So I think of church as God’s tumbling coffee can for our souls. We come together and as we interact we bump into one another, sharing our conflicting ideas and diverse perspectives. In the process, our souls are polished. And not just in church. The people in our lives teach us how to be the unique person God is calling us to be. Other people are the voice of God to us.
God uses each of us to shape and teach others. So, it’s a good thing we’re not all the same. There’s a beautiful soul in each of us, and as we worship in churches full of lots of different Christian People, God makes us each more the person we are called to be, not by changing us into something we’re not but by helping each of us shine.

 

April Devotion by Pastor Noel Ilagan

On Buddha’s Relics and the First Easter
By Pastor Emmanuel Ilagan

While I was working with the Christian Conference of Asia (the umbrella organization of churches and church councils in Asia) I had the opportunity to visit several Asian countries.

These countries take pride in their natural scenic beauty and interesting cultural sites. Many of the latter are religious in nature, such as the Emerald Buddha in Thailand, relics of some of the bones of Buddha’s fingers in China and a left canine tooth of Buddha in Sri Lanka. Believers hope for good fortune if they are able to visit these relics; some even venerate them.

The founders of the other great world religions also have relics related to their lives.

Are there relics associated with Jesus? There are claims of relics of a piece of wood from the cross used in the crucifixion, a nail, a part of the crown of thorns, the Shroud of Turin, the tunic of Jesus, and so on.

We do not know if the tooth claimed to be Buddha’s is authentic; the same may be said about the relics associated with Jesus mentioned above.

But one thing is certain: if someone claimed to have found a tooth of Jesus, or a fragment of His bone, that would be a lie. Buddha like the other founders of the world’s religions died, remained dead and relics are possible. Jesus Christ died but did not remain dead; instead He rose from the dead.

The chief priests and Pharisees who orchestrated the crucifixion of Jesus took extraordinary precautions to secure the tomb where Jesus was laid. They did not want the disciples of Jesus stealing His body and then proclaiming that He had been raised from the dead. They asked Pilate to assign soldiers to seal the tomb and guard it.

But the guards did not realize they had signed up for something beyond anything they have encountered in any battlefield. On that first Easter morning there was a great earthquake and the guards were confronted by an angel whose appearance was literally out of this world that the guards shook and became like dead men.

They reported this to the chief priests who then devised a cover-up. They bribed the guards to spread the report that Jesus’ disciples had stolen His body (Mt. 27:62ff; chap. 28).

There are no relics of any part of Jesus’ body. There is only an empty tomb. Christ is risen from the grave and He lives. And that makes all the difference in the world!

A Message From Aleppo by Pastor Noel Ilagan

He must have been around five (5) years old, but he had never experienced the joys of childhood. He is the boy who was pulled out from the rubble caused by an air strike in Aleppo in strife-torn Syria. There are girls and boys like him in various countries whose childhood has been stolen from them by war. We will never know their names, but there is a label for them – “collateral damage”.

Viewing this boy’s picture on TV reminds me of many things. He reminds me of the massacre in Bethlehem ordered by Herod as he tried to kill the infant Jesus. He reminds me of Jesus in His ministry calling a child to Himself and telling His disciples that it is to those with childlike faith that the Kingdom of God belongs. Closer to home he brings to mind our children at church gathering around the Word at worship during children’s time and the pre-school kids entrusted by their parents to our daily care. He reminds me of my own grandchildren.

How shall we respond to the boy from Aleppo and others like him?

We could, like the Levite, walk over, look at him and pass by on the other side of the road (Lk. 10:25ff). We could also reason our way out and say that war will always have unintended victims. Or…

We could ask God to give wisdom to our government leaders as they formulate and execute policies towards a just peace in the world. As we feel led by the Holy Spirit and as our personal powers and circumstances allow we could actually put our hands to the plow and volunteer or support legitimate local or international humanitarian organizations that help children. Some of us through the church or perhaps privately may already be doing that.

Perhaps Aleppo has a message for us. Maybe it is to remind us that we ourselves have received the tender love of Jesus as He embraced suffering and death on the Cross for our sake. Maybe it is to raise our sensitivity to His voice so that we may hear His call, respond and make a difference in the life of even just one child.

Sermon on Luke 8: The Gerascene Demoniac

So I’m going to tell you a secret about us preachers today, but don’t get your hopes up, it’s nothing very juicy. Whenever we open up the lessons and find out that we have to preach about demons, it is, as we used to say in the 60s, a “bummer.” It’s very hard to talk about demons today, for the simple reason that we don’t experience demons in the same way as they apparently did in ancient times. We don’t have a contemporary point of reference. All we see is what we remember from the film, THE EXORCIST: Linda Blair’s head spinning around and the projectile vomit and the priest throwing himself out of the window … it’s all movies and magic and superstition. Now audiences are obsessed with zombies; I understand that THE WALKING DEAD is one of the most popular shows in the history of television. It’s fantasy, entertainment; literally, a horror show. Get the popcorn. So it’s very hard to talk seriously about stories like our gospel lesson today: Jesus’ encounter with a man known as the Gerascene Demoniac.

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On Politics and Our Christian Faith – by Pastor Noel Ilagan

When Paul wrote the following admonition to Timothy the Jewish people were under Roman rule. Rome allowed the Jews to pray for the Emperor’s health without praying and sacrificing to him.

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Kids in Church?

trinity-sunday-school

I have recently come across a Christian blog post entitled, “Killing the Church with Sunday School”. “Oh no!”, I thought. How can Sunday School be bad for church? What could we be doing wrong? I had to read.
Luckily, the point of the post is not that Sunday School is hurtful, but that when attendance in Sunday School takes children out of the main corporate worship, it can result in a lack engagement with the church body as a whole. Continue reading “Kids in Church?”

Because He Lives

Devotional for April 2016
By Pastor Noel ILAGAN

It was a late winter morning and I was riding on the 6-line subway train from the Bronx to Manhattan in New York. The passengers on the train were doing their own thing – either trying to get a quick nap, or working on their cell phones, or reading a book.

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From the Pastor: Christmas means peace on Earth

earth
Peace on Earth and good will towards men are needed more now than ever before.

I guess I love Christmas as much as anybody (with the possible exception of Edith Klose, who has more Christmas decorations than God).  My love of Christmas is very resilient: it has survived not only my own massively dysfunctional family, but also the professional necessity of leading public celebrations of it.  In case you don’t know, that can involve hard, slogging work.  Ask any teacher.

I love Christmas enough to care about what it’s about.  Jesus did not come so that we could enjoy 2000 years of sentimentality about his birthday.  Jesus came in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah: Unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given … and his name shall be called wonderful … the prince of peace.  Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

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Here I Stand

Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai

I like the month of October. I like the crispness of leaves turning color and the smell of Apfel Kuchen baking in the oven. It also includes one of my favorite holidays – not Halloween, but Reformation. As a child, I was treated to an action-packed film on Martin Luther in Sunday School and in church we were sure to sing a lusty rendition of “A Mighty Fortress”. So what is this really all about?

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