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There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God." Jesus answered him, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above." Nicodemus said to him, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, 'You must be born from above.' The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?" Jesus answered him, "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
"Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
"For 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.
"Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."
So I have a new favorite TV show. As you will recall, for a while now it has been Zak, Nick and Aaron on Ghost Adventures – and I still like that one – but here recently I came across Duck Dynasty. Have you seen this one? It takes place in West Monroe which is about 50 miles from where I grew up in Louisiana.
I guess the Duck Dynasty began about twenty years ago when the dad, Phil, started making duck calls. Apparently he was so good at it that he started up a business making duck calls and his two sons and brother got into it with him. Today, these folks are millionaires – and they made it from duck calls of all things. Now to look at these boys you would say that they related to the members of ZZ Topp… beards down to here, always wearing camouflage, and most of the time they have a shotgun in their hands trying to shoot something, whether it be birds, the beast of all beasts the dreaded beaver, deer or something. I even watched as the two brothers, Willie and Jace, were chipping up golf balls and Uncle Si and Phil were shooting them out of the sky with a twelve gauge. And if the shotguns don’t work they do occasionally bring out some of the homemade explosives.
What got me hooked though was the episode when they went squirrel hunting. Now it is my understanding from my wife that no one in Montana would ever consider shooting, much less eating a squirrel – nothing but a tree climbing rodent, but when I was a kid in Louisiana I lived for fishing and squirrel hunting… and I did enjoy eating them as well. My Granny could stew up a mess of squirrels with gravy better than anyone I knew. Miss Kay, Phil’s wife likes to eat squirrel brains, but we never went that far.
Anyhow.. I guess watching this show stirred up some fond memories of going squirrel hunting with my granddaddy.. Squirrel season is always in the fall and it overlaps into deer season, but he knew I liked hunting squirrel so we did that as long as we could before switching over to deer... When we would go out he would always point me in the direction I could go, that way he would know about where I was… one day I recall being out when it was the overlap of the squirrel and deer season and my granddaddy told me to walk down a certain path, but to stay out of a particular area, because some fellas were deer hunting down there. Because it was deer season though, we had to wear the orange hunting vests so as not to be mistaken for a deer and get shot by some trigger happy redneck.
Did I mention that I have not always been the intellectual giant that you now see standing before you.. its true.
I get about a mile or so up the path and haven’t seen anything and decided in my mentally impaired state that it has got to be the orange vest. I know that I should have it close, but wearing it like that flashing all about has got to be scaring all the squirrels away, so I take it off and put it in my back pocket and continue down the path. Now.. trying to pick out a grey squirrel in the woods is not as easy as you would think.. takes a bit of concentration.. so needless to say I wasn’t paying too much attention to where I was heading… oh.. and did I also mention that not only was I not wearing the orange vest, but somewhere along the way it had fallen out of my back pocket… did you also know that anything that moves in the woods during deer season that is not wearing an orange vest resembles a deer to a bunch of trigger happy rednecks?
So.. I was intently concentrating on finding one of my gray furry friends… what snapped me out of it was a rifle shot… what got my attention was a slug from a rifle burying itself in a tree about a foot away from where I was standing… at which point, rednecks were hollering, screaming and shooting all around me. It sounded what I can only imagine a war zone would sound like. It’s a dang good thing them rednecks were not as good a shot as Phil and Uncle Si from the Duck Dynasty, because those two are crack shots, but these three or four rednecks couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn if they were standing two feet in front of it…. And that’s an even better thing, because all I could do was stand there and stare at that gunshot hole in the tree while this went on.
A few minutes later I was still standing there.. the shooting had stopped and my granddaddy showed up… he arrives with my orange hunting vest in his hand, “I think you lost something,” he said. That was all. “I think you lost something.” Never another word about it to me or anyone else. He had seen the hole in the tree and knew exactly what had happened and how stinking blessed I was to still be standing on this earth. As I say, he never said anything else about it to me or anyone else… truth be told.. he didn’t have to.
Jesus said, "For 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…. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."
You and I and the world around us have heard those verses so many times by now that some would almost classify them as a cliché. The dictionary defines a cliché as an “overused expression: a phrase or word that has lost its original effectiveness or power from overuse.” … “Go 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.”… a cliché. Speak those words in a crowded room and most everyone will either frown at you for bringing up that Jesus stuff, ignore you because they don’t believe it, or ask, “Where is God?” because if they can’t see it, they don’t believe it.
When those words, “For God so loved the world…” become a cliché to us.. then we can get to thinking that we’ve figured it out; we know how things are going to work. We take off Jesus and shove him in our back pockets and eventually.. well.. eventually we lose him all together… and it’s when we do that that the devil will take a shot at us… and the trouble is.. he very rarely misses………
Too much liquor and too many pills is a sure fire way of inviting him to do just that.. and this past week I was a few minutes away from either attending or officiating at a funeral for another teenager who took that path.. who cast off Jesus and tried to walk this world by themselves. .. the devil took a shot and hit them square, if it hadn’t been for someone finding them when they did…….
"For 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…. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." Don’t ever let that become a cliché for you or the world around you. If they frown at you – bless them; if they ignore – say it louder; If they ask, “Where is God?” ….
.. well .. The adventures of Jace and Willie in Duck Dynasty got me to thinking about squirrel hunting with my granddaddy… and it wasn’t until years later, after he had died, that I realized that every time a shot was fired anywhere around where I was supposed to be, my granddaddy would always arrive just a few minutes later. I think he let me believe that I was out in the wild on my own, but he was never really far away… The day I got shot at.. he was right there holding out to me what I had taken off and then lost… that which would keep me safe… which would save my life.
When they ask, “Where is God?”… .. you tell them that it may seem that they have wandered off into the world on their own, but that he is not far, he’s been with them all along– not condemning them – but keeping a close eye on them and loving them… He’s been praying that they might come to their senses and put back on what they have cast off… but you also tell them, that on the day they get shot at, he will be right there with them – still not condemning, not saying, “I told you so!”.. but only loving them… and holding out to them – which he never stops doing – holding out to them that which will keep them safe.. that which will save… he is holding out to them his Son – Jesus… That’s what you tell them.
Let us pray…
Glory be to the Father, Who by His almighty power and love created me, making me in the image and likeness of God.
Glory be to the Son, Who by His Precious Blood delivered me from hell, and opened for me the gates of heaven.
Glory be to the Holy Spirit, Who has sanctified me in the sacrament of Baptism, and continues to sanctify me by the graces I receive daily from His bounty.
Glory be to the Three adorable Persons of the Holy Trinity, now and forever.