You may have heard the story of Cornelia Arnolda Johanna “Corrie” ten Boom. Corrie was a Dutch watchmaker and later a writer who worked with her father, Casper ten Boom, her sister Betsie ten Boom and other family members to help many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II. The family were devote Christians and Casper a devoted reader of the Old Testament.
They began their work of helping Jews escape the Nazis by helping a neighbouring Jewish family and then a Jewish woman who turned up at their door asking for help. Casper told her, “In this household, God’s people are always welcome”. The family then became very active in the Dutch underground hiding refugees. Corrie would get forged and illegal papers and helped smuggle people to safety as well as hid Jewish people in their own home. Corrie and her family chose to do what was right even though it meant serious risk to their freedom and life.
The danger was not unfounded and the family were caught, and arrested. Corrie and her sister Betsie were imprisoned in Scheveningen then Herzogenbusch, a political concentration camp (also known as Kamp Vught) and finally the Ravensbrück concentration camp, a women’s labour camp in Germany where her sister died on 16 December 1944 at the age of 59. Before she died, she told Corrie, “There is no pit so deep that He [God] is not deeper still.” Fifteen days later, Corrie was released. Afterwards, she was told that her release was because of a clerical error and that a week later, all the women in her age group were sent to the gas chambers. Her most famous book, The Hiding Place, is an inspirational biography that recounts the story of her family’s efforts and how she found hope while she was imprisoned at the concentration camp. If you have not read it I highly recommend it.
Corrie’s and her family are an inspiration to many Christians because of their love of neighbour and love of God. They trusted God would be with them which strengthened them and gave them hope.
In the Gospel reading Jesus has a conversation with Nicodemus. This is really a dialogue between the two communities (in v.11, ‘you’ is plural). Nicodemus represents a synagogue group who are sympathetic to Jesus (v.2), but who lack the courage to come out of the shadows (Nicodemus comes ‘by night’). Perhaps their standing in the community is more important to them than what they see in Jesus. Perhaps they are afraid because synagogue members are being expelled for showing signs of loyalty to Jesus. We don’t know how long this group’s interest in Jesus has been developing, but it has now reached the point where they must do as their father Abram did and make a move. That means taking the risk of deciding openly for Jesus by joining his community and being baptized, which would surely end their life in the synagogue.
Jesus speaks to Nicodemus, using symbols to persuade him to make a move. What he and his group face is the excitement and disruption of ‘birth from above’, that is from God or the Spirit. This ‘birth’ is like ‘the wind’ (‘wind’ and ‘spirit’ translate the Hebrew word ruach), who’s coming and going, from and to God, make it a sign of grace and blessing.
1. Are there times when you have needed to make a decision to do something that you believed to be right and the will of God even though it would mean others would be unhappy with you or even cut you off completely?
2. Can you think of any personal examples or examples of other people who have taken the risk?
Rev Tammy Hollands