Lent 2 Sermon, March 16 2014 based on John 3:1-17
Has faith or religion ever confused you? If so, you’re not alone!
Nicodemus comes to Jesus in the dark of the night to pay him a doctrinally accurate complement.
And in response Jesus introduces some crazy birth imagery that didn’t clarify or encourage Nicodemus at all. Instead, it thoroughly confused him. Nicodemus even misunderstands him, thinking Jesus meant “born again” when he actually meant “born from above.”
So Jesus introduces yet another image (that true believers blow like Spirit wind), and this too brings confusion not clarity for Nicodemus. Which seems odd, right? That a world renowned teacher would mystify and confuse rather than clarify what he means.
Maybe there’s more to life than answers. Maybe it’s the quest and the questions that matter.
Which would suit me fine, given how confused faith makes things like democracy, science, complicity in climate change and globalization. Or what about family? I’m supposed to live like Jesus, but he had no family. What’s he know about balancing work and family? (Ha! At least we’re both men!).
And so here we meet Jesus: destroyer of Nicodemus’ confidence. Confidence Nicodemus may have gotten from excellent doctrine, or his influence, power and potential wealth as a religious leader, none of which mattered to Jesus. For Modernists, confidence is the name of the game: proof, apologetics, certainty, static information, universal truth, and our individualistic capacity to know has taught us, I think, therefore I am.
In the place of confidence Christ leaves mystery, spirit, & longing. His images of being born from above with the Spirit move us beyond what we can know with our senses into the inner realm of the unseen. It imagines our deepest selves interwoven with divinity.
For many this text is problematic because we get hung up on culturally contextual ideas surrounding what it means to be “born again” such as autonomous emotional decisions that we control (odd, when you consider who the primary actor is in any birth), inviting Jesus into our heart, and an over emphasis on sin and guilt.
So we might do well to think of new imagery able to address our own postmodern longings and faith. Images that mystify and invite mystery, defy classification and leave us curious for more.
Might we envision ourselves as being mothered into God’s nurturing energy, inertia, flow, wind, movement, mission, mighty waters, everflowing streams, cleansing flood, outpouring, spiraling, thriving, living, breathing, cascading, process, presence, kingdom of God.
God is pouring Spirit into the world and wants us poured as well. We’re invited to join the stream, to allow ourselves to be taken over by the energy and life of divinity. Live spiritually, moving where the spirit leads and birthing in our world what the spirit births: justice, peace and joy.
The beauty of this passage is not that we have the power to save ourselves. It’s that we’re seen as participants in transforming the world.
This is no one-time past decision we rest on, having punched our ticket to the heavenly dance. Oh no! It calls us into the mystery of more, always more, where limits and boundaries are replaced by openness and potential. More God, more divinity, more action, more transformation, more hope more Jesus-like energy bending the universe. More kingdom coming in Houston as it is in Heaven. It’s a journey deeper into the Spirit whose genes we share; and deeper into the world which God so loves.
We are not just the apple of our daddy’s eye. We’re spitting images of the Spirit.
A grace so beautiful it confuses the best and brightest among us.