Today's texts include John 3: 1-13 which is the story of Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night. As always I have preached about him - and in fact will be preaching tomorrow in Ashland mentioning him.
What is so meaningful to me about Nicodemus is that he - like me - is a religious leader of advanced age who is truly a seeker. We can talk about coming "at night" and not wanting to be seen to be seeking out this man Jesus. But even that speaks to me as nobody knows all the ways in which I find myself seeking, seeking, seeking.
When I was a teenager I think my Mom thought I was too serious at times - always wondering about "the Big L" or the meaning of life. When I could be doing something important like cleaning my bedroom or being nice to my sister. And now 50 years later I am still that person wondering in the heart of me - what more, what's next? what's it all about Alfie?
And this text has Jesus speaking with images that I struggle with and wonder at and actually LOVE.
"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."
or this is how Peterson translates it in the Message
“You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit.
7-8 “So don’t be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be ‘born from above’—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.”
What I hear in this and believe and trust is that the Spirit - the uncontrollable, mysterious, God given Spirit - can Re-Form us and Re-Create us. But contained within these images of spirit, birth, wind is the understanding is we have to trust God's movement - God's invisible movement that is at work.
And on the one hand I absolutely do. And on the other hand, I am trying to figure out things that I can't "figure out" but need to trust. God. Jesus. Spirit.
It always comes back to this. As easy as it is to say and write and as hard as it is to practice. But confession and prayer helps.
Ted Loder has a wonderful prayer for all of us seekers
Hear me quickly, Lord
for my mind soon wanders to other things
I am more familiar with
amd more concerned about
than I am with you.
Words will not do, Lord
Listen to my tears,
for I have lost much
and fear more.
Listen to my sweat,
for I wake at night,
overwhelmed by darkness and strange dreams.
Listen to my sighs,
for my longing surges like the sea -
urgent, mysterious, beckoning
Listen to my growling gut,
for I hunger for bread and intimacy.
Listen to my curses,
for I am angry at the way the world
comes down on my sometimes
and sometimes on it.
Listen to my crackling knuckles,
for I hold very tightly to myself
and anxiously squeeze myself
and them into mine,
and then shake my fists at you
for disappointing me.
Listen to my footfalls,
for I stumble to bring good tidings to someone.
Listen to my groans,
for I ache towards healing.
Listen to my worried weariness,
for my work matters much to me
and needs help
Listen to my tension,
for I ache toward accepting who I am
and who I cannot be
Listen to my hunched back,
For sometimes I can't bear
the needs and demands of the world anymore
and want to put it down,
give it back to you.
Listen to my laughter,
for there are friends
and something urges me to thank.
Listen to my humming
for sometimes I catch all unaware
the rhythems of creation
and then music without owrds
rises in me to meet it,
and there is the joy of romping children
and dancing angels.
Listen to my blining eyes,
for at certain moments
when sunlight strikes just right,
or stars pierce the darkness just enough,
or clouds roll around just so,
or snow kisses the world into quietness,
everything is suddenly transparent...
and something in me is pure enough
for an instant
to see your kingdom in a glance,
and so to praise you in a gasp -
\ then gone,
but it is enough.
Listen to me quickly, Lord.