Preached on 9 March 2017 at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Snohomish, Washington
Second Sunday in Lent, Year A
Sometimes, especially in the Gospel of John, I find, Jesus can be very confusing. Nicodemus is confused, too. And we see him struggling to understand. He focuses on the words – if he could just understand what born from above means, so he starts with the literal meaning – an old man can’t enter his mother’s womb again.
I can do the same thing – if I just dig down into what the Greek means…. Oh, except the gospel was written in Greek, but Jesus didn’t speak Greek, he spoke Aramaic…
As the conversation goes on, Nicodemus doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere; he’s probably even more confused. Jesus is telling him that in order to see the kingdom of God, he has to be born from above; to enter the kingdom of God, he has to be born of water and Spirit. How can he do that? What does it even mean?
But wait a minute. What do we do to be born in the first place? Nothing. It just happens to us. So maybe to be born from above is beyond our control, too. It’s not something we do, but something we receive. Maybe this has something to do with what John wrote in the prologue back in chapter one. You know, the one that starts, In the beginning was the word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
He goes on writing about Jesus, “… to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God who were born, not of blood or the will of the flesh or the will of man, but of God.”
Children of God, born of God. Born from above? Born of water and the Spirit? Perhaps Jesus is trying to tell Nicodemus the kind of relationship that God desires; that God offers.
Finally, Jesus seems to say, “look, this is what’s important, what you really need to understand.”
In the last verse that we heard today, Jesus reassures Nicodemus that God didn’t send the Son into the world to condemn it but to save it. God loves the world so much that God sends a son, Jesus, to offer us eternal life; to show us the kingdom of God.
Maybe that’s the place to start to try to understand what Jesus is saying. God loves the world, the whole world and wants to save it, not condemn it.
When I was in seminary, my liturgical music professor was an expert in orthodox chant, so as part of our formation, we listened to a lot of chant. I found that the fact that I couldn’t understand the words was not a barrier at all. Without struggling to understand the words, I could just relax into it and let it wash over me and surround me and lift me up. The music transported me; it spoke to my soul.
I wonder if we could do that with scripture. Without struggling to understand the individual words, just rest in it; let it wash over you. Hear it as poetry, as music. And maybe in that letting go of trying, it may speak to your soul.
Maybe you will hear God’s call on your life.