Born of the Spirit
Tony E Dillon Hansen
Reflection for John 3:1-17, Psalm 121
Whenever we get to this text, I am reminded to of the myriad ways in which John 3:16 appears throughout our society. Whether a player tattoos 3:16 under eyes or we see people with sandwich boards proclaiming 3:16, there is a uniqueness to this passage still that calls to us. Pastor Matt remarked on Thursday that evangelist like to emphasize words in this phrase. “For God SOOO loved the world…” and in case you missed it, we can definitely feel joy in the idea that God loves the world.
There is strength and power in God giving to us “only begotten” Jesus because our Creator is willing to give that much to us because of the “SOOO” much love. How could we as just people compete with that kind of love.
Yet this verse comes in context of the conversation between the priest Nicodemus and Jesus. In this frank conversation, each are talking about aspects of theology; aspects of God; aspects of finding God in the here and now. The lines that jumped out to me in this reading were 3:8 “The wind blows and you hear it but you do not know from where it comes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” and because you and I are talking today, Nicodemus question in 3:4, “how can anyone be born again having grown old?”
First to be born of the Spirit means what?
In this Gospel lesson and next week’s, we observe dialogs and relationship. Jesus engages these questions of faith, of identity and wholeness. In each of these dialogs, as well, Jesus listens and does not condemn. In fact, the robust conversation invites even more conversation today. Nicodemus and Jesus invoke the Spirit working.
Incidentally, what kind of conversations do you have with Jesus? We often hear people talk about being spiritual without being religious, but Jesus invites us to relationship with the Spirit. Jesus invites us to go deep into ourselves. Jesus guides us to witness and to recognize the Spirit, that is not just token rhetoric for sandwich boards or tattoos, but one that breathes full dimensions into our being: a spirit that transcends my concerns, my thoughts and my fears into joy, achievement and grace. I don’t have to be religious to witness the Spirit because I can meditate and pray; I can listen and be aware of the Spirit working around me, with me, through me, through you, and through our community.
To be born/re-born of the Spirit then is not a reentering of mother’s womb (my mother probably wouldn’t appreciate that now) but allowing the Spirit to open our eyes in new ways and new awareness. When we allow the Spirit to do this, we allow and acknowledge a conversation (a relationship) with the divine. Then, we might understand what “SOOO” much love is.
Yet if we step back and say “you know I am mature in my faith and I have grown old with these ideas and I am growing older.” “Maybe, that feeling is just for young folks and hippie people that want to get in touch with their feelings.” Cynics might use the word “hogwash.”
I hear that “I am still getting old. My body is getting slower and more broken. The world seems to be spinning out of control and no one cares. Governments are corrupt and society going down the tubes.” In that view, I guess that is it folks. There is nothing more we can do and misery is all around us with nothing we can do about it.
That cynicism is defeating and destructive spiritual darkness. Instead looking to find connection and renewal, this attitude denies even the chance. This attitudes denies that divine invitation to spiritual light because one stops at spiritual darkness where the experience of spiritual rebirth is fantasy or foreign.
That, my friends, is precisely when we need to find our birth in spirit. When we have lost all sense of self; lost all faith; and even lost hope. Even in our maturity, we must be willing to dig deeper, beyond the spiritual mud, to find the light of the Spirit burning for us and with us. That is when Jesus can be most meaningful to us because we let Jesus and Spirit find us and meet us where we are; to lift us to where we can be.
So, Have a conversation with Jesus in your heart where you are on life’s journey, like Nicodemus. We don’t have to dwell in the doldrums of spiritual quicksand because we can reach with our hearts at this chance to find grace again and again. We can breathe in and out with that possibility of Spirit fully inside us and with us.
When you feel that, you can free yourself from the broken, slowing body and smile with the grace of God clearing that spiritual mud; clearing the obstacles that prevent us from loving neighbor; clearing the barriers from our own tender heart and spirit.
That is how we can be born again while growing old – everyday – all day – any minute – no matter where you are on life’s journey. You can let Jesus reach down into your heart, and you let Jesus move your attitudes from cynicism to possible. You can find comfort in spiritual prayer, and you might find that SOOO LOVE can set you free.
Thanks be to God!