Saturday, March 12, 2011

You can hear the wind

Second Sunday in Lent
March 20, 2011
John 3:1-17

Poor Nicodemus. It’s not just that as a leader and teacher of the nation, he seems thick and pedestrian. But at a more personal level, he comes seeking something, then seems clueless.

This is the first of three long conversations in the gospel readings for this and the next two Sundays. Each is between Jesus and someone on a journey of faith. Each seems to go further in finding faith in the one before them. And poor Nicodemus has the misfortune to be the first one, the slow one.

Struggling with questions can be important in helping us to faith, in strengthening and defining faith. Yet when we’re resistant or reluctant, or simply in the wrong place to see clearly, we can keep asking questions to help us avoid the real issues.

When you get down to the basics, a life of faith is not that complicated. Matthew, Mark, and Luke say, “Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself.” John says you simply have to be born again. And this is a Spirit-thing, not under our control.

None of us is in charge of our birth. However much struggle and pain is involved (for the one giving birth, for the one being born, for those attending the birth and waiting anxiously), it happens when it happens, and the little one being born, of necessity, must simply “go with the flow,” and ride the contractions through this passage into life.

“The Spirit is like the wind,” Jesus tells us, “it blows where it will.” God’s Spirit works in its own way, like the wind, not something you can see directly. But you can feel the breeze on your skin, or see the trees bow down their heads when the wind is passing by.

Perhaps we might be attentive to those movements of Spirit in our own lives and in those nearby. We might miss it if we look too quickly or too shallowly. But the great wind of God is moving and shaping us and the world in which we live. When we see with the eyes of faith, we’ll notice God at work, because we see that as individuals and as a people we have been moved.

We don’t get to hear Nicodemus’ full story. We don’t know exactly how he resolved his questions. But later in the gospel (John 7:50-51), Nicodemus stands amidst his own community of Pharisees to speak up for Jesus and for just treatment. And later still (John 19:39), he came again to Jesus, this time in broad daylight, bearing precious myrrh and sandalwood to give honor to this Word of God. The wind has been blowing...

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Originally written for Lent 2008.

Painting of "Nicodemus Visiting Jesus," by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1899.
 

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