Readings: Isaiah 6.1–8; Psalm 29;
Romans 8.12–17; John 3.1–17
In the dead of our nighttime we are often led to think deeply about our situation. Those moments when we get to see ourselves that much clearer than the glare of our daytime lives, the stars (bright lights) of our achievements allow.
Suddenly, a few bright lights or more are switched off, blown out, or are shot at by detractors, causing us to stand back and re-evaluate ‘this life.’
Such cloudy, shadowy, dark or nighttime moments force us to ask searching questions of ourselves – or like Nicodemus, in today’s gospel, to approach someone who we think ‘cares’ or ‘can’ with them.
These searching questions of doubt and perhaps condemnation are powerful enough to swim against even the clearest declarations of all hopefulness.
And even when we are offered the hope that we can begin again; that we can be born again, doubt creeps in and force to the fore, again and again, these questions.
Questions such as: How can I retrace the already stale steps of my life?
With all the baggage of my old stale life how can I have a new, a fresh start,?
Where do I even begin to drop them off. Who will take their heavy burden off my shoulders?
Who can separate me from the sinfulness of my youth?
What can distance me from the cunning of my middle age years?
When can this be, isn’t it too late?
Jesus answers Nicodemus with a gripping ‘Yes you can’ in today’s gospel. Yes you can – for you only need to be born again ‘Yes you can’ – as soon as you are born again!
And against the rising force of Nicodemus’ doubt, Jesus repeats this offer in an insistent, even firmer way: “You must be born from above.”
What Jesus offers us, what he calls us to, is a new perspective, a fresh way of looking at our lives. He asks us to evaluate our lives, our predicaments (and even our successes) ‘from above.’ In other words, to seize upon an additional dimension to our lives. A dimension that is from beyond us above.
Of course, what Jesus was drawing attention to was the possibility of a further dimension than our human potential naturally allow us to capture.
The natural human capacity is to capture our lives in two dimensions. And as humans, we have been good at it. We can write – of the making of books, there’s no end. And since the last century we record films – but still (like the books we write) only in two dimensions!
So when Jesus, offers us another perspective, a further dimension, he is telling us to go 3D!
Of course, the challenge of 3D is depth!
It is a perspective, a dimension, that involves more than outline. It escapes superficiality. It is a dimension that embraces the fullness of all that we seek to represent.
That challenge was a real live one to the audience to whom the gospel of John was first presented. The audience was immersed in the fierce debate and arguments that sought to impose a dualistic way of thinking upon the religious world.
Dualism sought to shape the idea of God and His involvement with the world as a two dimensional matter. This spelt profound implications for the understanding of the central idea at the heart of Christianity: the incarnation.
It affects, how we appreciate Jesus’ earthly ministry and what happened on the cross and at Easter.
It affects them in ways that truly matter too!
This is because Dualism suggests that God was/is not really fully with us. That God is not truly present in this world in the way we are! And that He never was in Jesus Christ, both fully human and fully divine.
The trouble is, if God is not fully or truly present with us, then we are all truly hopeless. For it means that God is removed from us and we cannot be fully known to Him.
This shortcoming is best demonstrated by the gulf between going to see a play and reading the book on which it is based.
In the play, real flesh and blood inhabit the characters of the book. They act out (for the moment they’re on stage at least), the characters for us to observe. They and the stage transport us to the time etc of the drama unfolding before our eyes.
A book, by contrast, is the archetypal 2 dimensional representation of an object or experience. Words written on a paper! A narrative or drawing of a character or scenery, however expressive, that is stuck on the pages or canvas. It cannot breathe or move.
Christianity is about more than a two dimensional calling. It’s more than words on or from a page. It is more than a library to be consulted, copied or read in full. It is about the drama of life. It’s about giving proof to our faith. It’s about making real the claim that God is with us – Emmanuel!
And for that, we need another dimension, the further perspective that only God affords.
This is what Jesus commended to Nicodemus, and to us, in today’s gospel: . “You must be born from above.”
Jesus invites us to move beyond dualistic thinking into a Trinitarian way of being, the place where our bodies, minds, souls, and spirits meet. In essence Jesus, is telling us that it is in the use all of our resources to call into being a community of God’s people that we are ‘born again.’ Our salvation lies in playing our part in the rescue of all God’s people – not just ourselves.
Of course, you may well say, what a long winded way of saying to Nicodemus, (and to us): “It’s not just about you. Take the heavenly view. Give your life some more depth. Immerse your life in the ordering of the community of God’s people.”
This is how today’s gospel fits into today’s great feast of The Most Holy Trinity. It’s a tribute and recognition that The Trinity is a feast/a celebration of the dynamism and purpose of the Incarnation.
The Incarnation is the great idea/tenet at the heart of our Christian faith: God with us.
It is God made evident at Christmas.
It is the drama He lived out as He went about doing good.
It is in the burden and shame he endured as He carried the cross (the weight of our sins, diseases and more).
It is in the taste of and isolation of death and that He experienced on Good Friday.
It is in the demonstration of God’s power to revive at Easter.
It is in the joy of liberation and the peace He affords to His followers in these days of Easter.
In summary it is about the reality of our lives, it’s pains and joys and the assurance that God is with us in and through them.
God’s immanence is a reminder that we need not, must not, (and because we believe, cannot) rejoice or lament alone.
The natural consequence of that is that we must build community. It is a direction that God’s purpose is, as John the Baptist and Jesus declared, about a Kingdom, a community of God’s own people and values!
Today, Jesus invites us to join in.
So will you muck in with us here at Holy Trinity?
Are you ready to serve in the cause of God’s mission here?
Will you make it your First and foremost priority to pray and act: Thy Kingdom Come?
Will you invite people (at least 5?) to come follow Christ and to get to know Him?
Will you pray that their faith and ours be deepened?
Will you reach out with others beside you in engagement with our community?
Will you, having caught a glimpse of God’s glory and experienced the joy of His forgiveness, respond as Isaiah did: “Here I am Lord; Send me.”
Use me Lord that “Thy Kingdom Come.”
Turn me Lord into an instrument of your peace:
– Where there’s hate, let me sow love
– Where there’s injury, pardon
– Where there’s despair, hope.
Amen. So be it Lord.
The Rev’d. ’Bunmi Fagbemi