Questions in the NightGenesis 12:1-4a
Questions in the night! Questions not easily answered! Questions that sometimes need to just sit, and be lived into. Questions that challenge our world view. Questions that Nicodemus, this powerful leader of the Jewish Council brings to Jesus. Questions that once asked can never go back inside. Questions that threaten new life.
The challenge to new life can come in many different ways, and it is usually unsettling. We all have our own stories of times when weâ€™ve been invited, sometimes dragged kicking and screaming into new life. Times when we have had to let go of former ways of being. You become a parentâ€¦and life will never be the same. Your framework shifts. You become older and life around you changes. The old framework no longer works. You have to learn to live with limits, with letting go of control, with recognizing you have to make space for newer generations. Sometimes the challenge to new life comes when we suddenly see in a whole different way. Sometimes our lives were changed without us really wanting them to be changed. more in spite of us. So we can relate to these people in both scriptures today who must have had very mixed feelings and lots of questions as they encounter the invitation to new life..
Abram and Sarai, an ancient couple living quietly in Ur with their extended family, were called to leave their established way of life, to head off into the unknown to go to live among strangers. Can you imagine the pillow talk in the night; the questions that must have happened as they discerned that call? â€œ Are you sure it was us God was talking about Abram? Youâ€™re kidding arenâ€™t you?.But against all odds our outrageous God makes unbelievable promises to this couple who thought they were finished …that they would birth a nation that would bring blessings to the whole of creation… This God, it seems, doesn’t understand the aging process! This God doesn’t even seem to realize the rather ungodly, rotten people these two had been in their lives, and later will be (but that’s another story). No wonder Sarai laughed in another part of the story!
Yet these are our ancestors in the faith. Our earliest roots are in outrageous promise to unlikely candidates, and in their willingness to move into the new life God intended for them.
Nicodemus too was challenged to step out into new life. He seems a very conservative, cerebral sort of man, a powerful leader of the Jewish council in Jerusalem. Jesus with deceptive simplicity, displaces Nicodemus cerebral concepts of religion, and his desire to have everything neatly packaged. Jesus does this with very earthy images. He speaks of birth-a radical embodied earthy transformation to new life- and he speaks of the spirit of God blowing where it will, like wind. You need to be born anew in the spiritwind of God. Jesus tells him.
Wind is invisible; We can not see it, but we know it by how it touches other life-the clouds, the water, the grasses, the trees, our skin, our hair. From a warm car while waiting for Howard I watched snow crystals being blown in amazing dancing patterns by the wind. In summer it is lovely to watch the grasses by my pond dancing to the movements of the wind. We can see where wind has been by the movement it creates. Sometimes, it seems to comes from nowhere. Other times we can see the signs of the storm coming even before the strong winds blow. Winds bring change. They signal that one weather system is being replaced by another. Sometimes winds caress gently, tenderly, almost as a reminder of a very loving Presence that surrounds us. . Sometimes wind is chilling, disturbing, forcing us to move more quickly, to move to a different place. Sometimes winds turn things upside down. Or even blow in a whole new thing, something that comes from somewhere else. Many seeds are spread by wind. Some trees and rocks are sculpted by wind, formed over the course of years.
Nicodemus approaches Jesus by night, tentatively it seems, unwilling to publicly acknowledge his interest in Jesus. Maybe was afraid for his career, his kids. Maybe he was afraid of the powerful enemies Jesus had. Perhaps Nicodemus came to seek wisdom from him, to check him out a little more before he was prepared to jump in. Maybe he was looking for a halfway relationship where he could be supportive, but not lose any of the perks of prestige and power that he had from his role in life. We don’t know exactly what brought this powerful man out of the woodwork into the night to meet Jesus.
In the encounter that follows Jesus says he is speaking the truth 3 times. I wonder why he had to do that? Do you think Jesus meant truth as in ” Not a lie”; or truth as in speaking about what is fundamental to life – about who we are and what is essential to our being.
Jesus says to Nicodemus, this seeking yet careful bureacrat of religious life, that he must be born from above, born of the Spirit. Born of the breath of God.-He needs to let go to a wind that cannot be controlled-a wind that will blow where it chooses. He needs to be open to the radical unpredictability of the Spirit- to stop trying to keep God in his pocket. He needed to live the radical trust of new life… Life that is Spirit- led, rather than controlled by him.
We don’t really know what Nicodemus did after this. We don’t know his response to Jesus that night. We do hear, later in John, that he defended Jesus before the Sanhedrin and that he helped to prepare the body for burial, But we know nothing about what happened between.
So where is the Spirit calling you new life, to let go to the Spirit breath? As we continue with our annual meeting following the service. Where is the Spirit calling Cedar Park to be born again…born into a new life? Where are the winds of the Spirit blowing?