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Nicodemus. Night.

Lent 2 Common Lectionary Year A

John 3:1-17

©2017 Rev. Elisabeth R. Jones

I came to him in the night.
I didn’t want to draw attention to him,
after all, he’d done that for himself already with his behaviour.
And, to be truthful,
I didn’t want to draw attention to myself either.
Such an encounter in the light of day
between a Pharisee and this man
would have caused,
… ripples, a stir, a disturbance.

You see, being a Pharisee carries with it
certain expectations, and assumptions.
My faith, my life,
my place within the system
depends on the scholarly pursuit of truth
and certainty.
I’m supposed to be the dispenser of wisdom.
I’m supposed to have answers
at the tip of my fingers.
For every “Thou Shalt” in Torah
I must have six reasons why.
For every “Thou Shalt not”
I have twenty more.
My mastery of God’s Law
is mathematical, precise, exact.
I am expected to read the gaps
between the words of God’s Holy Truth.
I’m not supposed to have questions
that disturb the faithful order of things.

But if I let you look inside my soul,
you’ll discern a deeper, darker truth;
I am a question mark in search of an answer;
I am a man of shadows in search of light,
I am a soul in search of God.

So, perhaps now you’ll understand me
when I say I went to him in the night.
I couldn’t be seen to be seeking answers
in the company of someone like him.

You know what first caught my attention about him?
You maybe didn’t hear this.
But this ….. carpenter…. from Nazareth,
with his homespun cloak and dusty sandals,
walked into the temple courtyard,
stopped dead in his tracks.
I assumed, that he,
like every yokel from the countryside
was blown away by its sheer size and majesty!
But no, he invaded the space,
his being occupied it, owned it.
His eyes raked over the unholy hubbub
that is the unfortunate
but necessary commerce of this place –
haggling money changers,
and the bleat of sheep,
and cacophonous fluttering of throttled pigeons –
Fire burned in his gaze,
until he bellowed above the din
in a voice so full of righteous anger
I swear you could have heard a feather fall
in the stunned silence his lashing words provoked.
“My Father’s House shall be a house of prayer!”

When they threw him out,
I confess I was among those
who thought it right and proper.

Until my dreams that night and following
were filled with a righteous parade
of God’s prophets:
Amos condemning kings and fat-cats for eating the food of the poor,
sending his verbal rivers of justice pouring through the precinct.
Jeremiah smashing pots and rattling chains at the willful disloyalties of
God’s people,
Ezekiel’s clattering bones,
and now this man, whose zeal for God’s House consumed him.

I awoke to the sweat-drenched certainty
that God had sent into my time and place
another of God’s prophets.
I have never seen such embodiment,
such incarnation of God’s Righteous Dream in all my days.

I was undone.
So it was that I went to him, at night,
hiding my confusion under cover of darkness.

Believe me when I said to him,
“Rabbi, you are, you must be from God.”
I believed so, he rang so disturbingly true.

I had so many splendid things I wanted to say to him;
I’d rehearsed my questions so that they sounded sensible,
I’d practiced my rebuttals of his simplistic ways,
to be clear and wise, but not condescending.
My best recollection is that I hoped to weave between us
some satisfactory, sellable truth.

It was not my wisdom, but his,
and his alone that filled the night,
blinding me, silencing me, with light and truth.

I asked him….
I asked…..
I don’t even remember what now!
And he with mere words,
no! With words filled
with Spirit,
with wind and flame,
with water and life,
he stripped me naked of all my worldly wisdom.
The prayer tassels of my convictions knotted about my throat
like a twisted umbilical cord,
suffocating my self-satisfaction,
until I emerged into the dawn,
my fists curled, eyes tight shut,
like a newborn from my mother’s womb.
I won’t tell you how long it took for me to open my eyes,
my fists, my heart, my life, to this man.
You only need to know that when…… they killed him,
I came out of the shadows;
I was there to bury him;
to dress his broken body for the grave
with enough dignity and myrrh for a king!

I cannot tell you how many more times
in the years since that I’ve been rebirthed
by the words he spoke to me that night.
Usually in the night-time of self-doubt;
sometimes in the harsh light of my stubborn willfulness;
all too often when the world is harsh,
when honesty and truth and love seem to have
vanished in the cacophony of belittled humanity.
Then, there is this yearning in my bones
to be pressed again into the dark womb of that night,
to be midwifed by his words of spirit and truth.

I beg you, hear them for what they are:
words of life, for your own night-times
and for your own rebirthing.

He said,
“God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoso believeth in him
should not perish but have everlasting life.”

You know,
God so loves this world.
So loves… this benighted, troubled, fragile
beautiful, resilient world.
God so loves the humanness of us all,
God so loves you, me, all of us,
that God has chosen to be, to dwell with us,
in this one, (cross)
and in each of us, here, (heart)
for our salving and saving,
all the days of our life on earth and in heaven.

We walk this road together

Intention for Week 2.

How will we seek God’s wisdom for living this week?

– I will practise mindfulness each day this week
– I will read some inspirational poetry
– I will listen to a Ted-talk or podcast that expands my mind
– I will listen to the questions of my children, open to learning from them
– I will face into my fears, and pray for God’s guidance
– I will seek out the wisdom of another person
– I will learn about another person’s faith journey

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