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Born in the Night…. again and again.

Lent 2, Common Lectionary Year A

John 3: 1-21

©2014 Rev Elisabeth R. Jones

Audio file incl. Dear Mr God

I came to him in the night. I didn’t want to draw attention to him, or to me for that matter. Such an encounter in the light of day would have caused, … ripples, a stir, a disturbance.

You see, being a Pharisee carries with it certain expectations, and assumptions. My life, my faith 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” I 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 supposed to be able 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 discover a deeper, darker truth; I am a question mark in search of an answer; I am a man of shadows, and questions; I am a shade in search of light, I am a soul in search of meaning, of God.

If I let you hear my soul’s true prayer it sounds more like this…..

Song. Dear Mr. God. Warren Brothers. Sung by R.Bastien.

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. A Pharisee with  this Nazarene,?! The simple homespun cloak and dusty sandals suggesting the  lackadaisical, nonchalant approach  to faith in God that I so despise.

He and his rag-tag companions – a tax-collector, a fishermen and a harlot, for goodness’ sake! – would normally lead me to conclude that yet another travesty of tradition has arisen in the hinterland. I frankly wondered why they would bother with the observance of Passover in Jerusalem. Surely a half -hearted Haggadah by the lakeshore would have done.   But it seems – to them, and now to me – that there is something magnetic about this man. He spins words – you heard him – that make no sense to the intellect, but they stir your gut, and they make your soul sing.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. You know what first caught my attention about him? You maybe didn’t hear this. But this…carpenter from Nazareth…. he 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 of the money changers and the pigeon sellers, and 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!” Each word punctuated by the whiplash of his belt.

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

Until my dreams that night were filled with a righteous parade of God’s prophets: Jeremiah crashing his pots, Amos condemning kings and fat-cats for eating the food of the poor, sending his verbal rivers of justice pouring through the precinct. Ezekiel’s rattling bones and whirling wheel, and now this man, whose zeal for God’s House consumed him, setting the whip among the pigeon sellers….. I awoke to the sweat-drenched certainty that God had sent into my time and place another prophet. I haven’t 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, 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.

But,…. Well,  you’ve already heard how it went. It was not my wisdom, but his, and his alone that filled the night, blinding me with light and truth.

I asked him…. I don’t even remember what now, and he with mere words, filled with Spirit, wind and flame, pushed me, impossibly, back into my mother’s womb. The prayer tassels of my convictions knotted about my throat like a twisted umbilical cord, suffocated, and condemned all my self-satisfaction, and then delivered me to utter confusion. helpless, and wordless, newborn into that night.

—– I can’t tell you how many more times in the years since, that I’ve been rebirthed by the words of this Godson. Usually in the night-time of doubt, in myself or in others, or in God. Sometimes in the harsh light of my stubborn willfulness, or in the smug afterglow of pride in my own merits, I’ve been pushed back through the birth canal of his piercing truth. Time and again, in those dark nights of despair, that crush your temples, and bind your feet and heart, it’s then that I feel again the lively press of his words against my memory, etched like a psalm on my soul.

“God so loved the world, the worldliness of it, the humanness of me, of us all, God so loved that God gave us this only begotten one, that whoso believeth, believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Don’t ask me to make sense of this. I am, after all these years, still rendered speechless by the beauty and truth of these words, by the way they enfold my being, like the warm waters of the womb, until I am ready to take on the world again, reborn.

I can only pass his words on to you, urging you to let them seep into your soul, for your own night times, and for your own rebirthing.

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