Monday, April 20, 2009

How Can Someone Who Is All Grown Up Be Born Again?

Nicodemus was a good man, a seeker of the truth, which is why he comes to Jesus. He is also a Pharisee, a leader of the people, which is why he comes to Jesus in the dark of night. Like Thomas in yesterday’s gospel, he’s not about to move from his “comfort zone” even when it starts to get uncomfortable, unless and until he is convinced in his own mind and heart that he is moving to a better place. Nicodemus is a man formed by his own circumstances: his faith in the God of Abraham; his training in the Law of Moses; his status as a Pharisee and a Leader of the People. Even if the boat is floundering, Nick isn’t about to jump ship unless he’s sure he’ll be better off in the water.

Jesus tries his best to get Nicodemus to move on, to the next level of faith. But when he speaks of being born again, Nicodemus, typically, relies on what he already knows. “I’m an old man! It’s a little late to go back inside my mother at this point.” Clearly, even though he knows what he’s talking about, he hasn’t the slightest idea who he’s talking to!

Let’s move this dialogue a bit further along in John’s gospel.  Nicodemus: How can that happen? Jesus: You are a teacher in Israel and you don’t understand?

Nicodemus doesn’t understand because his beliefs, his education, his prejudices have blinded him to other possibilities. Jesus seems to be prodding Nicodemus to open his eyes, his mind, and his heart to the real truth: God can’t be limited by my beliefs, my customs, my rituals, my rules. God is too big to be contained. And, unlike the little dog in the commercial, you can’t just get a bigger box! So, it’s time to put down the box you’ve been stuck in, and stop trying to get God to stay in there with you.

Be born again! You started a new life when you got your first full time job. How many new lives have you begun since that one? Many, perhaps most, of you started a new life when you got married; and a few of you started a new life when that marriage ended, whether by separation and divorce or by the passing of your spouse to the new life which is the subject of this reflection – life in God’s presence forever.

I don’t know what sort of day tomorrow will be compared to today, either for me or for you. Sometimes I hope it will be at least as good; sometimes I would prefer that it be better. But, as the song goes, “Que sera, sera! -- Whatever will be will be! The future is not ours to see. Que sera, sera!”

That is really what today’s gospel is all about. Today is a day to be born again, of water and the spirit. You don’t need to be baptized again, but you can recall your baptism as you begin your daily ritual – which, I presume, involves water, children of the Father. Let go! Let God!

Be born again!

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