Blowing Minds Open
Wednesday, February 28, 2007 -- Week of 1 Lent
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.
Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html
Today's Readings for the Daily Office (p. 952)
Psalms 119:49-72 (morning) // 49,  (evening)
John 2:23 - 3:15
So much of the story of the scripture is the story of our rebellion and misunderstanding. In the first reading Moses reminds the people of their rebellion and of his successful intercession to God on their behalf. He is offering them teaching and warning before his departure and their entry into the new land. In the second reading from Hebrews the writer reminds a Christian generation centuries later of their ancestors' rebellion in the wilderness. He too is offering teaching and warning to encourage them to enter into the new land of promise that Jesus has offered. John gives us an illustration. Nicodemus is his straw man.
Like so many others, Nicodemus has been impressed by the signs that Jesus has performed. Faith based on signs is inadequate however. Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night, out of the dark, to the light.
Nicodemus is looking for certainty -- those nice, clearer, pat answers underlined by some miraculous show of power that leaves a person convinced and comfortable. That is exactly the kind of faith that Jesus will not sustain.
So Jesus proceeds to blow his mind with images to open Nicodemus to new possibilities. "You must be born from above." (Also translated, "You must be born anew.") Nicodemus is a literalist. Many people who insist on certainty are literalists. "Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb...?" he asks.
Jesus refuses to answer his literal question and continues to bombard him with images, metaphors, and symbols. These are things which resist the manipulation of literalism. "You must be born of water and Spirit." (The word "spirit" is ambiguous -- it can mean wind, breath, or spirit.) Jesus underlines the mystery of it all. "The wind/breath/spirit blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes." This is the divine wind/breath/spirit that is as free as the mysterious God whom Moses met at the burning bush. Nicodemus is perplexed. "How can these things be?"
Healthy religion opens us to the mysterious, unknowable reality of God. In symbol, metaphor, story, ritual, and images we are invited to step beyond our need for comfortable certainties and to enter into a relationship of trust with the uncontrollably free, mysterious God. To insist on our own way is rebellion. To insist on our own understanding is to live in darkness.
Faith that enters trustingly into relationship with the wind/breath/spirit that blows where it chooses is like being born from above, born anew.
John leaves this story open ended. We don't know how Nicodemus responds to Jesus' words of teaching a warning. We will see him later, however. He will act with courage when things have turned dangerous. We get the feeling he is on the path.
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