Things That Go Bump

“From Ghoulies and Ghoosties, long-leggety Beasties, and things that go bump in the night,
     Good Lord, deliver us!”

This old 20th Century prayer is a reminder that we don’t like things that startle us in the night. A noise in the daytime is quite different than that same noise in the dark of night. Our imaginations can go wild about the source of night-time interruptions.

Movie makers take advantage of this. Think of how all the scary scenes take place at night! Have you ever seen the classic apocalyptic film The Omega Man? The fact that the creepy zombie people can only come out at night is one of the best plot twists of that film. Everything happens at night…none of it good.

In our scripture today we see that a man named Nicodemus interrupted Jesus late at night. This is an important part of this encounter. Why didn’t he approach Jesus during the day, when Jesus was out teaching on the hillside? Something was amiss:

John 3 (The Message)

1-2 There was a man of the Pharisee sect, Nicodemus, a prominent leader among the Jews. Late one night he visited Jesus and said, “Rabbi, we all know you’re a teacher straight from God. No one could do all the God-pointing, God-revealing acts you do if God weren’t in on it.”

John is explicit about why this had to happen at night. He lays out Nicodemus’ credentials in the first sentence: Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a prominent leader among the Jews. Imagine what might have happened to his social rank and political status if he had been seen consorting with this untrained, radical teacher. It would not have been appropriate. We have to give Nicodemus credit, though, for acknowledging Jesus’ connection to God. It was remarkable for a Pharisee to point to Jesus’ teachings and attribute them to God. But he could only say it in the dark of night. His brothers surely would have persecuted him for thinking this way.

Jesus said, “You’re absolutely right. Take it from me: Unless a person is born from above, it’s not possible to see what I’m pointing to—to God’s kingdom.”

“How can anyone,” said Nicodemus, “be born who has already been born and grown up? You can’t re-enter your mother’s womb and be born again. What are you saying with this ‘born-from-above’ talk?”

In typical Pharisaical behavior, Nicodemus questioned the practicality of the premise. He was not quite ready to yield to the idea of new life in Christ. His hold on the Jewish laws and ways is too strong, and so he resisted being won over….just yet.

5-6 Jesus said, “You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit.

We are all like Nicodemus in a way. Some of us resist the complete yielding to God that is necessary for full conversion to new life. We like the idea, but we are not so sure we want to leave it ALL behind to follow Jesus.

7-8 “So don’t be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be ‘born from above’—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.”

What are you holding back? What habit or behavior do you still cling to that prevents you from truly being “born anew?” (Common English Bible) The Spirit of God calls us to enter a baptism into a new life through water AND the spirit. Only then do we become living, breathing spirits that are formed under God’s direction.

What do you need to leave behind in order to move ahead?

Night Lite by Karen Hunt

Completed

We have finally arrived. Today is Good Friday, the last weekday of our journey through Lent. As a child, I used to wonder why we called it “Good.” It seemed to me the day Jesus died on the cross was anything but good. Easter Sunday? Good. Birthdays? Good. Last day of school? Very good. But the crucifixion? Not so good.

Some believe that it is a variation of “God’s Friday.” In Germany, it is called Karfreitag, or “Sorrowful Friday.” Of course what remains good about today is that God’s plan to save humanity could only come through Jesus’ willing sacrifice, which brought eternal life to everyone. Even though it was horrific by any measure, God indeed used Jesus’ death for the “good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28)

John 19 (The Message)

28 Jesus, seeing that everything had been completed so that the Scripture record might also be complete, then said, “I’m thirsty.”

29-30 A jug of sour wine was standing by. Someone put a sponge soaked with the wine on a javelin and lifted it to his mouth. After he took the wine, Jesus said, “It’s done . . . complete.” Bowing his head, he offered up his spirit.

Note that the scripture reads that he offered up his spirit. It wasn’t taken or forced from him, but he offered it. Can you imagine? He did that for you.

38 After all this, Joseph of Arimathea (he was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, because he was intimidated by the Jews) petitioned Pilate to take the body of Jesus. Pilate gave permission. So Joseph came and took the body.

Take a look at the detail in the descriptions of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus (below). Joseph was a “secret” disciple, because he was intimidated by the Jews. Nicodemus, however, has made the leap from first coming to Jesus in the dark of night to now being able to come in the broad daylight. What are we meant to learn?

Be Nicodemus. Stand in the light and proclaim Christ as Lord. Don’t be intimidated by the secular world or the scorn of non-believers. Share your faith openly and boldly. You have a story to tell….because it doesn’t end with Good Friday.

39-42 Nicodemus, who had first come to Jesus at night, came now in broad daylight carrying a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. They took Jesus’ body and, following the Jewish burial custom, wrapped it in linen with the spices. There was a garden near the place he was crucified, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been placed. So, because it was Sabbath preparation for the Jews and the tomb was convenient, they placed Jesus in it.

But for today, we leave Jesus in the tomb. You have to go through Good Friday to get to Easter Sunday.

On this day of sorrows, be mindful of everything it cost our Lord to purchase your salvation. He loves you that much.

It is finished.

The Garden Tomb by Faye Gardner

New-Born

I was (finally) cleaning out some old storage containers and I came upon a onesie that both my daughters wore. I saved it because it was my favorite. The puppy-flying-an-airplane motif seemed just right for a family of dog lovers whose Daddy is a pilot. I was glad to find it, because it made a perfect object for my children’s sermon last Sunday.

John 3 (The Message)

1-2 There was a man of the Pharisee sect, Nicodemus, a prominent leader among the Jews. Late one night he visited Jesus and said, “Rabbi, we all know you’re a teacher straight from God. No one could do all the God-pointing, God-revealing acts you do if God weren’t in on it.”

Jesus said, “You’re absolutely right. Take it from me: Unless a person is born from above, it’s not possible to see what I’m pointing to—to God’s kingdom.”

“How can anyone,” said Nicodemus, “be born who has already been born and grown up? You can’t re-enter your mother’s womb and be born again. What are you saying with this ‘born-from-above’ talk?”

This is a confusing story. We are confused, just as Nicodemus was confused. Explaining to the children on Sunday that my 5’10” daughter would never fit into this onesie again was pretty easy to understand. Obviously we aren’t meant to take a literal view of born again. So what was Jesus trying to get at?

When you think about it, becoming a new-born makes sense in the context of setting aside your adult preconceptions and seeing your relationship with God the way a newborn looks at her mother. Newborns are totally reliant on their parents for food, nurturing, learning, and life. Jesus is telling us to be new-born and rely solely on God for those things. We are to depend on him, not ourselves, for our daily needs. We are to look to him for what we need to learn, and not lean on our own understanding. We are to look to him to feed us both physically and spiritually.

5-6 Jesus said, “You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit.

How can you look at your relationship with God through new eyes today? What is he trying to teach you?

God invites us to be formed by something we can’t see and touch…the Holy Spirit. When we submit to his power and authority in everything, when we put ourselves under the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, we can be born anew. Only then can we enter God’s kingdom. May the invisible move the visible in us toward new life.

New Born