Feb 17, 2008
Return to Sermons
Sermon: Second Sunday of Lent, Year A 2008
The Community Church of Wilmette
February 17, 2008
Begin with printout page from Pride and Prejudice.
Pride and prejudice By Jane Austen
Poor Miss Bingley. She blundered into that one. In the movie (the proper BBC film with Colin Firth and not the shorter, Cliff Notes version that was released in theaters a year or so ago), Miss Bingley appears to be searching for a compliment, perhaps assuming that the fine eyes to which Mr. Darcy refers are her own. She initiates the conversation with a set of assumption she knows to be true only to discover that the landscape had shifted under her feet. The reality is that she knows very little if anything at all about Mr. Darcy and how he thinks.
This may be a familiar experience for many of us. We have done our research. We have plumbed the depths of commonly held wisdom. When we arrive at our destination, however, convictions and assurances in hand, we are surprised
astonished at what we encounter.
This is how we encounter Nicodemus in this mornings passage from Johns gospel. He was astonished by what he heard. Jesus knew it and happily pointed it out.
Do not be astonished that I said to you, You must be born from above. (3:7)
It could not be helped. You see Nicodemus walked into his meeting with Jesus knowing that he had everything figured out.
Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God. (3:2)
Nicodemus knew the rules. He knew how one was supposed to tell if a prophet or teacher is from God. There are signs. But Jesus shifted the landscape under Nicodemus feet. He essentially said, Close, but not quite. I am more than a teacher, and it takes more than signs to find the Truth of God.
Discernment is more complicated than that. The Kingdom of God is not simply found in signs, the flesh, but also in the Spirit
in being born from above.
I am one of those people who like to know as much of the lay of the land as possible before I begin something. I want to know the rules. I want to read ahead. Many of the books I own are the fruit of such effort. I simply hate feeling stupid.
I sometimes wonder if Nicodemus had the same difficulty.
He was a leader of the Jews himself. He was an expert, qualified to instruct and guide people in matters of faith and religious practice. Nicodemus had every reason to think that he knew what he was talking about.
Yet he didnt. Jesus showed him this simple truth right from the start.
Very truly I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above. (3:3)
For Nicodemus, everything would change. He had to let go of what he thought he knew about how the world works. His Mind would have to be transformed with his Heart if was to follow Jesus. Such a shift in perception, however, is never easy. We have to let go of a lot of what we think we know.
When I first started going to AA meetings about 15 years ago, I thought I had it all figured out. I had read about addictive personalities. I knew that I was a prime candidate. I knew all I thought I needed to know.
I knew I had it all under control.
It would take another eight years for real change to take place
for the illusion of control to be shattered.
My first sponsor would often say things like, You think too much. You think yourself into a corner, until your back is against a wall. Then you cry for help. Do you see how crazy that is?
I had to learn to think differently. It was a matter of life and death for me. That was seven years ago. Sometimes I still think myself into corners, and imagine control that I do not possess. This process never really ends.
Knowing something intellectually is not the same thing as letting that knowledge touch and transform the heart. This is what Jesus tells Nicodemus. God desires the heart. What was once only information such as my thinking about addiction and dysfunction
or Nicodemus thinking about what makes a man of God
is transformed into something new. What is happening in the head has to drift down into the heart. This is the Movement of the Spirit. This is the Wind of Transformation.
The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. (3:8)