John 3:1-17 There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “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.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 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.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
Reflection The twentieth century age of reason gave us eyes to see and measure things of the flesh and in so doing made great contributions to civilization; airplanes and antibiotics, personal computers and nuclear power to mention just a few. The modern era also gave birth to the post-modern age that understands reason as good but not sufficient which I believe is more aligned with Jesus’ teaching, “What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.” I believe twenty-first century post-modern thought is catching up with our first century Jesus movement apperception. We must value reason and what it can give us (value the flesh) and “we must be born again from above,” born of the Spirit whereby to understand spiritual things, those truths hidden from the fleshy eyes of reason.
The other day I watched the movie “Hidden Figures,” the true story of three African-American women whose history defining contributions at NASA helped put the first American astronaut into space. That was in 1961. Their story finally became widely public in 2017. For fifty-six years the story of their brilliant contributions was hidden. Clearly, I am not a black woman. I am a person of privilege and still this film reduced me to weeping. I left the theatre and sat in my car overcome by a deep, inscrutable sadness, asking myself “How can these things be?” Finally the words of scripture came to my heart, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matt 25.39) I am culpable. We are all culpable by failing to see and acknowledge the hidden goodness and value of all people.
Our world is replete with signs, things we can see and measure. Everywhere we look we see people suffering every possible disease, disaster and travesty. Anxiety, despair and horror curdle our blood and harden our hearts as we witness vast numbers of people experiencing separation rather than unity and judgment rather than compassion. If we pause to consider each person and situation as an outward and visible sign of something hidden, something more, I wonder if the multitude of human suffering is a harbinger of a deeper spiritual truth, the truth of God suffering? God weeping with us when we are bent, broken and bereft? God weeping because we are failing to see the fundamental dignity and value of all people? I wonder if this is a spiritual truth hidden from the fleshy eyes of reason?
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