Second Sunday in Lent
If any character from the Bible can be regarded as representative of twenty-first century church members, it might be Nicodemus. He is spiritually open and curious, yet also rational. He is committed and curious enough that he makes an appointment to talk with Jesus face to face. However, Nicodemus is not ready to go public with his interest in Jesus, so he makes the appointment in the middle of the night, when he can keep his faith secret. Like it or not, we encounter people like Nicodemus in our lives every day. Being an Anglican, or a Christian for that matter, does not seem to be exactly trendy. Being a Nicodemus-like Christian has become almost understandable in the twenty-first century where cultural norms push religion into the private sphere, positioning faith as appropriate for family and personal morality, but inappropriate for public issues. Jesus seems impatient as he talks with Nicodemus and you can almost hear Jesus’ amusement in verse 10 when Nicodemus does not immediately understand the metaphor. When Jesus tells Nicodemus that he needs to be born again by water and Spirit, he is asking Nicodemus to let God work in his life because Jesus knows that none of us can do it on our own. Perhaps it is time for many of us to be reborn too. How many of us are versions of Nicodemus with faiths that flourish behind the scenes, essentially in private? Who among us has room to grow in our faith? How many of us can hear Jesus asking us the same question? What if Jesus was exercising a little rabbinical irony instead of divine judgment? It changes our place in the story; suddenly, there is room for our ignorance too. Nicodemus reminds us that even the best educated and most authoritative among us are still searching. Nicodemus makes a complete turn-around and emerges publicly only at Jesus’ burial. Thankfully, we don’t have to wait until Jesus’s return but can simply allow God to work in us right here, right now, enabling us to be his witnesses in the light.