Do you remember when cable TV station Nickelodeon began to use their evening hours to launch adult-oriented programming? They hyped the new lineup as “Nick-at-Nite”. But long before that, there was another Nick-at-Nite who visited Jesus to see what programming he was airing, back in the day when a mount, a boat, or a tall rock was the place from which information was broadcast, and Nicodemus chose the cloak of night to avoid being seen with the one who was causing trouble in Jerusalem.
Nicodemus was a powerful man, part of the Sanhedrin, or ruling group of judges that governed life in Israel. But he was among the few who, rather than seeing Jesus as a threat, was more tolerant and curious of this new prophet that had emerged. Perhaps he just wanted to take his measure of Jesus for the moment, but out of this visit, comes one of the great expressions of the Gospel we find in scripture: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life”. Martin Luther pointed to this verse, calling it “The Gospel in a Nutshell”.
During the conversation, Jesus told Nicodemus that the kingdom of God was only accessible by those who had gone through a form of rebirth. John’s gospel uses a Greek word here which can be translated as either born again, or born from above. There’s been much debate in the church over the years as to what Jesus actually meant, but I think the meaning is clear when set beside the famous verse, John 3:16. This idea of rebirth, reflects a reorientation of life in the word based on the way God sees the world. God loves the world God created, so being born again, or born from above must also mean a rebirth to see the world through the eyes of love.
You’ll read other blogs which stress that “born again” means something that requires either a special experience of the holy, or some decision to accept Christ, in order to be part of God’s salvation plan. Those are dangerous paths to travel, my friends, and places access to the kingdom of God into the hands of human action or human interpretation. For me, the universality of the claim “God so loved the world” speaks words of grace into what it means to be reborn. Rebirth is God’s gift to us from God’s never-ending bank of next chances to live into the gospel of Love. That’s the gospel I want to see broadcast. How about you?
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Devotions for Week of March 12, 2017
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Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.