Today's Lectionary Text
Now 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 windblows 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. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”
Our family has a tradition of creating for each child a “birthday flag” — more of a wall hanging — with a “block” or significant image portraying something important to the child during the past year. For instance, when our first child turned 1, we recalled the day of his birth when his daddy celebrated with bottle rockets in a snowstorm. Preschoolers would have dinosaurs, dolls or riding cars added. School-age kids would be honored with blocks related to kindergarten, a favorite book, a new skill. We kept these flags as part of the family celebration through high school.
Today, I am wondering what my Heavenly Father would depict on a flag recounting the years since my second birth. Would He be pleased at new skills I have gained that are useful in His Kingdom? Would God honor me with His blessing for the Christian books I have read? Bible studies led and completed? New Christian small groups formed? Would He add a block of scripture for each passage memorized? Would there be whole years with no new image at all?
Jesus met with Nicodemus and discussed being born by the Spirit — the second birth — in John 3. “Humans give life to their children. Yet only God’s Spirit can change you into a child of God. Don’t be surprised when I say that you must be born from above. Only God’s Spirit gives new life.” John 3:6-8 (CEV). As a teacher of Israel, Nicodemus was having a battle between his head knowledge and his heart knowledge of all things spiritual. Jesus questioned how Nicodemus — a well-known scholar — could not already know the information he is requesting of Jesus (John 3:10).
This third chapter of John continues in verse 16 with those most beautiful words, often memorized, sometimes sung, given here in the CEV: “God loved he people of this world so much that He gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in Him will have eternal life and never really die.” Today would be a great day to say “Happy birthday!” to someone, then tell them why. Celebrate together the second birth and new life we find only in Jesus Christ.
--Ardith Davenport, Lay Servant
This devotion has been reprinted from 9/9/2019
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