Today's Lectionary Text
John 3:1-9, 16-17Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus[a] 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.”[b] 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.[c] Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You[d] must be born from above.’[e] The wind[f] 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?”
“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.
Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,[a]
The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl,[b]
The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
Scribble designs are so cool! They are amazing and fun. First draw an outline using a dark color. Make straight lines, curvy arcs, acute angles, all sorts of spaces as the lines and arcs cross over each other. In the end spaces of various sizes and shapes appear. What fun.
These designs are chaotic and illogical. Maybe they are good for nothing or maybe unusual uses will emerge. They are a delight to color; they bring peace and calm to the spirit. I use them often as part of my prayer discipline. However, scribble designs, at first glance, seem just plain chaotic.
The scripture from the third chapter of John’s Gospel is a bit like scribble designs.
As I read verses 1-9, I am led to confusion, to chaos in my brain. Logic and order are necessary in the world and it is unsettling to be unable to make logical sense of thoughts. This passage frustrates me.
Nicodemus poses a thoughtful, genuine, logical question to Jesus one night. Night offers an appropriate setting for the chaos that ensues. Jesus’ answer weaves in and out, over and under. It leaves all sorts of spaces for more questions. It piddles around avoiding the straightforward and creating deeper chaos. The answer resembles scribbling. As I read and reread the passage, I become more and more confused and then determined to line up the concepts in logical order, ensuring they flow one into the next.
Such ordering is not always possible or advisable. God created out of chaos, and in chaos. Psalm 29 describes chaos -- thunder, flashing flames, wild and powerful winds. This chaos leaves no room for orderly thoughts or logic. Scary.
Letting those nine verses in John flow and exist, creating odd shapes and spaces might be chaotic and it might lead to more chaos. Then, after six more verses, something happens. The presence of God becomes clear and apparent, with the words of verses 16 and 17. God’s concrete action is noted along with the purpose of that action.
A path through the chaotic words has emerged, and God’s great and clearly declared love for humankind makes the whole design a thing of beauty.
The words are powerful. The circuitous path through the first 15 verses gives those familiar words of verses 16 and 17 even greater strength. They become words with the great Love behind them. That powerful Love pushes. It offers the promise of eternal life, but it especially shoves out into the world. Humankind is propelled into odd-shaped spaces in the world to find where the love of God is needed. Those who experience such Love are thrust out into the larger chaotic world to uncover the unexpected places where great love is needed, more spaces are formed, the design keeps expanding.
Are we not these very people? God continues to need us and to use us to create from chaos. The power and the peace of God’s great love moves us further and further into the world. Each of us has a place in the design. Let’s color it together and create an emerging beautiful piece.
-Rev. Dianne Tombaugh
Prayer for Reflection
Creator God, empower and energize us to find a way through the chaos and to be energized by the love that you offer, so we might help spread your love across the world. Amen
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