Scripture Reading: John 3:1-17
A sure sign of Spring’s arrival is the noticeable presence of wind. Living in northern Alberta, the change of season was always announced with an increase in windy days. It would not be unheard of for us to experience wind gusts as fast as 80 km/hr. Coming from the prairies, I think I always had a bit of an impression that it wouldn’t be windy in mountainous areas because the mountains would be like a barrier to wind, but being here now in Lake Country, I can see that this is certainly not the case.
This past week, I got to thinking about what is behind wind, what is the science of it. Well, Wind is air in motion. It is produced by the uneven heating of the earth’s surface by the sun. Since the earth’s surface is made of various land and water formations, it absorbs the sun’s radiation unevenly. As the sun warms the Earth's surface, the atmosphere warms too. Some parts of the Earth receive direct rays from the sun all year and are always warm. Other places receive indirect rays, so the climate is colder. Warm air, which weighs less than cold air, rises. Then cool air moves in and replaces the rising warm air. This movement of air is what makes the wind blow. And wind has many benefits….it moves seeds, small birds, it shapes landscapes. Wind is probably our least favorite part of spring but we need to appreciate it for the changes it brings.
Today we hear Jesus is talking about the winds of change also. He enters into a complex and rather non-sensible conversation with a Pharisee, a holy man who upheld Jewish Law, over differences in belief. This passage also includes the most loved verse of all scripture according to pollsters found in John 3:16… ….”For God so loved the world as to give the Only Begotten One, that whoever believes may not die, but have eternal life.” This verse is the most quoted all scripture. It is considered by some to be the “gospel in a nutshell” capturing the central theme of traditional Christianity. I can’t help but feel sympathetic towards Nicodemus… he gets a boatload of theology and ideas that might not be familiar nor comfortable. Perhaps this Pharisee is going through some personal crisis of belief…. he’s questioning who he is and he stands for. Jesus presents some challenging and new ideas to Nicodemus. He talks of being “born again, of water and the Spirit”… what’s that about, Jesus? It makes no sense that someone can experience a physical rebirth, we can’t go back into our mother’s wombs a second time. Jesus tells him, Nic, it’s not about the physical being… it’s about what is inside you…. your spiritual being that matters the most. This passage is challenging. Jesus and Nicodemus are having a deeply theological conversation where biological heritage is wrapped up in spiritual heritage. We are not told of Nicodemus’ reaction to what Jesus is saying, but we can only imagine it must have gave him much to think about. Jesus that night shook the very foundation of where Nicodemus thought he stood. Jesus challenges this Pharisee…. that life is not about living one specific way, under one specific set of laws. It’s about who you are inside that counts… it’s about asking his questions and being changed by the answers that come. IT’s about a dynamic movement…. the Wind blows where it chooses. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it is headed next.
For me, the significance of this text from John 3 is not about the theological issues presented here, of the need to be born again. We know damage that the church has done in pursuit of that goal. Believe a certain way and certain things or you’re not going to heaven. That somehow we are lesser than if we haven’t experience baptism or subscribing to a certain belief system that stays the same all the time. No, for me, this passage is significant today for us today because it issues a challenge to question what we believe. And this story of a late night exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus invites us to challenge our long-held beliefs. I am here today as your minister because I was offered a call, an invitation to come along on your journey of asking the questions. I don’t mind telling you, I am stretching out my growing edges in ways that are going to see me be a different minister than what I have been in the past. It is my hope also that I will stretch out your edges as well and invite you to consider things and ways of being church new and life-giving ways.
Last Sunday was our AGM as most of you will recall. And in that time together, we shared how we felt about our current gathered life together. Heart-felt feelings were expressed in a group that I know genuinely cares for one another…. but we know that feelings have been hurt. And from my experience, the best medicine for healing what hurts is talking about it. And there are questions to be asked: What is it we value on Sunday morning? How do we adapt our practices that will be attractive to those on the fringes of our community? How do we honor our unique spiritual heritages and our evolving future and move forward together?
Change is afoot…. the wind blows where it chooses…from different directions…elements collide and cause a disturbance. We wonder “What’s going to happen now on the last Sunday of the month” and I know this is a question that creates tension. I am open to this conversation and the discussions that come about our future. I believe we can find common ground but it will challenge us, it will feel uncomfortable at times. There will be new experiences. But I believe we will sift and sort together. Like the dandelion seed, our future is full of possibility when we let the Spirit blow where it chooses. We have nothing to fear. The God of change, of dynamic movement and holy turbulence, is here right now, as close as our breath… moving us out of our comfort zones… I feel it. Do you feel it? Amen and Amen.