“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.” John 3:16
Greetings, Fremont Family:
Did you memorize this scripture verse when you were a kid? I know I did. Growing up in the church, it seemed like this verse was the “motto” for the whole Jesus story. If you could recite John 3:16, then you had everything you needed to know about life, death and everything in between. Now, that idea seems incredibly reductionistic.
This Sunday, you are in for a treat. Our Youth Director, Jocelyn Hart, will be preaching on John 3:16 and the verses that follow in the form of a conversation with two of our young adults, Elijah Martin Collier and La’Mareontae Thomas. They will talk about their experiences with this famous verse and some of the things they think Jesus might be teaching us. You will not want to miss it!
For me, the context of this verse is everything. The verse comes deep in a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus that takes place at night. Nicodemus, a religious leader and a teacher of God’s law, comes in secret (so as not to jeopardize his prestigious position) to explore Jesus’ identity. Nicodemus starts with what he knows, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who comes from God…” But, Jesus quickly “turns the table” (see what I did there?) on Nicodemus, and disorients him by pointing him to what he doesn’t know. Jesus replies, “no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above (born again).”Understandably, Nicodemus is confused. Say, what? Jesus wants to talk about the mysterious life in the Spirit, and Nicodemus wants tangible signs.
Today, I am feeling my inner Nicodemus. I want answers and tangible signs. This week, I have been planning our Holy Week worship services, Palm/Passion Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and quite honestly, I am not feeling it. These are worship services that are intended to be done in the body, not through a computer screen. We are supposed to be together to wave our palms, form a procession, shout “Hosanna!” We are supposed to take our places at Jesus’ table, eat and drink in remembrance of him. We are supposed to keep vigil in the garden, experience the betrayal, follow the crowd, cry “Crucify!,”stand at the cross, deny we ever knew him. Holy Week is not a spectator sport. In other words, I don’t know how to do this season in the Spirt. My mind is stuck on the body.
The grace comes from Jesus who reminds us this journey is not our doing. Without the Spirit, we cannot know or see God. The beauty and meaning of Jesus’ death on our behalf come not in “going through the motions” but by trusting God and God’s purposes. God loves. God gives. God saves even during a pandemic. That is life in the Spirit. God continues to “so love” us and the world, and nothing separates us from that love. Nothing.
So this year, as we prepare again for a different kind of Holy Week and Easter, may we continue to trust God, welcome new life in our spirit, and may we be born again.
Grace and peace, Erin