3-6-17- Signs of Life

This Lent, our Sunday passages come from the Gospel of John, richly drawn encounters with Jesus. The passages are lengthy and told elliptically in John’s sometimes tortured style, and can be hard to follow. They’re worth the work; I will do my best to highlight themes in them.

This week’s story concerns a meeting between Jesus and an important Jewish leader: 
“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.’”

We might assume Nicodemus came by night because he wasn’t ready to be seen publicly talking with this controversial miracle-worker. It’s clear, though, that Jesus’ miracles have gotten his attention: “For no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.”

This is one reason miracles are referred to as “signs” in John’s Gospel; they are demonstrations of how things work in the Life of God, signs pointing beyond themselves to the power that animates them. Water into wine, sight to the blind – these transformations have a purpose beyond the immediate needs they address.

So does the church, meant to be the Body of Christ made visible in the world. We are called to more than meeting needs. We are to be making known, showing forth the Life of God that is around us and in us. Our mission is to reveal the spiritual reality of God as we go about God’s mission of restoration and wholeness. So what we do as church always has a mystical purpose beyond the short-term good.

In what ways do you make known the spiritual reality of God-Life in your life and ministry? When have you last experienced that spiritual reality, even in ways that appear miraculous - maybe in timing that seems suspiciously God-driven, or with unexpected answers to prayer, or urges to reach out to another person in a way that bears fruit?

If you have answers to those questions, note them, give thanks, and explore why you may have been open to manifesting or discerning that God-Life. What are the optimal conditions for you?

If you find yourself unable to answer, there in itself is a question to explore – how might you be more open to the mysterious, the movement of spirit? Might “religion” be getting in the way of “relationship” with the Holy, the transcendent?

Jesus answers Nicodemus’ opening statement with a comment that puzzles: 
“Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Whatever else “born from above” means, at the very least it is being able to discern a reality not immediately apparent to our physical sight. That might be a good prayer for today, “Open our eyes, Lord, to see your hand at work in the world around us.” Let me know what you see.

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