Ninth Day of Easter   8 comments

Nicodemus and Jesus, by Alexander Ivanov (1850)

Monday, April 9, 2018

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Acts 4:23-31 (Revised English Bible):

As soon as they [Peter and John] were discharged the apostles went back to their friends and told them everything that the chief priests and elders had said.  When they heard it, they raised their voices with one accord and called upon God.

Sovereign Lord, Maker of heaven and earth and sea and of everything in them, you said by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of David your servant,

“Why do the Gentiles rage

and the peoples hatch their futile plots?

The kings of the earth took their stand

and the rulers made common cause

against the Lord and against his Messiah.”

They did indeed make common cause in this very city against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed as Messiah.  Herod and Pontius Pilate conspired with the Gentiles and with the peoples of Israel to do all the things which, under your hand and by your decree, were foreordained.  And now, O Lord, mark their threats, and enable those who serve you to speak your word with all boldness.  Stretch out your hand to heal and cause signs and portents to be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

When they had ended their prayer, the building where they were assembled rocked, and all were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke God’s word with boldness.

Psalm 146:5-10 (Revised English Bible):

Happy is he whose helper is the God of Jacob,

whose hope is in the LORD his God,

maker of heaven and earth,

the sea, and all that is in them;

who maintains faithfulness for ever

and deals out justice to the oppressed.

The LORD feeds the hungry

and sets the prisoner free.

The LORD restores sight to the blind

and raises those who are bowed down;

the LORD loves the righteous

and protects the stranger in the land;

the LORD gives support to the fatherless and the widow,

but thwarts the course of the wicked.

The LORD will reign for ever, Zion

your God for all generations.

Praise the LORD.

John 3:1-8 (Anchor Bible):

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, who came to him [Jesus] at night.

Rabbi,

he said to Jesus,

We know you are a teacher who has come from God; for, unless God is with him, no one can perform the signs that you perform.

Jesus gave him this answer:

I solemnly assure you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being begotten from above.

Nicodemus retorted,

How can a man be born once he is old?  Can he re-enter his mother’s womb and be born all over again?

Jesus replied:

I solemnly assure you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being begotten of water and Spirit.  Flesh begets flesh, and Spirit begets Spirit.  Do not be surprised that I told you: you must be begotten from above.  The wind blows about at will; you hear the sound it makes but do not know where it comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone begotten of the Spirit.

The Collect:

Let your people , O Lord, rejoice for ever that they have been renewed in spirit; and let the joy of our adoption as your sons and daughters strengthen the hope of our glorious resurrection in Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Living in the U.S. Bible Belt, I am more familiar than I wish I were with Fundamentalist and Evangelical Protestant theology.  Among the ideas with which I disagree strongly is the popular interpretation of being “born again.”  Certain varieties of Protestantism err on the side of experience over intellect and on the side of the individual over the faith community.  The truth is that a balance in each case is necessary.  So, it is actually a case of both-and, not either-or.

Anyhow, the actual text means “begotten from above,” “born from above,” or “born from God,” not “born again.”  And it is a sacramental reference.  In the Christian context this refers to baptism, which is something God does, not something we do.   (Water baptism is one sacrament, an outward sign of God’s inward grace.)  A person who has not had a powerful religious experience can be a Christian.  I am, and I have not had a powerful, life-shaking religious experience.  My preferred variety of faith is lived, with an emphasis on works, in the style of the Letter of James.  In this regard I am more Roman Catholic than Protestant.

These works can assume a variety of forms, but love and holy boldness characterize them.  And these works are of divine, not human origin.  This is a simple matter:  one knows a tree by its fruit.  A spiritually healthy person produces spiritually healthy fruit.

This focus on divine actions via human beings runs counter to a strong strain in U.S. culture.  Many of us grew up hearing about self-made people who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps.  Yet undomesticated Christianity teaches that we are all dependent on God.  This is a frequently unpopular message, but it is true.

Thanks be to God, upon whom everybody depends!

KRT

Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 6, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/born-from-above-2/

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Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2018, April, Easter, Episcopal Church Lectionary

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