Listening to the spirit within

Good morning all!  Today we get a special treat! My DAD is writing! My Dad is one of the wisest people I know. He is full of grace and truth.  Enjoy!

Today’s scripture:

John 3:1-13(NRSV)

Nicodemus Visits Jesus

Now 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.”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.Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The windblows 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?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.

As twenty-first century Christians, we are probably somewhat unimpressed by this story from John.  We all know what Jesus is talking about when he tells us that we must be reborn to be closer to God and experience the spirit of God.  While we might sometimes look down our noses at self-professed “born again Christians,” we do know that we all need to have the spirit of God within us to live the life Jesus calls us to lead. We know that we need to believe in the spirit that we cannot see.

But if we put ourselves into the shoes of Nicodemus and the pharisees of the day, Jesus is talking nonsense in advocating about being reborn in the spirit to reach God.  How possibly could something like that happen? And this comes from above? Hardly.

But look how the story shows us, again, that Jesus takes charge in a way that only he can: he turns the conversation around on Nicodemus to make his point.  It’s revolutionary that the spirit comes from above. And Nicodemus still doesn’t get it.

Several years ago, I had the privilege of delivering a sermon at our local United Methodist Church and I centered my talk about our need to communicate better with God. God is there always, but we usually don’t get it because we aren’t listening.  I pointed out recent studies which told us men and women simply don’t communicate in the same way and that this failure to communicate often can lead to many of our problems – the “women are from Venus and men are from Mars” idea.

In preparing my sermon, I read a book by a female psychologist who opined that while men communicate to exchange information, women tend to communicate in ways to exchange feelings.  My example was a man and a woman who are driving down the highway when wife may ask husband if he’s hungry.  Man, exchanging information, says “no,” because he isn’t hungry and is simply answering her question.  What Woman may be really trying to say is that she is hungry and is inquiring to find out if Man is having the same feelings.  She wants him to remain sensitive to her needs and, though he isn’t trying to confuse things, she is hurt by his insensitivity.  The result is that Man keeps driving down the road and Woman is frustrated that Man was more interested in driving than tending to her need for food.  Neither of the people in the example are trying to hurt the other, but the result is a lack of communication which leads to bad feelings.

In a similar way, God is talking to us always, but we need to listen to what we are being told.  This may take our extra effort to listen. We need to let the spirit inside, rather than simply looking to the skies in anticipation of the spirit to come down from above. This rebirth of spirit comes from listening to the Word.  And renewal is what this time of the Christian year is about, isn’t it?

Let’s spend some time with this spirit this week, shall we?

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