Sunday, March 20, 2011

The man who sailed around his soul

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.”

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 wind blows 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?”

Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 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. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

“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. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

- John 3:1-17

Abraham and Sarah set out across the desert—and in this reading, so did Nicodemus. He stepped out in faith—albeit by night, so his friends wouldn’t know—and embarked on a journey with Jesus. Nicodemus set sail from the port of literalism into the deep waters of faith. He didn’t know where he was going, but he knew he wanted to go there, because Jesus was there.

Both Abraham and Nicodemus “took no compass, guide or chart.” They were men who sailed around their souls. Abraham became the father of all the monotheistic religions. Nicodemus went from skulking in the night to securing a tomb for Jesus’ body … and who knows what he did after that?

As Christians in the season of Lent, we are invited to do the same: to step from unreality into reality, from hiding in darkness to praying in honesty. We don’t know what we’ll find, but if Jesus is there, we know it will be good.

Here’s XTC (my all-time favorite band) with “The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul.”

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