For, when we encounter God, we encounter God as we are. And that means we encounter God filled with our own limits and prejudices, talents and restrictions. So much has made us who we are. Families, friends, education, background, and beliefs. These things are immutable. And they have a substantial impact on us, shaping us, governing us, forming us. Changing them is just as realistic as climbing back into our mothers’ wombs and be re-born. No wonder Nicodemus is so incredulous. How then, are we to be re-born, restored to our destined life as children of God?
This is why Jesus focuses on the Spirit. Re-birth is something outside of our control, it is Spirit and water. We cannot change ourselves, but we can trust in the power of God to transform us. Water washing over us cleanses us. This is the power of baptism, we are bathed and washed clean by the power of God. We are, truly, “born again.”
This can be a scary concept, disquieting and discomforting. Maybe this is why Nicodemus points out the absurdities of the situation. No longer of this world, but from above. No longer flesh, but Spirit. And this Spirit is wild, untamed. We cannot see it, we cannot know where it is going. But, Jesus assures us that it will take us with it.
And perhaps this is what is scariest – all of those immutable things, they are safe, they are comfortable, they are, if not always known, at least familiar. Jesus here invites Nicodemus (and us) into a new world, the world that is above, a world infused with the Spirit of God. It won’t be the same. It will be liberating and transformative. A new way of living, even. But that also means an unknown way of living. And a way of living that will be strange, unfamiliar, and perhaps even dangerous. For, all those around us may not understand why we are this new way. We can invite them into the life of the Spirit, true, but they will be just as challenged and discomforted as were we, initially. Yet, the Spirit blows where it wills, taking us with it, so that we might find new life in the Kingdom of God.
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