A Nicodemus Moment

Nicodemus was a Jewish leader, teacher and member of the ruling Sanhedrin. He came to meet Jesus under cover of darkness. The life-altering and life-affirming conversation that followed has changed the rest of human history. Nicodemus wanted to know how one could be saved. When Jesus told him that we must be born from above, Nicodemus replied with words that really hit a nerve for me.

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?” John 3:4

In a Bible study that I led on John’s Gospel many years ago we talked of how very human Nicodemus’ response was. Most of us under the same circumstances would ask or at least wonder a similar question. For those of us who have already buried our Mother it rings even more powerfully. How can we be born a second time?

Jesus was teaching a new thing. John the Baptist was baptizing with water alone for repentance.  Jesus was beginning to introduce the Holy Spirit.  The rebirth that Jesus was ushering in is different in character from what had existed before.

“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.” John 3:5b-6

By the power of the Holy Spirit we are made new. The water with the Spirit becomes a force that offers eternal life. The water and Spirit washes clean souls. It is miraculous. Baptism is beyond the ordinary even though it uses something as ordinary as
water.

church-window-1016443_960_720I often respond to challenges by planning my response. I create a plan. I strategize. I prioritize. I make back-up plans and worry. Nothing I do will guarantee success. When I first rely upon my own problem-solving ability I deny God the chance to guide me from the start. Only through the assistance of the Holy Spirit is real success to be expected. On far too many occasions I have resorted to prayer at the end of a planning session to ask God to bless my efforts. It galls me to admit how arrogantly I have acted.

What I do or plan is not what is important. I am not the one in control. God doesn’t exist to do what I want or to bless my endeavors.

When I try to be the source of all the answers I begin to play God. Only when I step back and allow God to exercise His rightful authority do I make room for His plans to take shape in my life.

Nicodemus recognized the problem of death. His practical question was for each one of us. Jesus told him that the Spirit is the answer. The ideas borne of the flesh are of finite value. The solutions born by the power of the Spirit lead to eternal life.

As I confessed to my Bible study friends I have had many a “Nicodemus moment.” Ever after when I find myself looking for human solutions to spiritual problems I call the problem what it is, a “Nicodemus moment.” That helps me to course-correct and make room for the Holy Spirit to have a place in the solution. I pray first and plan second. It is astounding what keeping things in the proper order will do.

This post is one for the If:Gathering study on the Nicene Creed. As we reflect on what it means when we say that we believe in,”One Baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” Nicodemus teaches us some of what that means. We must move out-of-the-way and let God accomplish our salvation because under our own power we cannot hope to win our salvation.

Are Children Afraid of Lullabies?

https://www.pinterest.com/cheztemp/colleen-moores-fairy-castle/

Rock-a-by-baby’s cradle from Collene Moore’s Dollhouse https://www.pinterest.com/cheztemp/colleen-moores-fairy-castle/

Rock-a-by-baby,
On the tree top,
When the wind blows,
The cradle will rock.
When the bough breaks,
The cradle will fall,
And down will come baby,
Cradle and all.

I met a woman last week who told me she would not sing, “Rock-a-by-baby” to her children lest it give them nightmares about the cradle falling. She also said that she censored fairy-tales and Bible stories that might be too frightening for children. They only heard them when they were older.
I didn’t really know what to say. My Mother loved me more than life and I was never afraid in her presence. She sang me, “Rock-a-by-baby” every night and I never once was afraid of the cradle falling.
It did cause me to wonder. How do we feel about lullabies as adults? Were you ever worried about the cradle falling? Did Little Red Ridding Hood scare you? As I look back, I was so secure in my parent’s love that I feared nothing when I was with them. If they sang the song or read the story I assumed it would all work out alright. I came to expect happy endings.
Naturally it came as a shock when I was big enough to realize that my parents couldn’t do everything. I was sad that they couldn’t make the world right and fair, but I was also grateful that they did their best.
Perhaps I was eased into the idea that my parents weren’t able to slay every foe because I knew that they relied upon God for the things that were overwhelming to them. I knew that everything did not work out. I knew that I had an older sister who only lived three days. I remember a neighbor telling my Mother that she was shocked that I had been told about that. Her reaction to my knowledge made an enough of an impression on me that I remember asking my Mother about it later.

My Mother told me that some people didn’t think children should know about tragedy. My Mother reminded me that God was the one who was ultimately in control and He was looking after my sister that I never met. We would all be together one day and then for all eternity. I was not afraid. God was loving. He was our Father.
When I was in elementary school and I came across injustices that my Daddy couldn’t fix, I comforted myself with the remembrance that God was our ultimate Father and someday everything would be made right.
I suppose, upon reflection, that all of this is the reason I still believe that the future is bright. I am all too well aware that this world contains much tragedy and inequity. My Daddy now leans on me when we go places together. My Mother is with my sister waiting for the rest of us in heaven. But my Father in Heaven is the one who is ultimately in charge. He is all good and all loving. Jesus will come back again one day. There will be a new Heaven and a new Earth. The lion will lie down with the lamb. All will be right.

I am confident that life has a happy ending. I face each new day with optimism. I don’t believe in fairy-tales. I believe in Jesus.

  • What do you think? Are lullabies like “Rock-a-by-baby” too scary for little children?
  • What is you opinion about fairy-tales? Some have very violent content.
  • How do video games fit into this discussion? Should they be part of this discussion?
  • What do you think of teaching stories like Noah and the Ark, or Daniel in the Lion’s Den?
  • From where do you think children derive their sense of security?

I am not asserting that I have all the answers, dear readers. I am interested in the ideas of other about these questions. I had not really pondered them before and I think they are compelling questions. I look forward to your replies.