I agree
2008-02-14 by Tom Steagald

I think we are not at odds here. What I am suggesting is that Jesus' answer is the real answer, just that Nicodemus may not even know what question he is asking. When he says he knows, he really doesn't. But like many who come for counseling, say, the presenting question is the cover for the real, needing-to- be discovered, question.

For my part, I find myself less concerned with the (honest?) questions of the atheists than I am with the smugness of the faithful (and a preacher like me among the rest, because I think I have it figured out After all, I know that Jesus is...), that we in fact understood what Jesus says when in reality we are all of us in the dark, as it were.

 





Response
2008-02-14 by Rick Brand

From the rural outpost of Henderson, NC, I do struggle as the semi-blind attempts to lead the semi-blind in faithful living.

My take on it this time around the lectionary is that Nicodemus does have a real question and a real intellectual curiosity. Why come and night if he wanted to confound and confuse Jesus or argue with Jesus? Your probably are right that he is trying to fit the answers he gets into his paradign but that is not strange. The fact that Jesus could not give him an intellectual answer that fit and changed his paradign at the same time means for me today that the rational debate will not satisfy anybody. We will not change the atheist by arguments. Just my opinion

To respond to the emailed question: I read the born by water as our natural birth from the womb, and by the spirit as that birth that happens when we are so caught up in a message to us that the Holy loves us that we suddenly discover that our past does not bind us, all fear is gone, and we begin to dance in the promises of a new future. The new life, the new birth, begins when I really accept that God loves me and wants me as a part of his Kingdom. And I find that my joy is really now in living like the Beatitudes.

Of course being, as pointed out, way out here in rural North Carolina, I may not have gotten the latest version of the Good News.





Hey, Rick
2008-02-14 by Tom Steagald

But is Nicodemus asking a question that can be answered? Which is to say, is he asking the real question?

My sense is that Nicodemus is trying to assimilate Jesus into his world view (for lack of a better term, though I know that expression is discredited among us post-moderns), instead of taking Jesus on Jesus' terms. I wonder if some of the "honest questioning" we do is, in fact, an act of hubris, meaning that we demand Jesus/God to do business with us as we set the rules...

I am thinking here of Job, too, who demands audience with God and God answers exactly none of his questions. The presence of God is answer enough, I guess, and the presence of Jesus to Nicocemus (who comes seeking but the wrong thing, I think) might ought to be...

But of course Nicodemus represents us, does he not, meaning the religious professionals. I have heard Willimon say something to the effec that the only time Jesus demands "new birth" on the part of his hearer is when he is talking to a preacher. Sobering, that.

So perhaps the issue is not the questions of atheists but our own questions, and then only if they are the real questions, the ones that are asked (and perhaps even answered) deeper than our presenting perplexities.

Just thinking "out loud."

By the by, are you not in Henderson, NC? My wife is from Henderson and attended FUMC there long years ago.





Even Jesus
2008-02-13 by Rick Brand

What strikes me this time around with John 3:1-17 is that even Jesus could not give Nicodemus an answer, an intellectual and clear answer, that resolved the questions of faith and doubt. In the rash of books concerning atheism, it is honest to admit that that debate is not going to be resolved by rational debate. Even Jesus was not able here to give an answer that satisfied Nicodemus. Like Abraham and Paul in Romans we live by faith which is never without doubts. So it sounds to me in this story.



I am struggling
2008-02-12 by Tom Steagald

to pin the Abram text and the Nicodemus text together, which may be homiletical suicide, but it seems to me that the "snap" may be at the point of "conversion." If the Genesis text lends itself to "pilgrimage" imagery, the corruption of that imagery will focus more on Abram's response that God's call and the resultant "journey we all take" with God. But God is calling Abram to a radical reordering of his life and world--and Abram's response has the character of radical obedience, not romantic "followinng."

Likewise, the Nicodemus story has about it an air of radical summons, I think. Nicodemus comes to Jesus, of course, but it is clear that Jesus is speaking a different language than the teacher of Israel understands. Nicodemus is trying to manage Jesus, so to speak, to incorporate Jesus into his world view (we know you are a Teacher come from God), when in fact Nicodemus knows nothing at all.

Which is to say both Genesis and John are conversion stories...at least as they read to me. Is it fair to go there with both?





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