An essay for Modern Metanoia on Trinity Sunday, John 3:1-17.
Every extraordinary experience sparks from the ordinary. Full of curiosity, Nicodemus proactively seeks Jesus out at night. Jesus transforms what was an inconspicuous evening into a remarkable, life-changing event.
What I love about the Gospel of John is the way we, readers thousands of years later, are turned into witnesses. We become witnesses to not just fact-based, hard-nosed, “real news,” but to God’s reality on earth. We become witnesses, not to an ideology, but to the Movement of God. We are suddenly standing alongside Nicodemus, bound by our physical bodies and limited perspective, about to have our mind blown by a completely new way of seeing and being in the world.
In this particular story, we see Jesus launch the transformation of Nicodemus from questioning leader, ἄρχων (John 3:1), to witness, μάρτυς (John 3:11) to the Movement of God. The Movement of God is Trinitarian – physical, spiritual, and divine. It takes our full selves to be part of this movement. We cannot compartmentalize it to one hour or one day. We cannot compartmentalize it to a single choice and belief. This is difficult for us to grasp because our entire world is about compartmentalization. We count the minutes and hours of our days, divvying up our time to work, relationships, goals, celebrations, conversations, and chores. This is also difficult for us to grasp because so much of our lives are about reaching certain dates, milestones and achievements. We live by the idea that once we reach that particular place, we will have “made it.” Nevertheless, the Movement of God blurs and smudges the lines by which we have ordered our lives. The Movement of God never stops. The Movement is, in essence, God’s full self – Father, Son, and Spirit. During this late night conversation, Jesus invites Nicodemus to wake up, be “born again,” move beyond the limits of his occupation and title and join the Movement.
In his book, The Divine Dance, Father Richard Rohr describes the Movement of God as flow. To join God’s movement is to step, jump, or dive into the flow of God’s full self with our full selves. The tide of God’s movement leads us to a way of life that is always growing, evolving, transforming; a way of life that is about unification, alignment, and action.
Like Nicodemus, it takes a little time for us to catch on. It’s hard to be moved from all that we know – this one body, this one life, our understanding of science and creation. Even without fully understanding Jesus’ words, Nicodemus is caught up in the tide of conversation and can’t stop himself from asking, “How can anyone be born after having grown old?” Jesus doesn’t back down. With Jesus’ response, we 21st century readers are no longer merely observers of a late night conversation. Jesus’ reply vibrates and echoes from the pages of the Bible to us, today. “You must be born from above.”
Jesus tells us to move beyond dualistic thinking into a Trinitarian way of being, the place where our bodies, mind, soul, and spirit meet. Jesus calls Nicodemus, and all of us, to live in the realization of all that we are. We are not just machines, a body moving by habit and functionality. We are not just spontaneous balls of unaware reactivity to the life being lived around us. God made us to be part of the Movement. While we struggle with discernment, wondering what is God truly calling us to, remember that the answer will always involve our full selves, it will involve our transformation (often over and over again), it will involve us physically moving, following the example of Jesus, and getting into it.
Consider the social movements we witness in history books and the news today. These movements do not appear from nowhere. They are products of an accumulation of factors, but we often wonder where they came from. Like the wind, we hear the sound of it, see the effects of these movements, but we do not always know where they came from or where they will go. Isn’t this just like the Movement of God? Isn’t this exactly what Jesus is calling Nicodemus, and all of us, to join?
Jesus knows we are suspicious. Jesus knows we are trapped by our need for tangible, provable facts. Yet, in this conversation, Jesus doesn’t stop there. We are called to join the Movement. Despite ourselves, we are made witnesses. We are not witnesses of our own understanding, but of God’s action, movement, in the world, for the world. Receive the testimony given to us by the Living Word who walked among us. Bear witness. Wake up. Be moved with your full self – your emotions, your mind, soul, and strength. Rise up. Join the Movement of God.