Fourth Sunday of Lent
March 11, 2018
Believe in Jesus and you will be Saved!!! Says the Billboard along highways across our nation. Ok, Well what does that mean? Here is what it has come to mean; the turning of the gospel message that is Love and liberation into the exact opposite. A bumper sticker theology used to exclude. Surface level, 21 century literal, mental magic, a four-word spell that MAKES God love us but not the other. It is a lie!!!
In today’s Gospel Jesus is talking to Nicodemus. Nicodemus is a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin. A keeper of the “official” religion and part of the Judean political hierarchy, that is in collusion with Rome, and actively uses religion and scripture to keep people disempowered, poor, and enslaved. Sound familiar?
Nicodemus does not doubt that Jesus is a man of God. The first thing he says to Jesus is that “he believes in Jesus”. To Jesus that means nothing. Despite his proclamation of Jesus’s communion with God, Nicodemus is still in Darkness. Jesus tells him that it is his shame of the evil way in which he lives that keeps him there. You see, to truly believe in Jesus is something far greater than a proclamation of words, it is to live a truth that will naturally bring us into the Light and allow us to follow The Way! A way that is an alternative too and in direct opposition with the system of oppression that Nicodemus represents.
The truth is this,
Just like Jesus, you and I are the Beloved daughters and sons of God, and God’s favor rest on us!
Just like Nicodemus, that is often hard for us to believe for so many reasons.
We are taught a lie from a young age that we are, what others think of us, what we do, or what we have, or some combination of those. Anything less than perfection is not good enough. I will add that in Jesus’s time there were categories that automatically exclude you from being good enough. Where you were born, your abilities, your gender, your religion, what you looked like, could all instantly exclude you from being worthy of God’s love! Sound familiar?
In fact, the reason that the Pharisees and priest give time and again throughout the book of John as proof that Jesus is not the anointed one is that he is from galilee and nothing good can come from those people or that place! We can imagine they might have said those “shitholes”. Sound familiar?
A society that pushes these lies is a society that denies the Greatness and Goodness of God and becomes a society of death. And when we except these lies as truths we are led into a world of drama and trauma, sharp ups and downs as the opinions and actions of others dictate our own worth. We become immersed into relationships of isolation that are often violent and hurtful as we die a thousand deaths. This way is a lie! But Jesus is The Truth that leads us from into eternal life through communion, to community, to ministry. For the Jesus in the book of John eternal life isn’t about the Hereafter a sweet by and by in the sky. Eternal life is quality of Life, it is life that gives rise to more life.
So, the question becomes then, what is it to truly believe that we are the Beloved. Fr. Henry Nouwen tells us that there are 4 words that summarize Jesus’s life as the Beloved of God and thus summarize belovedness as well!