Monday, January 16, 2012

Born Again

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. John 2:23-3:15

People occasionally ask me why I titled my blog mama bishop. And so I tell them that the first time women bishops were in attendance at Lambeth in 1998, they were often heckled by some other bishops who would shout, "mama go home and take care of your babies!" I am a mother (and now a grandmother) and I understand that role to be a calling as worthy as all others. And as a deacon, priest and bishop, the gift of motherhood has blessed my ministry throughout. And my daughters have been my greatest supporters, my greatest theologians. So I decided to transform the insults into a title of praise. Mamabishop was a rebirth of sorts, an insult turned into blessing, a way to seek God's spirit in the midst of challenges and misunderstandings.

Nicodemus was invited by Jesus to be born again. The wise ruler ached to understand Jesus, but his training and customs had kept him from belief in this man as the messiah. He desperately wanted to understand and Jesus suggested he be born of water and the spirit, the sign of God transforming an individual or community. Baptism, in water and spirit, means we turn from the old ways and become new, the insults and challenges become blessings, the flesh becomes an instrument of the living God. Some have interpreted this "born again" process very narrowly, but Jesus invites us to see that God is able to make us new, even when we are old and broken down. How incredible that God desires to be our parent, to bear us again, even over and over, so that we might be renewed by water and spirit.

Today, I ask God to help me live a life transformed by the Creator's love, a life that reflects the humility and vulnerability of one who follows Jesus. May I always be open to the renewing of my body, mind and spirit by the touch of God. May I be open to rebirth, to being remolded and refashioned, so that my life and witness might become a blessing to others. May we all desire the transformation of new birth, so that the world might be made new through our witness.

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