So it’s my younger son’s birthday tomorrow. And it’s hard to believe that it was 8 years ago that we were sitting in that hospital room waiting for my wife to go into labour. I know I’ve told some of you his birthing story, and I’m quite certain that all of you have forgotten it by now. But let’s just say out of the three kids, this one was the most difficult. Not because it was more intense or had more complications, but because we had to wait so long for labour to even really start at all.
Because of other factors, the medical staff thought it best that my wife’s labour be induced, and warned us that because this is a second child and we were so close to the due date, inducing would mean a much more… how should we say… active and productive labour. This was around 1pm and we thought this would be fine. We’d pack an overnight bag just in case but we were fully expecting to be home that evening in time to watch American Idol.
Well, things didn’t go as planned. She was induced, yes, but for whatever strange reason, even though the hospital’s instruments were flying off the charts saying labour is going on strong, my wife didn’t feel a thing. They tried to induce more, then induce less since it was too much of that oxytocin stuff, and then had her doing other things just to get it going. But nothing worked. We played cards, watched some movies, and I think we dozed off a couple times. It was about 9 hours of waiting before the action actually started.
And when it did, man did it ever. I did what I could to support her but really I was more in the way than anything else. After a couple hours of really active labour, our son was finally born. My wife had to stay in the hospital for a couple of nights because of, y’know, the different things that happen to a mother’s body in childbirth. She had to go through that long recovery process. And she still had to care for our older son while adjusting to this new life with two kids… while I went to work.
And after all this, after all the pain my wife went through, the 9 months of carrying this fairly large child in her body, and having to readjust life as she knows it to care for these kids, on the anniversary of this day, it’s my son who gets the party.
Now, that doesn’t sound fair.
I mean, his role in the whole birthing process was pretty minimal. He was in there, he grew to a point that he didn’t want to be in there anymore, and then he was pushed out of there. Yeah, he cried a bit because the world as he knew it was different, but all in all he didn’t have much experience to compare to so the whole thing might not have been that bad. But he gets the party. He gets the gifts. He gets the recognition of doing nothing but really just going with the flow of the natural passage of time. It’s his parents, but mostly his mom, that really did and continues to do all the work.
I wonder if this why Nicodemus gets caught up with this being born from above business that we read about in today’s gospel story. I don’t know what Nicodemus was trying to do when he approached Jesus at night, as in why he went at night or why he even went at all. He didn’t ask anything or ask for anything, he just pays a couple compliments and Jesus tells him that no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above, just out of the blue. But this hooks Nicodemus in and he can’t seem to comprehend or even fathom what the H E double hockey sticks Jesus is talking about.
I mean, scientifically it makes zero sense, we obviously can be born only one time. But that one time we are born, we are just there along for the ride, we aren’t doing anything as I noted in our son’s birth story. The baby does nothing, the father does basically nothing, it is the mother that does pretty much everything except for the stuff only the trained medical folk can do. Still, the majority of the work is done by the mother. So being born again could mean one of two things. First, it could mean something impossible: crawling into our mother’s womb and make her go through all that again; or it could mean something undesirable and perhaps incomprehensible: surrendering control.
I think you know which one I think it is. Being born again means not having control, or at least seeing how we cannot control the things we think we can or should be able to.
And that is where I think Nicodemus was stopped in his tracks. Give up control? Inconceivable (see what I did there?). Everything up to this point in life was about control. It was about discipline. It was about power. It was about this privilege that he and most other privileged people had the audacity to think that they actually earned. See, in those days salvation in the minds of the people wasn’t about God’s work for us, but it was about our ability to control our own destinies and how we could shape our futures and essentially just save ourselves.
But to me, Jesus here seems to be saying to forget all that. Forget about the need to control what you cannot control. Forget the need for a power that will not last. Forget the need to save what has already been saved. Because God has taken care of all of that. All we really need to worry about is how well can we show God’s love to others.
For God loves this world so much, this world that is so full of brokenness and pain, so full of manipulation and oppression, so full of people just like us with a completely misguided idea of how the world should work… in that the world should work for us. God loves this world so much, that God decides to send to us Jesus, God’s son, to show us the ins and outs of the life that truly is life. That is, the life that is full of meaning, full of community, and full of the realisation and sharing of God’s gracious love for us all.
And, God didn’t send Jesus to condemn the world for being so broken, manipulative, or misguided, but rather he has come to show the world how God has decided to love it anyway, to forgive it for its transgressions, and save it in spite of its denial of God even existing in the first place.
You see, this has happened, this is happening, and this will continue to happen as it is the truth of our hope and our faith, that as the wind blows where it will blow, so God will continue to act, love, and save in spite of our need to control and need to feel like we can rely only on ourselves. And that our being reborn is something that we cannot control, but happens and continues to happen as our lives are filled with God’s grace, God’s mercy, and God moments that remind us just how little we are in control and how much we are loved.
As we continue in this season of Lent, may we keep learning about our reliance on God for God’s love, God’s forgiveness, and God’s control as we are reborn again and again from above. Thanks be to God. Amen.