#OurChampion is the podcast for March 11, 2018 Water, Light, Making Out in Church. It is all in this podcast. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #John316 #John #Light #Context #Water #DavidFosterWallace #Lent
Full Text of Podcast, Open Here
For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 3/9/2018 The 4th Sunday of Lent.
Please pause this audio and read John 3:14-21.
In 2005, the first great philosopher of the 21st Century, David Foster Wallace, gave a commencement address at Kenyon College, a small liberal arts college in Gambier, Ohio. Wallace sought to make the case for a liberal education. He tells a great story about how a liberal arts education exposes us to the greater context of our being. The video is called “This is Water” and has been viewed 2.2 million times as of last Friday. It goes like this:
There are these two younger fish swimming along and along comes an older fish who says, “good morning, boys. How’s the water?” The two fish swim along for a little bit and one fish turns to the other and says, “what is water?”
Foster Wallace goes on to say that the point of the fish story is that “the most obvious, important realities, are often the hardest to see and the most difficult to talk about.” Hence, we come to this passage in the Gospel of St. John where Jesus meets a member of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin is the most powerful group of Jewish leaders. It is the group that will ultimately decide that Jesus must die. We are only in the third chapter of the Gospel and already, Jesus is such a controversial figure that Nicodemus must meet Jesus in the middle of the night. If you recall, Jesus has just turned over the tables of the money changers of the Temple and given signs galore to the people, whom John tells us, Jesus does not trust.
In the middle of the night, under the cloak of darkness, Jesus and Nicodemus talk about what has happened, who he is, and what his mission is without Nicodemus actually asking those questions. He comes and says that he knows Jesus is from God because of the signs. Yet, the question needs to be begged, if Nicodemus knows that Jesus is from God, then why would he meet Jesus in the darkness? Why doesn’t he meet him in the light of the day?
“The most obvious, important realities, are often the hardest to see and the most difficult to talk about,” says Foster Wallace. Indeed, they are here in this passage.
Wouldn’t it seem like a wonderful thing to tell someone, “For God so loved the world, he sent his only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in him would have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him,” would be a good thing? Hey, buddy, God is not mad at you. He loves you. He is willing to die for you. He wants to be with you forever. All you need to do is believe it, show up, have small piece of bread and a sip of wine. Oh, and you will have to do good things for other people and love them even though you hate them. That’s it.
You see that is the rub. The rub is that once you say that God wants you to live a different life, then there is resistance. Why, what is wrong with my life where I reject God and hate my neighbor? What could possibly go wrong with that?
So, Nicodemus met Jesus in the middle of the night because to speak to Jesus in public would reveal the most obvious, most important, reality which is the hardest to see and most difficult to talk about. The leader of the Sanhedrin meets Jesus in darkness because he does not live in the light. He thinks he does. He has crafted his whole life around believing that he does, but his allegiance is not to celebrating the coming of the long awaited Messiah. His allegiance is to the worldly power of the Sanhedrin. He cannot accept God’s love, God’s gift.
When I was a youth minister, we used to have to do these horrible things called “over nights.” I am not exactly sure of the allure, but the idea was that teens could stay over night at the Church, play games, eat food, and stay up all night! Now that I am older, I am not sure what the big deal was about “staying up all night,” “staying out all night,” etc. Yet, it was a big deal. This is how it was advertised: “Stay up all night with Jesus.” We thought we were so clever.
One of the things I got to do as a youth minister was to go around and check all the hidden places for kids who came to the Church over night to make out. I pulled kids out of closets, boiler rooms, under desks in education wings, under the pews, and even from under the altar! The reason I knew where to look is because I was a teen age boy once.
I remember how awesome it was to meet a girl, romance a girl, and then make out with a girl. It didn’t occur to me that there might be consequences to my actions because I was all submersed in pleasing myself and doing what I liked; and I liked girls. So, I understood that they could not see the larger picture, that they were at a Church event, in a Church. When God asks that we offer ourselves on an altar, that is not what he meant.
When I would shine my flashlight on them, they would be stunned that I was looking for them. Their facial expressions were always the same: surprised, outraged, and scared. “What are you doing?” they would ask. “I am looking for you,” I would say as the flashlight was shining on their faces. The context of their life was such that there was no other place in the universe, no greater context for this activity. It never occurred to them that, “Marriage begins with a date,” babies begin with a kiss.
The pair would be angry with me because I shined a light on the activity they were not supposed to be in. They could not comprehend why I would have a problem with what they were doing. They even resented at times what I was doing.
So, too, is the light of God that shines on us. Like Nicodemus who couldn’t comprehend the Light because his allegiance was to the darkness and the teenagers who are so wrapped up on their own world, we often do not see the most obvious reality: God loves us. He loves us and came to sacrifice himself for us, take our sins upon himself so that we could be with him forever. We cannot believe that this is true because we would never conceive of doing it ourselves. This is what ought to separate us from the world: our openness to recognizing that God so love the world that he came to invite us to be with him forever. People are averse to this kind of giving without expectation of receiving because they know it does transform us. It makes us want to give back by living a life in the light. Again, that is a stumbling block to the rigid faithful and foolishness to the licentious.
The water in which we live is that God has made us a tiny little species on a small planet, in one galaxy, in the midst of an incredible universe. As tiny as we are, he values and loves us enough to reach out to us. He is our context. He is the one who loves us when our spouses hate us, our children are addicted, we drop out of school, our business goes belly up, and the rest of the world casts its judgmental eyes our way. He is our champion because even in the midst of an angry world that seeks to dominate one another, there is a simple 33 year old man who offered himself freely without asking anything in advance, so that we could live with the Lord forever.
He is our Champion. He is the one who leads us into this backbiting, judgmental, harsh world to gather up those who have been beaten down and rejected. We are his love. With every smile, every wave, every kind word, every good deed. Like water to a fish, he is our Light. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2018.
Donate $2 for This Podcast
Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian