Reading NIV John 3:1-17
Have you ever had one of those moments where God has sent you a sign that is so strange – so out of the normal – that you can’t ignore it or explain it away?
Something happened to me several weeks ago.
Since being at our house in Berry – I’ve been able to identify 26 species of birds.
One of them is a native pigeon called the ‘wonga’ pigeon or simply the Wonga Wonga. It is a big bird with steel-blue back and white breast. They are found in Rainforest areas on the Eastern Seaboard, they are extremely shy – they are rarely seen as they scurry around in the rainforest floor. Indeed they are often heard rather than seen.
But I’ve seen a family of three in the trees around the property.
I was sitting on the back balcony early one morning and I looked up in the she-oaks to my left and there was one of them. Then to my complete surprise, he flew in and sat on the chair next to me on the left.
I think immediately I said to him ‘Why are you here?’ or “Who sent you?
He just looked at me. I got up and went inside to get some bird seed – but he didn’t want any. It simply stood on the chair. Then he flew off in front of my face to the white Cedar tree on the other side of the yard. I watched him and five minutes later he flew back and sat on the chair to my right, following the same routine before hopping down onto the grass and eventually flying off.
I almost immediately started ringing people to see if they were all right, such was my assuredness of this being a sign, like that spoken by Nicodemus in verse 2 of today’s reading, – but one as much for me as anyone else – to see the wonder of God and his creation and God’s working through his creation.
This new way of seeing is difficult for the more rational physical law-driven world that Nicodemus inhabits.
A wind blowing where it wants, cannot be tamed or controlled.
Its sound and breath determines its presence, not some physically identifiable form.
So when Jesus says ‘you must be born again’ – Nicodemus reverts to logic and empirical thinking (those of the flesh) to explain a birth and growth and maturity that can see no return or rebirth – innocence (things of the Spirit). Nicodemus only sees half the picture, the earthly and not the heavenly – only the ‘down’ and not the ‘up’.
A critical verse is found in verse 3 ‘I tell you the truth’, no man can SEE the kingdom of God unless he is BORN AGAIN’.
From the Greek, the first point that needs to be made is that Jesus says, ‘Truly, Truly’ – he really wants to emphasise what he says next – no one can SEE God unless he is born FROM ABOVE.
That is to SEE God we must be looking up and not down (not at the earthly but at the heavenly. We have to change our perspective, our view, we have to change our thinking, cleave more to a faith that says YES – no matter what my age, status, gender, I can be made a new creation if I believe (verses 12 and 16).
So this BIRTH or REBIRTH if you like, has our input – unlike our physical birth which we have no control over, or say in – in being BORN AGAIN or BORN FROM ABOVE – we make a choice, sometimes over and over again, to be renewed and in partnership with God’s spirit doing the heaving lifting.
It is not as David Attenborough says ‘as if by some magic’.
But being BORN AGAIN or BORN OF THE SPIRIT is not a process we always deduce. That is, we don’t understand the ‘how’ but we know the ‘who’ and we know ‘why’ especially when we hear those wonderful words from 3:16 ‘For God so loved the world’
What is the world? Not a planet of rock, liquid and gas I the milky way system, but the ‘Cosmos’ – the Greed word that we have translated into English as ‘the world’. In reality, it is a richer word that literally means ‘the created order’.
Everywhere we are part of that creation and we know that creation demands a creator – a creator who creates because the creator loves.
Back to the friendly Wonga pigeon’s visitation.
I was speaking to a neighbour about two weeks ago and telling her about it.
She said she feeds the family of three, on her back porch and that they are used to human contact now.
At first, I was crestfallen – maybe this was more about the bird’s learned behaviour than its ‘natural instinct’ or ‘God’s intervention’.
But then I remembered the frame of mind and Spirit I was in when this visitation occurred and how I was rebirthed.
I was not like Nicodemus who could only see by looking down or looking around. I was the child of the God who loved the world so much that he sent down his one and only Son for me – in the guise of a poor boy, birthed by a teenager, fathered by a carpenter, and a man who never ventured more than 120 kilometres from his birthplace. A man, who as Isaiah says, ‘had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him’.
(Verse 53:2) A man stricken, smitten and afflicted, crushed and pierced for us (Verses 4-5).
So I looked up and looked around at the signs of God.
I understanding the meaning of this sign for myself and others later on.
Faith is always a choice, being born again involves a decision from us and it is ongoing work as well as being open to a heavenly perspective.
As Joshua famously said to his gathered people towards the end of his life ‘serve God with all faithfulness’, ‘but if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you’ ‘then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.
‘But, as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.