In 1977 the Bee Gees released their hit song How deep is your love?, which is about both the physical and emotional connection between two people and whether or not their relationship is going to last. Nicodemus is a Jewish leader who has a secret; he is afraid that people might find out that he is a follower of Jesus, which we know because he asks Jesus to meet at night so that no one will discover his faith, this is a sign that his love for Jesus is not yet very deep. He is trying to compartmentalize his faith so that he can keep it separate from the rest of his life. How many of us do the same? How many of us only express our faith in the confines of this building? How deeply do we hide our faith? How deeply do we hide our love for God?
I think that most people prefer to keep their faith to themselves because they are afraid of the reaction they may get if they share it publicly; which believe me is a very understandable concerns; however, like Jesus’ challenge to Nicodemus, we are also challenged to declare out faith publicly. Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born again, he must emerge from his darkness and declare his faith in the light of day because only people who do so can experience the kingdom of heaven. It appears that Jesus is impatient with Nicodemus when he doesn’t understand the metaphor of rebirth; but impatience would be inconsistent with everything we know of Jesus, instead I believe that we should see it as an invitation to allow God to work in our lives.
Our journey of rebirth begins with baptism, but that is literally just the beginning, it is the moment we say yes to the invitation. Cultivating a personal relationship with God takes a lifetime and it is hard work, not because God is unavailable to us, but because we are our own worst enemies. Nicodemus was his own worst enemy as well, he believed that Jesus was the messiah, but he was afraid to share that fact and he kept his belief hidden, only willing to acknowledge his faith in secret. Again, how many of us do the same? Lent is a time when we are invited to work towards revealing our faith to the world by allowing God to move us in new ways. Both Cannon Bob and Father Michael have talked about the fact that we don’t need to give anything up for lent, unless we are doing so to make more room for God, but what does it mean to make room for God? Well, that is something that you must figure out for yourself and if you need help just ask. It might mean adding a new discipline, but if you are like me that won’t last more than a day and then I feel guilty because I would not be doing the thing I only told myself I was going to do. It might mean going for a walk or maybe just sitting in silence. Of course, adding a discipline just for Lent falls short of the goal anyway, it falls short of making our faith something that we share in public; which is okay because faith that is hidden is often deeply meaningful, heartfelt, and genuine; but it is also small. Jesus has invited us to a new birth, a birth of water and spirit, a birth that will bring us into the light that is the love of God. A love that is so deep, so broad, and so bright that it cannot be squelched, no matter how deep we may try to bury it. The invitation to rebirth is an invitation to become mature believers and full participants in the life God has offered us, but in order to live that life we have to be willing to show our faith, we have to be willing to live our faith and not just on Sundays and not just within these walls.
Nicodemus was afraid, which I get, fear is a very powerful thing, but it is also a human thing and if we give into our fear of how others may respond to our public expressions of faith, then we are committing a sin because fear is based on us. So what might rebirth look like at this time and in this place? How can we reveal our faith to our community? How deeply have we buried our love for God? Are we ready to step into the light and live the life God wants for us? These are not easy questions, nor are there easy answers, which is why we purposely set aside the season of Lent so that we can take some time to draw closer to God, to discern the will of the Holy Spirit, and reveal the love that is God to the world. So take some time to be with God, take some time to discern the will of the Holy Spirit so that we can live into the spiritual birth that began at our baptisms, reject the fear, and show the world that our love for God is deep, it is so deep that it charges the very atoms in our being and drives us to be Gods hands and feet in the world.