Nic at Nite

John 3:1-17

[Watch sermon here.]

Is Nicodemus having a midlife crisis?

I wonder.

Perhaps Nicodemus is nearing middle age,
thinking this is just how life is.
Nicodemus has found his place in the in-group.
He is part of the Sanhedrin. He has found his daily grind.
This is the life! This is the life? This is just how life is?
If that is true, why is he unhappy?
Why does he have all these questions?
Is there more to life this?

Have you ever felt like Nicodemus?
Do you ever feel like you are halfway through life’s journey?
Or just starting out on life’s journey,
and you wonder, what is this all about? Is there more to life than this?

This is where Nicodemus begins.

In his midlife funk, Nic—let’s call him Nic—seeks out Jesus at night.
Had they met before?
Or had Nic learn about Jesus through hearsay?
What unlocked his longing?

Nicodemus had heard about Jesus’ miracle—
Jesus had kept a party going, turned water into wine.
Why did that move Nic?
Was it the pure plentitude of jar after jar of wine?
The abundant liquid overflowed its containers.
Meanwhile, Nic’s soul shriveled up and his happiness evaporated.

God-consciousness just oozed out of Jesus.
Jesus just radiated … what? Aliveness? Love? Life?

Nicodemus has to seek him out.
Nic can’t explain why.
He goes at night, so that no one would know
that his life is not going as well as it seems.

Oh! Nicodemus gushes to him, you must be from God!

Here, in the womb of night,
Nic finds Jesus, and Jesus tries to explain the mystery of birth.
Of rebirth. Of death and life.

How is it that crocuses push through the ground in such cold weather
and bloom?
How is it that some people become alive after years of being dead inside?

How can these things be?

Nic doesn’t quite get what Jesus is saying.
Logistically, rebirth does not quite make sense.
It is true one cannot be birthed through a birth canal
or a C-section more than once.

But are there other ways our soul might come back to life with intensity?

Can Nic feel intense aliveness once again?
Could that happen? Could such a thing be?
Nic is hooked on these questions.

Jesus is trying to tell him something about newness.
Nic wants newness. His life feels faded.
Possibly terrible, but he wouldn’t admit that in public.
Nic doesn’t understand how he can have access to this newness.
But he wants it.
And so, he stays with Jesus.

Nicodemus wants more.
This is why I like him.

Nicodemus wants more life.
Nicodemus wants more God.
Nicodemus wants more love.

Nicodemus doesn’t turn away.
A lot of the other chats in the Gospel of John end badly.
In Chapter 6, Jesus talks for a long time about how he is the bread of life.
He says, “I am the bread of life.” “I AM.”
Jesus associates completely with God. With the Great I AM.
People don’t like it. The talk ends badly. People walk away. They turn away.
They don’t stick with this confusing manner of speech Jesus gives.
This oblique way of speaking about being in God.
Living in God. Living with God.

Yet, Nicodemus does not give up.

Nicodemus is honest about the confusion that he experiences.
God is disrupting his life, which he thought was jelled and solidified.
He is intrigued.
He pivots to a place where he simply says,
I don’t know. I don’t understand. Tell me more.
How can this be?

How can this be?

Nic’s questions suggest an openness:
How can one experience again the power of birth?
How can what is dull and repetitive in life become again shiny and new?
This renewal thing: How can it be?

I wonder about the progression of interjections Nic used.


Nic develops a softness.

This is the seed of faith:
curiosity, openness, wonderment.

Nicodemus’ question are an admission of I don’t know.
Poet Mark Nepo writes that when we confess to another,
“I do not know,” we can begin with nothing in the way.
This is how you get a true friend, Nepo writes.
Nicodemus wants a true friend. A real friend.
A real connection with Jesus.
And so, he tells Jesus, “I do not know.”

Nicodemus starts here.

In this place of softness,
something begins to change in him.
He is changed somehow.

How can it be?

I don’t know.

What could be? Could this be?

Nic is not quite sure.
Yet, sometime later, in Chapter 7,
Nicodemus risks everything and speaks up for Jesus.

Then, when Jesus dies, and life as Nic knows it comes crashing down,
Nic is at the tomb. He is the one who anoints Jesus,
who helps care for him in death. Like a death doula.
Maybe he doesn’t fully understand everything even then.
Maybe we don’t understand how transformation happens.
How life can return to us when we feel so dead inside.
How can healing happen. How can love appear.

Before the mystery of death and resurrection, we too utter:
How can this be?

In response to this question, Jesus replies to Nicodemus,
“For God so loved the world …”

I wonder if we are so familiar with this line
that we, like Nicodemus, miss what Jesus is saying.
I wonder if we become so focused on fleshing out
the logistics and the specifics of how one experiences renewal
that we miss the beauty of the words ….
“For God so loved the world …”

For God so loved the world that God drenched it in love and loveliness.

For God so loves the earth,
that She loves the bittersweet and the dwarf conifers.
God loves the trout and the osprey.
God loves the Taliban and the Afghan refugees.
God loves Republicans as He loves Democrats.
They love the non-voters as they love the independents.

For God deeply loves the world.

How can that be?

The more you look, the more you see.

God-consciousness is in the caterpillars as they scootch and scrunch. And in the catkins of the pussy willows as their puffy, fluffy orbs exit from their branches. And in the Chinese witch hazel as it unfurls its yellow confetti petals.

God-consciousness is in the person who says “Hello” or is shy and ducks their head, or in that person who has too much anxiety to leave their home or cannot afford to rent a home.

Faith is saying,
There is something more here;
even if I don’t know what it is,
I am going to pay attention.

Faith is entering into contemplation of the earth,
of its love and loveliness, even when we cannot see it
because garbage clutters our view.

Have you ever entered a moment of amazement?
When spring sprung, or a heart opened, or someone said Yes to you,
or someone softened in a surprising way, and you asked, how can that be?

God opens up the doors of our perception!
We can discover how much we are loved
provided that we let that which is saturated with God speak.

Let go of knowing.
Let go of understanding.
Letting the loving communicate to you.

There is a lot more that communicates belovedness than we realize.
Jesus invites us into this. Testifies to this.

Enter into the presence of Love.

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