To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
The price one pays for pursuing any profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.
—James Baldwin, Afro-American novelist and essayist
It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.
The following is a scene from a famous movie scene, can you name the movie? “I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.” Comes from the classic film On the Waterfront (1954) when Terry Malloy, the character played by Marlon Brando, complains to his brother over a fight he was asked to throw so the local union boss played by Lee J. Cobb could win more money. Terry had been a promising young boxer but that night ended his dream and set the course for his whole life. Nobody wants to be a nobody. We all want to feel that our lives matter, that we are important to someone, that we can make a difference. In Jesus, God expresses ultimate love and concern for us, and God’s affirmation makes life worth living. Nobody is a nobody! One way of summarizing and emphasizing the powerful, life-changing meaning and message of Jesus is just this – Nobody is a nobody! In this well-known and powerful passage in John 3 we see and hear Jesus unpacking His own selfunderstanding of what it meant and means for Jesus to be human and live among us and for us. Jesus tells us very, very clearly that His purpose, was not – repeat – was not, to scare us into compliance with the divine will. Instead, Jesus describes His coming in which all are offered the joy, the wonder, the hope within which God wants all Creation to dwell. Jesus came to say and show that God does not want us to continue to hurt each other and the rest of creation, and that when we turn from our own ways, abundant life will overflow for us. God’s goal in the coming of Jesus was not to denounce and condemn the world, not to repeat the Flood, something God promised never to repeat. God’s goal is all about God loving, and saving the world. Amidst all our imperfections and sin, even among the best of us, Jesus still speaks of God as loving the world, not hating or destroying. God came in the flesh to save us not by taking us out of our flesh, but by teaching us to live in our flesh. God came in the flesh not to make us other than human, but to teach us how to be human – bearing in our living the image of God, the image in which we are made.
The God we meet in Jesus Christ is not the disinterested, dispassionate god of Greek speculation. The God we meet in Jesus is a lover, the divine lover. This God, this Jesus-God is a passionate, committed, faithful, devoted, tireless, reckless, shameless, wanton lover, who loves and accepts even the unlovely. God’s love is freely offered and as it is freely accepted, by people like you and I, this love, this God, given and received love, starts to change us, bringing about in us, God’s new birth. Being born again, being born from above, is not something we do for ourselves. Instead, being born anew, born from above, being born again, is all about what God brings about in us as we receive God’s love, we are changed by God’s Love and forgiveness. This rebirth is not only relevant to the afterlife, it is all about changing us and bringing us hope and describing how we are to live in this life.
In some comments on this meeting between Jesus and Nicodemus, preacher and author, Will Willimon, wrote: “There are some churches, I hope not ours, that seem to be able to be with Jesus only in the light, never in the night. I tell you, sometimes, there is nothing worse than that bright, “happy church.” Do you know what I’m talking about? Some churches are just so happy, so full of praise and celebration, that they make you feel guilty if you happen to come in with a bit of shadow in your soul. To be someone who is going through a time of darkness or pain and to enter a “happy church” – with grinning clergy, and smiling ushers, and everything so positive, so upbeat, glorious, and grand – can be terribly depressing!” Yes, I think I understand what he is describing… Sure, we never want church to be boring, there is no merit in lack of beauty, joy, or interest, but neither is church only for those who have it all together. Church is not a self-help club with a special divine additive. Church is community, the community of the loved sinners, the redeemed broken ones. As such we are all involved encountering and sharing in the hard, difficult things that people and families endure. Church includes but is not limited to the cheery prospect of, “Welcome to MOES” or “Come inside the Disney Store”. Church is the community of Jesus Christ accepting each other especially in the reality of our need and pain! Church is the community of Jesus Christ stepping outside of our own needs and wishes to stand with and for others who need our support. Church is the community of Jesus Christ together praying, working, serving the least and the lost and the last! I thought the following story was fascinating, and as a story might free us to live more fully and openly: “A few years ago, a young man was discovered hiding in a large church. A maintenance worker discovered him one day. He had been lurking in the church, living in the attic, spending his day in darkness, only venturing forth during the night to prowl about the church, feeding on leftovers from church suppers, moving about in the building only at night, listening in on the daily activities of the congregation. From his secret hideaway in the attic he heard the counseling in the pastor’s office, the discussion at Bible Study, the cries from the nursery, the motions moved and seconded at the Church Board meeting, he even heard the things members were “whispering” about in the hallway!” Do you know anyone who is hiding in this church? Are you or is someone you know, hiding here amongst us? Do you know someone who is present, but not really, someone on the boundary, at the edge? Maybe some who is uninvolved, under-involved, even overinvolved, fearful that if people really knew them that they would be excluded? Someone whose pain is so great that they long to be accepted but fear being encountered? Do you feel like you are a nobody? Do you know someone else who believes or is tempted to imagine that they are a nobody? And if so, what would it take for you, what would it take for that person to come out of the dark into the light? It is my aim, to live as well as possible and to let my struggles be the proving ground that shows how well the God, and Son and Holy Spirit can help us overcome this nobody existence. You know how I know He/they are real? because I am still standing from having this emotion swell up in my inner existence from time to time and I call His name and He heals, strengthens and embraces me with His loving presence.