About twirlingjen

I am a Diaconal Minister in the United Church of Canada. I live in Yorkton with my family where I minister with the folks at St. Andrew's United Church. Please feel free to use and adapt the resources you find here.

Truth and Reconciliation

This reflection is based on Joshua 24:1-13. It is a disturbing passage. It tells the story of how Israel came to take over the land of Canaan. This is sometimes known as the promised land. We sometimes breeze over or skip this passage because it is a brutal and honest retelling of Israel’s history. Israel didn’t just walk into an empty land and live happily ever after. Israel systematically destroyed all the people who already lived in the land. It’s much easier to think that the land was empty. We don’t have be horrified at the destruction of communities or ask questions about how the people who were already in the land were impacted.

What would you say the families of those who were killed by Israel as they arrived in the land? Would you pretend those communities never existed even though you could see signs of previous inhabitants? What would you do with the few people who escaped death and destruction?

Here’s the passage again with a bit of a twist.

Joshua gathered all the Christians of Canada and gathered all the ministers and lay leaders together before God. Joshua said to the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Christians: Long ago your ancestors—John Cabbot and Jacque Cartier lived in Europe. I took them from Europe and led them to Turtle Island and gave them many descendants here. I gave them Upper and Lower Canada. I gave them Rupert’s land and New France. The land was hard and you spread through the wilderness of this land. I brought you to the land of the Iroquois, the Cree, the Ojibwa, the Blackfoot, the Assiniboine, the Dene peoples. You destroyed their communities by stealing their children and taking their land for yourselves. You became wealthy from the land.

In this passage, there’s not much difference between the history of Israel and the history of Canada. We recognize traditional territory at St. Andrew’s United Church. Canadian society is at a crossroads as we wrestle with the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. One of the ways this is happening is through the Truth and Reconciliation Process. The process of reconciliation involves all those who have been part of Canadian history and all those who are now a part of Canada.

As you will know there were many recommendations come out of this process and some of them are directed specifically at churches. One of the key recommendations for churches asks us “to repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius.” (48/49) The Doctrine of Discovery comes from Papal bulls written the 1400’s. These decrees “called for non-Christian peoples to be invaded, captured, vanquished, subdued, reduced to perpetual slavery, and to have their possessions and property seized by Christian monarchs.” Terra Nullius is Latin and it translates as “nobody’s land.”

Put these two concepts together and you have a situation where the church gave its authority for North America to be settled by Christian Europeans without regard for the people already here. The first contact Indigenous peoples had with Europe was based on “Christian” principles which set us on the path that led to the Indian Act, treaties, reserve system, residential schools and the 60’s scoop and continues to shape relationships and policy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.

You might say but it’s history, and we should be over it and move on. But how do we move on when the racism that fuelled these policies continues to be alive and well in our communities? As Christians, we have an extra responsibility because the founding concepts come from our religion. We need to remind ourselves regularly that whether we were actively involved in this process or not, we benefit from the policies that allowed the land and resources to be taken from Indigenous peoples.

We don’t like to think about ourselves or our history in this light. We like our Christianity to be all about making us feel good personally or at the very least showing us how we can make the world better. It may be difficult to be reminded that Christianity has a history of very destructive practices.

Truth and Reconciliation asks us to be honest about this history. Indigenous communities continue to struggle with the outcomes of residential schools, reserve system and treaties that have not been honoured. As Christians, we need to struggle with what Christianity says about and to Indigenous peoples. What does our theology say? What does our scripture say? An Indigenous person might hear this scripture as justifying the destruction of their communities. We don’t want to see ourselves as that warring nation that destroyed everything in its path.

indigenous children

Image: Rabble

This scripture was written by the people who are the invaders and conquers of the land. Of course, they believe God was on their side and that God gave them the land. Don’t most of us have a bit of that in us as well? We often give thanks that we live in Canada, that we have enough. Some of us are lucky to be well off, but there are many reserves in Canada without clean drinking water, education continues to be underfunded for Indigenous children, access to health care is limited, and the rates of Indigenous children in foster care and adults in the corrections system is way higher than for non-Indigenous people.

We need to be honest about the history that has gotten us into our current situation. We need to be honest about Christianity and our own church’s role in this mess, and we need to commit to doing better. That’s why we recognize traditional territory. The purpose is not to make people feel bad, but sometimes our discomfort (if we can stay in it for a bit) is the place we learn most. Recognizing traditional territory is, in some ways, a confession of sin for our church. It is recognition of collective sin. This sin reminds that we missed the mark in our relationship with Indigenous peoples. When we confess sin, we also need to take some responsibility for it and make amends. Because the sin is collective the responsibility for it is also collective.

That’s where we are now. As St. Andrew’s worked through the visioning process one of the things that came up repeatedly was a sense that we need to build relationships with the Indigenous community in Yorkton.  We know that many of the Whitespruce work crew from the provincial jail are Indigenous who spend time helping us around the building are Indigenous. Many of the folks who access the food and clothing shelf are Indigenous. These are ways that we are starting to take some responsibility for the current situation. Truth and Reconciliation is the work of Canadian society at this moment in time. It is our collective work.

I believe in a God of love and compassion. I believe in a God who calls us to lives of love and compassion for our neighbours and ourselves. I don’t want the guilt of this history to weigh us down and keep us from living faithfully. The words reminding us of the traditional territory are a reminder of who God calls us to be and an invitation to live faithfully as Christians at this moment in time by sharing the love and compassion God has for us with our Indigenous neighbours.

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Cain and Abel: Is Violence Inevitable?

Some years ago, I wrote my thesis on this passage: Genesis 4:1-16. It just happens that this is the second passage missing from the lectionaries. You can read my full thesis “Cain and Abel: Reimagining Stories of Violence.”

As I was writing the thesis, I wanted to challenge the assumption that violence is normative and inevitable. The gist of the story is that there are two brothers. Cain is a farmer and Abel is a herder. When they make their offerings, Cain becomes jealous because it seems that the younger brother hasn’t had to work as hard and has become wealthier. Cain sees the wealth and the supposedly easier labour his brother and assumes that God favours his brother over him. It isn’t necessarily that God rejects Cain but that he has projected his own feelings of inadequacy onto God.

It is up to Cain what he will do next. He has responsibility for how he responds to these feelings of inadequacy and jealousy. In his jealousy, Cain is unable to control his emotions kills Abel.

Once Abel is dead, God arrives on the scene and asks Cain where his brother is. Cain is unwilling to offer a direct answer and instead responds by asking whether he is his brother’s keeper?

According to Kristen Swenson, the verb translated as keeper is used both in keeping the garden (Genesis 2:15) and keeping the brother. Keeping has to do with being a companion. It implies care, concern and responsibility. [1] No one in the Cain and Abel story answers the question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain doesn’t answer, and God doesn’t answer. It is a question each of us needs to answer. Are we keepers of other humans? Are we keepers of the creation? Are we companions on life’s journey?

Not only does Cain kill his brother, but he also avoids taking any responsibility for the death. It is the earth that accuses and curses Cain for his violence. This moment reminds us that we are connected directly to the rest of creation and with each other. The violent death of one person has a direct impact on the earth as well as the community. For any of us to thrive, we need to be keepers for each other and the earth.

Cain is afraid that because of his violence, he will be killed. If Cain is killed the cycle of violence will be maintained, but instead, God ends the cycle of violence by offering Cain protection. God is concerned with preventing violence, and the antidote to violence is keeping or companioning other people and the earth. Perhaps, violence is not as inevitable as we sometimes think. Maybe we are created with a desire to keep and companion at our core. Violence is what happens when we are disconnected from ourselves, our emotions, our spirit, our creator. What would the world be like if all of us lived with the intent to be companions?

[1] Kristen M. Swenson, “Care and Keeping East of Eden: Gen 4:1-16 in Light of Gen 2-3,”
Interpretation 60 (2006): 374-75

My New Project: Non-Lectionary Scriptures

I’ve decided to embark on a new project. I’ve always been fascinated by the scriptures that the Revised Common Lectionary and Narrative Lectionary leave out. I’m starting the process of reflecting on these scriptures and I’ll be sharing my reflections here.

Lectionaries are useful for several reasons. I usually preach from a lectionary because it forces me to look at texts I might not consider simply because they don’t come to mind. Resources are often lectionary based and outside of those texts reflections and commentaries are often limited. But by limiting ourselves to lectionary we miss part of the story. Some of the most challenges texts in scripture are omitted—sometimes because they are violent. And yet we live in a world that often feels violent and we need a framework to help us deal with what we see around us. Scripture provides one or those frameworks. When we omit the texts that reflect our world back to us, we miss an opportunity to think about how certain situations have been dealt with by the community of faith through time.

I will be starting with Genesis and working my way through the Bible. Unless noted I am working with the NRSV and will add links to the Oremus Bible browser so you can read the scripture. My hope is to post one reflection a week. In addition, I will also be posting some sermons. Currently, the congregation I serve follows the Narrative Lectionary, so sermons are often based on those texts.

The first missing text: Genesis 3:15-24

Genesis begins with two creations stories. The first tells the story of creation being created in six days followed by a day of rest. In that story, humans are created in God’s image. Following each act of creation, God declares it good. In understanding scripture, I begin from this place. Creation is good and humans, created in God’s image are good.

In the second creation story, we hear a different version of creation. In this version, the man was created first and women come from the man. The new humans are placed in a garden which is gifted to them for their use. There is one tree that is out of bounds—the tree that gives knowledge of good and evil. The story goes on to tell how the woman is tricked by a snake into eating from the one tree that’s off limits and then tempting the man with the same fruit.

After this, God wanders into the garden and realizes what’s happened and that where we pick up in this reading: Genesis 3:15-24

God speaks to the snake and basically says that humans will never like snakes. No wonder snakes get a bad rep. God said so in the beginning and so shall it ever be!  Wait a minute…. Most of the snakes in my part of the world are pretty harmless. But there are many snakes that are quite dangerous. If you lived in a part of the world with dangerous snakes, doesn’t it stand to reason that snakes would be an enemy and that they would be killed in order to protect family from them? There’s a practical reason for humans and snakes to be enemies.

Then God tells the woman that she will have pain in childbirth and that the man shall rule over her. What? I can see why the lectionaries omit this. What an awful way to start the story of God’s relationship with humans. This passage sets a misogynistic undertone that has continued to be felt centuries later. I live in a time and place where women are encouraged to be independent and relationships should be based in mutuality—not power over another. The idea that God sanctions power over another based on gender is disturbing to me. Walter Brueggemann[1] points out that in the actual creation there is a mutuality implicit as the woman is created as a partner.

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Image: Wolfmann

We live in a time where we expect mutuality in relationships. We expect that women should be safe when they go to work and yet all too often—as the Me Too Movement is highlighting—there continues to be a narrative that encourages power over another. We know that domestic violence continues to exist in many homes and relationships. This text was written by men who would assume their authority over women and children as normative. But there’s tension between the equality indicated by the word partner and the assertion of authority. What if the assertion of gender authority is not a God-given gift but is an attempt by men to control their equal partner? Brueggemann also points out the man naming the woman Eve, a little further on in this passage is another attempt at control.[2] I often hear people question the validity of the Me Too Movement with a sense that there’s a bunch of women picking on rich, powerful men. The struggle between gender equality and power over has been going on for a long time. You could say that powerful men wrote this story. It isn’t a new story, but it is a story that we continue to struggle with.

Finally, God deals with the man and tells him that because he listened to the woman, he will have to work hard and at the end of life, he will return to the dust of the earth. I think that may have been the plan all along. I read scripture assuming that the earliest stories—like these—were told to help people understand how the structure of the world came to be, make sense of the world and how it functions and to help people understand their relationship to the Creator. This is a story about why humans work hard to survive in the world. At the end of our life, our bodies go back into the earth. That’s just how life is. It doesn’t seem to me that one moment humans could sit back, relax and wander around a garden, eating whatever they want with everlasting life and the next moment life would require difficult work and end in death. God created the creation good. That includes the work required to survive and care for the creation. It includes death. These have always been part of the creation.

Knowing the difference between good and bad, right and wrong, the people are sent out into the world. They are given the ability to choose how they will live. We continue to learn the difference between good and bad, right and wrong. Sometimes we make better choices than at other moments. I believe that each of us is created in God’s image and that we all start off good and we are given the ability to choose good and bad, right and wrong.

These initial creation stories and their aftermath set the tone for what is to come. How we understand these foundational stories is important to how we see the world. God declared the world good with each act of creation. Do we see it as good? God created humans as equal partners. Do we see each other as equal partners? God gave as the ability to choose between good and bad, right and wrong. What kind of choices are we making?

[1] Walter Brueggemann, Interpretation Series: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, Genesis Louisville: John Knox Press, 1982), Agendas in the Drama, Logos Bible Software.

[2] Brueggemann, Genesis, Agendas in the Drama.

Will you choose life or death?

pexels-photo-568027.jpegLazarus is ill. He’s been ill for some time so his sisters send a message to Jesus. They’ve seen Jesus heal others so why not Lazarus. Jesus decides to prove a point and doesn’t come right away. By the time Jesus arrives, Lazarus is dead and has been in the tomb for 4 days. Jesus stands with Mary and Martha and weeps with them. The NRSV says he was “greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.” Jesus experiences deep grief at the death of his friend. He immerses himself in Mary and Martha’s grief. He’s right there sharing every moment with them. Many of us will have seen the raw grief of families whose children died this week in Florida. We’ve seen the grief and anger of Colton Boushie’s family. That’s the raw emotion that’s taking place outside of Lazarus’ tomb. The scene goes on for a while before a calm starts to descend. No amount of grief and anger can change the deaths that have occurred.

Jesus wants the tomb opened. No wants to open the tomb. What would opening the tomb prove except that he’s dead? Jesus insists. They open the tomb and Jesus calls to Lazarus. I imagine the murmurs of the gathered crowd. They all know Lazarus is dead. Why doesn’t Jesus know? Just like the story of the cross, this should be the end.

But what happens next? I wonder what Lazarus thinks about having his name called by Jesus to come back to this world. When someone dies, we sometimes hear people say, “Jesus called them home” but in this case, Jesus called Lazarus to life. Lazarus has a moment where he has to decide between life and death.

Thinking about life and death in the broadest sense we are given a choice between life and death each day. In order to live fully, we need to choose life. We live in a time where violence is becoming normalized, where we spend more time with technology than in real relationships, where the earth is being destroyed but our lives are comfortable. This comfort is a form of death. It takes us away from seeing, feeling, touching what’s going on in the world. We see the anguish of families torn apart by senseless violence and then go back to being comfortable in our bubble. To really live is to place ourselves, like Jesus, in the midst of the grief, anguish, chaos, the joy and celebration of life and really experience it fully.

As I watched the news this week, I saw students and families asking for gun control. In the face of death and violence, they are seeking life. In their distress over the outcome of Gerald Standing’s trial, Colton Boushie’s family is harnessing the energy to create change. Whether you agree with the outcome of the trial is not the point. The family is choosing life. Their energy could be put into more violence, hatred, revenge instead they are seeking to create something good out of Colton’s death.

Choosing life is a choice and our comfort, our routines sometimes get in the way. Lent calls us to choose life. Lent invites us to pray for ourselves, for each other, for the earth. Lent invites us to fast—to give up the things that get in the way of abundant life. Lent invites us to giving—giving our time, our energy, our money to support God’s work in the world. God calls us to life.

To choose life is a choice. Will we stay in the tomb or choose to walk out embracing all that life has to offer?

Help Me Stand Strong

strength-prayers-1482413_1920.jpgEver have a moment where you wonder why bad things happen? What did I do to deserve this? John 9 tells the story of a man who is blind from birth. The first question the disciples ask is: What did this man or his parents do to deserve blindness? Jesus doesn’t really care why the man is blind. Jesus simply has compassion for him and heals him.

When we encounter people who are struggling in life we sometimes want to know how they ended up in a particular situation. In other words, are they worthy of our care and concern? There is an important role for story-telling in helping us to understand what happened so we can prevent the same thing from happening again so that people responsible can be held accountable. But offering care and compassion is not tied to sin—to what someone has done or not done.

As the story moves on, Jesus heals mixes saliva and mud, smears it on the man’s eyes. Jesus sends him to wash and when he returns he can see. The neighbours and the community don’t recognize him anymore. They wonder if this the same man that they’ve known since he was a child. People begin to question the man. He keeps affirming that he is the same person they have always known and that Jesus was the one who healed him. This speaks to me of the process that happens when people come out about their sexual orientation or gender identity. As those of us in the LGBTQ community begin to talk about who we are, we say it’s still me. Who I am hasn’t changed. What has changed is your perception of me.  Sometimes there are questions about how or why people identify a particular way. The why or how isn’t necessarily important. The important part here is that we recognize that of God within someone. You can hear the man in the story says that Jesus is from God. As he affirms God is at work in Jesus he is also affirming that the healing, the thing that everyone is questioning is also of God.

When the neighbours aren’t able to figure out what happened, the Pharisees get in the action. These were people who are very observant of the Jewish faith. They were concerned that Jesus had done this healing on the Sabbath day, the day of rest. But they continued to question the man and he kept responding. I was blind and Jesus healed me. Then the temple authorities called the man’s parents and asked them how he had been healed. They refused to answer because they were afraid of being tossed out of the temple. This goes back to the on-going conflict the writer of John is dealing with between the Christian-Jews and non-Christian Jews. The parents don’t want to lose their place in the temple so they will not intervene for their child and they will not support him. Being removed from the temple essentially resulted in shunning by the community—they would lose social and business connections as well as their place of worship. The parents put the responsibility for answering questions back on their son.

The authorities call the man again to answer questions. This time when he answers the questions, the man has lots to say. You can almost hear is frustration as he says it again.

“One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see. I have told you already how it happened, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples? Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he Jesus comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (NRSV)

The questions that he is asked, again and again, strengthen his faith in Jesus. Having to defend his faith helps him to be able to articulate who Jesus is for him. It helps him to be clear. He practices first with the neighbours—people who know him well and know him as a person. Then he begins to publicly defend himself. He doesn’t really have a choice. The man born blind is being questioned from every side. His life has been turned upside down. His livelihood has been begging but he no longer has that. No one is going to give to sighted, healthy person. He has no skills. He needs to be accepted into the community in order to survive. If he can’t convince the community that Jesus is of God, he will not have a place.

For those of us, like myself who are comfortable, it’s often easier to stay silent. I sometimes stay silent because I don’t want to upset anyone. It might be less complicated to say silent. Being able to stay silent is a source of privilege that not everyone has. Often it is those who are most vulnerable who use their voice to speak out against oppression, injustice, violence. Speaking out sometimes makes people more vulnerable and more of a target for hatred and violence.

We aren’t told what happens to the man born blind but unless others speak up for him, recognize that of God in him, his entire world will fall apart. Those of us who are comfortable, need to use our voices to stand with folks in our community and world who are vulnerable. We need to recognize that of God in the most vulnerable and lend our voices in support.

Unexpected Living Water

pexels-photo-296282.jpegThe story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well  offers an invitation to living water.

Imagine the Samaritan woman for a moment. She comes to the well in the middle of the day when no one else is likely to brave the heat. She knows what people say about her…The woman who couldn’t keep a husband. The woman who brought disgrace. She hears the whispers as she walks through the market when she has to go there to buy something. She tries to avoid it so that she won’t have to hear it. Just like she avoids going to the well when other people might be there.

But then a chance encounter changes her life. She goes to the well at a moment when she hopes no one is there. But a stranger is waiting—a man, a Jew. She knows she shouldn’t talk to him. It will just fuel the chatter about her. The man speaks to her and asks her for water and she questions him. “Why would you ask me for water?” Jesus offers her a drink of the “living water.” At first, the woman takes this literally, asking him where he will get this water—he has no bucket. As they engage in this conversation, the woman realizes that she needs the water. Very matter-of-factly Jesus tells her to call her husband. She responds by saying she doesn’t have a husband. Jesus doesn’t lecture her. He doesn’t question how she got into her situation. He simply acknowledges her reality. He doesn’t try to fix or change her.

Then the conversation moves to faith. She wants to know why Jews and Samaritans worship in different places. Jesus explains to her that it won’t matter where people worship as long as they worship in Spirit and in truth. The spirit is the breath of God that is within each of us. We think something being true means that it is factual. What was intended in the Greek seems to be a sense of dependability and loyalty. If we worship in Spirit and in truth this seems to suggest that we depend on the breath of God within us. We are loyal to the spirit of God within us.

Each of us needs to find the spirit of God within us. The spirit of God within me will look different than the spirit of God within you. We each have a unique breath of God that makes us who we are. The Samaritan woman had the breath of God within her and Jesus recognized that spirit. It spoke to him. The conversation that the Samaritan woman had with Jesus gave her the ability to depend on the Spirit within her. It gave her the courage to be the person God created her to be. In being the person God created her to be, she received the life-giving water of Jesus. This life-giving water is for everyone.

In Matthew, Jesus tells the disciples not to go through Samaria and not to speak to the Samaritans. Matthew excludes the Samaritans but John specifically includes them.
The writer of John was having a conflict with the temple authorities. John’s Christian-Jews were trying to share what they knew about Jesus with the Jewish community and having little success. So in this story they seem to be expanding the audience—if our community won’t listen, the Samaritans will listen.

We all need to be refreshed by the living water but sometimes those of us who have spent a long time around the church become immune to the water being offered. Its easy to get caught in our routines. The time we spend at church becomes a burden. Maybe the relationships are too challenging so we step back. We might be a bit like the temple authorities John was pushing against. We are comfortable.

And then Jesus speaks to an outsider. Someone with different ideas. Someone who doesn’t seem like us. Someone that its easy to whisper and gossip about. That person finds the living water. It refreshes and renews them. They invite us to drink. We are invited to come and see. We are invited to drink the living water—sometimes by someone unexpected.

Rethinking John 3:16

There’s a lot in this conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. Nicodemus is an important person on the temple in Jerusalem but he has witnessed Jesus clearing the temple and teaching. Jesus has caught his attention and he wants to know more. He came to Jesus in the middle of the night when no one would see him. At this point in the story he doesn’t want to be associated with Jesus but he’s curious.

He finds Jesus in the middle of the night and acknowledges what he has seen in Jesus. Nicodemus recognizes that Jesus’ words and actions must be from God. Jesus responds to this acknowledgement by saying that you cannot see the kingdom of God without being born from above or born again. The translation is unclear and is used interchangeably.

In Jesus time, people’s status in the world was attached to them at their birth based on their family. If your family was wealthy and important—you would be wealthy and important. If your family was poor or less important—you would be poor and less important. Status didn’t change much through a lifetime. The situation you were born into was your situation for life. So in this passage, we hear Jesus saying that a person must be born again or born from above—born of God’s spirit. This rebirth means that a person is no longer poor and unimportant but is a child of God. Anyone who believes in Jesus has this rebirth which elevates their status.

God—of course—has the ultimate status so to be a child of God raises those with the least status to the highest status. The other thing this rebirth does is to level the playing field. All of the children in a family (with the exception of the first-born) are of equal status. Jesus is the first born and everyone else’s status is evened out. In a society where status determines all of your social interactions and opportunities, to equalize the status fundamentally changes the world.

In this passage, we hear a famous verse: “for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” I will admit that I struggle with this verse because when taken on its own it seems to suggest that if you believe in Jesus you will live forever. If you do not believe in Jesus, you will not experience God after death.

There are a few words in here that need to be examined. The word believe has taken on a different meaning from what was originally intended. We think to believe means to know intellectually that something is true or real. According to James Rowe Adams, (Episcopal priest, founder of the Centre for Progressive Christianity) the intent that we find in John’s gospel seems to be “a recognition of a desire for God rather than an intellectual assent to opinions about God that cannot be supported by imperial evidence.” To believe in Jesus simply means that we have a desire for a relationship. This is more about an experience of the Holy than it is about knowledge. We do not need to sign on to particular statements of belief about Jesus.

Eternal life is another phrase that is sometimes problematic. It is often taken as a reference to life after death but in the Greek, it is in the present tense. So it is not intended as something that will happen but something that is happening… Here. Now. This is not about the length of life but about the quality of life.

So here’s what we get so far out of this scripture…As we are born from above we become children of God, equal to all other children of God. If we have a desire for a relationship with God and Jesus, the quality of our life changes. But wait…There’s more!

The passage goes on to speak about judgement and condemnation of God in the world. “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

We need to think of the world in the broadest sense. The world includes the universe or entire cosmos. All creation is included in “the world.” Condemn means to separate, to distinguish or to decide. Jesus did not come into the world to separate. What we translate as judgement can also mean justice. To save means to heal or make right.

So thinking about this verse another way might mean: God did not send Jesus into the world to separate the world but in order that world could be made right.

pexels-photo-733881.jpegThose who have relationship with the holy are not separated. Those who have not found relationship with the holy are separated. We might think about this in terms of all the ways we are cut off or separated from ourselves, each other, the earth. When we no longer have a sense of ourselves within our relationships we lose our ability to love, to show compassion, to care. We are separated. Relationship with the holy mends the separation.

The final part of this passage adds one more twist. Claiming faith in Jesus does not give a get of jail free card for doing things that destroy or harm. And God will claim anyone who does what is good and right. Jesus’ role is to point the way. Jesus himself does not offer judgement but offers an invitation to be in relationship with the holy. By being in relationship with the holy, we find our own sense of purpose for good in the world.

There is no one who is outside of God’s love. That love is made known to us on a daily basis. We don’t have to wait until after death to experience God’s love. Simply a desire to be in relationship with the holy brings eternal life. Nicodemus came to Jesus with questions and uncertainty. He didn’t have the answers at the beginning of the conversation and he went away more confused than when he started.

We don’t have to come to faith with answers. We come to our faith with questions. Through the questions, Jesus gives us an invitation to deepening relationships, a sense of purpose and works through us and others to heal the creation.