Scripture: Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8:12-17; John 3:1-17
One of the joys of reading is also one of its challenges: the use of imagination. A good story engages us, and we fill in details – images and sounds – in our own minds. The challenge comes when we want to read something that ought to be authoritative, yet which leaves too much to our own imagination.
For example, in today’s gospel passage, Jesus has a conversation with Nicodemus, who comes to him at night, alone. If we could hear the tone of voice used by Jesus, it might colour our understanding. If the voice of Jesus is critical, then it emphasises his superiority; if it is humorous, then it emphasises his camaraderie, and his good-natured connection to us; if it is pensive, then it leads us to the image of Jesus learning as he teaches, realising, for example, that his task is no simple one.
When Jesus says, “Are you a teacher … and yet you do not understand?” we might witness him growing in understanding of just how difficult his task was to be. Indeed, teaching the people proved to be daunting and difficult – and ultimately painful. Yet he went about his task by living the change he taught to the world, and by inviting all, without exception, to come to him to learn.
On Trinity Sunday, we are invited to contemplate this pivotal point in the relationship between God and humanity, especially the way in which we learn. Before Jesus, we learnt like small children, through impression and absorption; through and after Jesus, we can learn through language and reason – and progress in turn to be teachers.
Like Isaiah, we are people of unclean lips encouraged to educate one another through prophetic witness. Yet teachers learn as they teach, and growing in understanding of God’s purpose and vision for us and for the world is a life-long process.