Scripture for this Sunday:
Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalm 121; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17; John 3:1-17
Those of a certain age will remember a rhyme by A.A. Milne:
Where the wind comes from
where the wind goes
no one can tell me
It’s flying from somewhere
As fast as it can,
I couldn’t keep up with it,
Not if I ran.
But if I stopped holding
The string of my kite,
It would blow with the wind
For a day and a night.
And then when I found it,
Wherever it blew,
I should know that the wind
Had been going there too.
So then I could tell themA.A. Milne, Wind on the Hill
Where the wind goes…
But where the wind comes from
He might have been channelling part of John’s gospel.
The Greek word for wind, pneuma, is the same word for breath and spirit. In this case, we might surmise that we do know where the spirit-wind comes from: the breath of God. As for where that spirit-wind goes, well, the followers of Christ who allow themselves to be blown along by the Spirit are like kites, which in the poem is the way to find out where the wind goes. Sadly, we do not always allow ourselves to be blown along freely, and we do not end up where the Spirit would like to take us.
The wind of the Spirit blew a man called Nicodemus to Jesus. He was a Pharisee, and the unlikely encounter took place under cover of dark, to avoid the suspicions of Jesus’ followers and those close to Nicodemus. After the banter about being born from above, Nicodemus disappears – at least, for a while – so we know little about the development of his faith in Jesus, or his conversion. It might have been momentary, or it might have been gradual.
Nevertheless, Nicodemus does turn up again, but this time to show a defiant commitment to Jesus at a very risky time – to honour Jesus’ death with a burial that would make space for resurrection life. Nicodemus probably did not foresee himself in that position when he approached a young, charismatic rabbi three years earlier.
This is something that the season of Lent invites us to do: to open our eyes to the life-giving presence of God around us: to note our wonder, to talk, to affirm what faith we have, to renew it, or even to transform it, so that we might allow ourselves to be changed.
The wind can blow us in ways that we do not expect. And, lest we reduce this simply to something individualistic, we might examine the words of John 3.16 carefully, because the Greek actually reads: ‘For God so loved the cosmos …’ This is love on a grand scale. ‘World’ is significant, but ‘cosmos’ demands that we look beyond ourselves, and beyond even humanity.
The gift of the Word made flesh is to embrace us within the humanity of Jesus and to charge us with the responsibility of diligent discipleship and stewardship of the part of the cosmos that we occupy.
Where does the wind blow? We are the kites that show where God’s breath, the Spirit, can take us, if we allow God’s breath to blow us along, receiving, responding to and passing on the inspiration we are offered. Let’s endeavour to be good kites!