Paul Baglyos, Baltimore, MD
What is the difference between sight and insight?
Winds of Change
Asayel Slay, a female rap artist from Saudi Arabia, currently faces arrest and punishment by Saudi officials because of her YouTube video/song “Mecca Girl.” The work, which celebrates women in Mecca, has been condemned by conservatives as disrespectful toward the values and traditions that have long prevailed in Meccan society. Asayel’s supporters regard her as a champion of women’s progress in that society, while her detractors view her as a threat to social norms. Religious convictions animate both sides of the controversy.
- Look up the story about the controversy surrounding “Mecca Girl.” What opinions do you have about that story?
- Can you think of other artists whose work has aroused controversy? What are the issues and values at stake in that kind of controversy?
Second Sunday in Lent
(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings
For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.
There’s a lot going on in this long passage, which includes the oft-quoted verse 16. Also worth noting, however, is the curious statement of Jesus in verse 8: “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Jesus makes this statement to Nicodemus, a Pharisee who “came to Jesus by night” (verse 2) to inquire more deeply about Jesus’ mission and identity.
The passage suggests that the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus includes elements of tension and conflict. Nicodemus’ question about a person entering the mother’s womb a second time (verse 4), and Jesus’ query, “Are you a teacher . . . and yet you do not understand?” (verse10) might be interpreted as verbal sparring. But there is no necessary reason to regard Nicodemus as an enemy of Jesus. Later in John’s gospel, Nicodemus speaks indirectly on behalf of Jesus against those who opposed him (John 7:45-51) and he cares for Jesus’ body after his crucifixion (John 19:38-42).
In light of those subsequent events, we can consider that Nicodemus is genuinely interested in Jesus’ mission and identity, and sincerely desires understanding. For the time being, however, understanding eludes Nicodemus. His does not fully grasp what he has begun to glimpse in Jesus.
Jesus’ curious statement about the wind blowing where it chooses describes Nicodemus’ predicament. Just as people can hear the wind blowing without knowing its source or its destination, so Nicodemus has sensed something occurring in and through Jesus without understanding its true meaning or purpose. Nicodemus is not alone in this regard. Even those closest to Jesus and most favorably inclined toward him labor under the same predicament throughout John’s gospel. In those who oppose Jesus the failure of understanding becomes a determination to stop him, to suppress him, even – eventually – to punish and exterminate him. Jesus is, for friends and foes alike, a wind of change blowing about them. They can all sense it, even if they cannot or will not comprehend it.
The story about “Mecca Girl” illustrates the different ways people react to any wind of change. For some, a wind of change is a breath of fresh air, a stirring breeze; for others, it is a destructive, threatening storm. Jesus compares the work of God’s Spirit, of which he himself is a living embodiment, to a wind of change. (It is interesting to note that in many languages, including those of the Bible, the words for “spirit,” “wind” and “breath” are often the same.) This does not mean that every wind of change is necessarily of God or from God; but it does mean that God’s work will always be comparable to a wind of change, rattling our familiar habits and perceptions. We can sense God’s work, even before we understand it.
- What winds of change do you currently sense in our world? In our nation? In your congregation? How are people responding to those winds of change?
- Which of those winds of change do you regard as a breath of fresh air, and why?
- How does “sight” (sensing what is occurring) align with “insight” (understanding what is occurring)?
- How do you decide, and how might we decide, whether a wind of change is from God and a work of God’s Spirit?
Using the final reflection question in the preceding section, discuss a specific example of a current “wind of change” your group has sensed.
Gracious and holy God, give us diligence to seek you, wisdom to perceive you, and patience to wait for you. Grant us, O God, a mind to meditate on you; eyes to behold you; ears to listen for your word; a heart to love you; and a life to proclaim you; through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen. (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, page 76)