Transformation

Fa'amanu Akeripa
Sun 28 Feb

Growing up in Auckland as a kid of the 80s, I had been used to the carefree nature that we had everything in front of us. We had our playground in front of our house, a piece of grass the size of the foyer area. No gates or fences to keep us in, I would play outside with the neighbours on summer nights it would be cricket and touch and during winter rugby and handball or should I say gutter ball. It was a period in our life where we thought we were invincible. Money wasn’t an issue although we would hear a few grumbles from the old man about this and that, but it was never something discussed in our presence. Our parents worked hard labourers’ jobs, mum sometimes two but they learnt to work it out and make ends meet.  

I wonder whether today’s kids would be able to handle those difficult jobs our parents and grandparents lived in those times, in those conditions. An emphasis on the word – those. I think, hold on! things have changed, technology has improved the way we live and due to advanced knowledge, we have acquired a lifestyle that means working long hours, and arduous labour have no real importance to the way things are now. The transformation for us has come about

The reading this morning between Jesus and Nicodemus centres for me in verse 8, where he talks about the wind blowing where it chooses, you hear the sound of it, but you don’t know where it goes. So, it is with everyone who is born of the spirit. Interestingly enough the Greek meaning for the word “wind” is also the word for “breath” and “spirit”[1]. I like the image given here of breathing in the “breath of God” similarly to the creation story of when God formed human and breathed life into us. Thus, continuing the discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus around re-birth and new life. Change has come for Nicodemus

We have had to transform the way we live in order to cater to our environment and situation around us. Marcus Borg states that Nicodemus needs a spiritual rebirth, an internal rebirth, a personal transformation[2]. What does this look like exactly? Well, he goes on to say that it means dying to an old way of being and being born into a new way of being, dying to an old identity and being born into a new identity – a way of being and an identity centred in the sacred, in Spirit, in Christ, in God[3]. Borg in-directly stating here that we too need to change.

There are three key points I believe come out of this conversation, Firstly the ability to believe. We have the tendency to naturally ask the question, search for the right answers, seek understanding. At times we dissect and dissect until we come to a conclusion that fits our needs. When did we stray from reading and believing? Here we have Nicodemus a scholar and leader of the Jews and yet he struggled to receive what Jesus was asking of him. Of course, we have to take into account that as a Pharisee he lived thriftily giving in to no luxury, they followed the word in all its authority determining it as good[4]. So historically his way to believe and accept what Jesus was saying meant he needed more reasoning. Is the way, the path, to change solely, simply by way of reasoning like Nicodemus thought?

The reality of it though, is that it’s not as easy as it sounds. For me, Believing requires us to move rather than stay static. For example, it’s easy for me to say thank you Jesus I believe in what you say and I’m willing to follow you.  Although, I don’t necessarily think it works that way. Transformation requires us to believe by way of moving and being in deep discussion with God. Maybe the different thing we need to do is simply to stop. Stop the busyness, the ‘noise’ of demand and response that rules our lives. Stop and hear with the ears of the heart. Nouwen describes Transformation as entering into a place of solitude[5], a place where we are able to sit, reflect, observe, listen and breathing in. For each of us this would be different depending on the individual’s character. Discipline requires us to set it into our daily routine, until it becomes a norm for us. This form of transformation may need us to familiarise ourselves with our own surrounding and environment.

Secondly, to be transformed requires you to have a hunch of what is sacred and spiritual. Nicodemus was challenged in v12 to seek understanding in earthly things before you could understand about things in heaven. In saying this, I envision earthly as things seen with our physical eyes, and heavenly things seen with the eyes of our heart.

This week I spent time listening to people reflect on what sacredness looks like, Mid Wednesday communion we again reflected on beauty and what we considered beautiful. I am reminded of my time in Samoa, maybe some of you can relate. In Samoa if you’re ever in the villages, families get together before dark around 6pm to be exact. A bell is rung from the local church usually congregational by denomination.

The whole village knows exactly the meaning of this bell, its maybe banged 3 times before an air of silence descends the whole village. That’s when you hear the singing of church hymns from each family of the village, every family getting into devotion for the evening. For me this represents the sacredness of our culture and our people. It’s a thing of beauty listening and being amongst a village during a time of prayer and devotion. Spiritually its uplifting because you have this sense of importance or special connection to a place. Is this what sacredness is? Is this what Jesus was asking of Nicodemus? Experience fully what it is to be in God’s presence on earth. Like Nicodemus you can physically see and hear things – like the bell and singing and gathering, earthly things. You can also learn to see and hear things with the eyes and ears of the heart. This is to hear the music of God (which is heaven – heaven is where God is and God is everywhere.

Thirdly, Jesus is love I refer back to my earlier story of growing up in the eighties, we had less but less was good. We yearned for more, but we were happy. If I was to look back at my upbringing it was a struggle but amongst it all we were loved, and everyone got along. We grew up in the church every Sunday and we did what we were told. Our families were happy, and everyone got along with one another.

Today, it’s important to check up on one another. We are in an age where we must learn to give and have compassion as Jesus did. Our transformation forms characteristics of Christ and this was Christs ultimate sacrifice for us all. Paul emphasises love being the greatest of faith, hope and love, in the same way we show love by giving love out to others because this was the same love that was inherited to us from our families. This is something we don’t do solo; we look after each other. We build and rebuild our connections with each other when the forces and tragedies of life try to pull us apart.

As we reflect on lent this coming week let us be reminded that. Change happens, we too need to change, it requires us to keep moving – maybe the change requires us for this season to pause and listen. Change requires us to keep seeing and hearing not just with our physical senses but with the eyes and ears of the heart (eyes and ears of faith). Change is not something we do alone, I am reminded of a Samoan proverb that says “Ua sau le va’a na tiu tau mai le va’a na tau lele ua mamao lago o le va’a na faoa ia afolau” we journey together, we help each other especially the vulnerable. 

 

[1] Marcus J. Borg, Tim Scorer, and Marcus J. Borg, Living The Heart of Christianity: A Guidebook for Putting Your Faith into Action, 1st ed (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2006). 106

[2] Borg, Scorer, and Borg. 106

[3] Borg, Scorer, and Borg. 107

[4] https://virtualreligion.net/iho/pharisee.html

[5] Henri J. M Nouwen, The Way of the Heart (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1999). 22

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