Year A, Lent 2
Mr. Kyle Cuperwich
Trinity Episcopal Church
Moorestown, New Jersey
March 8, 2020
I am relatively new to wearing glasses, having got my first pair in December of 2018 (and boy did I need them!). I was unable see things from a distance; in order to see clearly an object had to be really close to my face. I can remember going to fast food establishments and struggling to read the menu above the cashier. I would have to take out my phone, set it to camera mode, and zoom in as close as possible so I could read the words on the menu and make an order. I looked ridiculous, but I was stubborn; I really did not want glasses.
Eventually I caved in and I went to the eye doctor for some tests. Afterward, the doctor turned to me and said, “You are so blind, that you legally cannot drive in the state of New Jersey.” I had broken the law just going to that eye exam! The doctor promptly wrote me a prescription, and a few days later I put my glasses on for the first time.
At that moment, my life was turned upside down!
I could see with a clarity I had never experienced before. I remember driving home with excitement over the fact that I could actually read the street signs without squinting. I could go into a Dunkin Donuts and read the menu without getting out my phone and look silly. Wearing glasses was really a life changing moment. If you wear glasses, you could probably remember the feeling you had that moment you put them on for the first time. My first moment was absolutely amazing!
Nicodemus comes to Jesus in this morning’s Gospel passage, and he’s having a hard time seeing who this Jesus is. He’s curious but also confused about what Jesus is up to. Jesus offers him a prescription for his vision problem. He says, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” In other words, to quote the King James Version of the Bible and the lovely sign that hangs in the sanctuary over the sacristy entrance, “Ye must be born again.”
Now that term “born again” is usually used to define someone who is incredibly devout in their faith.
They are all in; committing their entire life to living out there faith, striving day in and day out to be in right relationship with God, ensuring to uphold the correct beliefs and behaviors, all the while trying to bring others along for the journey. What’s interesting in this case, however, is that Jesus is telling Nicodemus that he needs to be born again even though he is already very devout. Nicodemus is a Pharisee, and Pharisees were very committed to their faith. Pharisees were the religious leaders of the community, following the traditions of Moses in order to be in right relationship with God, serving as an example for others to follow. The problem with the Pharisees, including Nicodemus, was that their vision of God was narrow; how God worked, who God loved, who was in and out of God’s embrace was all viewed through a narrow lens. Then suddenly, Jesus comes along breaking all the rules!
He’s healing the sick who are considered sinners, hanging out with those seen as outside of God’s embrace, teaching with this new authority. No wonder Nicodemus is having issues with his sight!
Jesus tells Nicodemus that he needs to be born from above—born again— in order to fully understand just what was going on. This being born again was more than just having a serious piety, or following the rules, adhering to a tradition or having all the right beliefs. For Jesus, being formed being born from above meant putting on the glasses of the Holy Spirit, allowing the Spirit to give you a vision where you see the world with God’s eyes.
When you put on these glasses of the Holy Spirit, you see your world with a new and amazing clarity.
You begin to realize just how limited and blurry your vision was. And this Spirit is unpredictable; the Spirit blows where the Spirit chooses, shedding light on people, places and truths that you never thought you would see (including uncomfortable things you didn’t want to see). This new vision begins to expand your belief and idea about how God works; how God sees and treats others. As a result, you begin to act in new ways and your life is transformed.
For Nicodemus to see the kingdom, he needed to allow God’s Spirit to give him God’s eyes in order to see that God is doing a new thing through this Jesus guy; that God was not confined to some narrow box of tradition, place or people and that God’s love and mercy is truly available for all. If he put on the glasses of the Holy Spirit, he would realize what Jesus says in John 3:16; that “God so loved the world,” that God gave God’s only Son, so that “everyone who believes in him” may have eternal life. Everyone is invited into eternal life through Jesus. EVERYONE.
So how is your vision in your walk with Jesus? Lens is the perfect time to ask this question and answer this question. The Lenten season is a time where we examine ourselves, taking on fasting, new practices and new discipline in order to deepen our life with Jesus. There are plenty of opportunities to do those things here at Trinity. When we take on these Lenten practices, however, we don’t do them to get some sense of accomplishment, to simply pat ourselves on the back. We take on these practices in order to strengthen our vision, to put on the glasses of the Holy Spirit so we can see others and see our world as God sees them. We put on these glasses so we can see those who are different from us–either racially, or economically, or of a different faith– and look at them with the love and the mercy that God gives us.
This Lent I was challenged to strengthen my vision through one of my seminary classes. In my ethics class, I’m currently writing a paper on public welfare with a focus on food insecurity. This is inspired to take on two Lenten practices in order to expand my vision. The first one is rather simple; I am only helping myself to one serving of food at seminary (which is actually very hard because the seminary food is really good). The other practice is a bit more sacrificial. When you’re walking the streets in New York City, it’s not uncommon to be approached by individuals who ask for assistance in getting food. They’re usually standing outside a pizza joint or a McDonald’s and they ask for help in order to obtain a meal. In the past, I would look at them skeptically, often saying that I can’t help. This Lent, however, I have taken on the discipline of aiding anyone seeking assistance, no questions asked. By doing these two practices, the Holy Spirit has opened my eyes and I’ve seen those who suffer with hunger in a new light. I’ve begun to build trust in their asking for help. I’ve grown in my sense of solidarity with those who are less fortunate. I’m learning to be content with what has been provided to me, appreciating the blessings I have sharing those blessings with those in need.
That’s how God is challenging me to put on the glasses of the Holy Spirit this Lent; how is God challenging you? When you put on the glasses of the Holy Spirit, I guarantee that you will see the depths of God’s love for the world in a whole new way. You will begin to clearly see who Jesus is and fully experience what it’s like to be born anew in God’s kingdom.