Impolite Company at the Dining Table and a Lifetime of Questions
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[Editors' note: This Advent season, we will be running a series of reflections on the Bread Blog from members of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. The lectionary readings for this post are Isaiah 13:6-13; John 3:1-8; Revelation 12:10-17. Keep reading the Bread Blog for more Advent reflections each day.]
"Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, 'Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.' Jesus replied, 'Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. How can someone be born when they are old?' Nicodemus asked. 'Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!' Jesus answered, 'Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, "You must be born again." The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.'" (John 3:1-8)
The assignment of the scripture passage from John, I have to believe, was divine providence, for it is one that brings about very strong and emotional feelings in me. The passage awakens memories from my youth.
When I was a tween, my Dad was proudly serving as the senior chaplain at the U. S. Naval Academy. He served there from 1967 to 1970, which was a very historic and volatile time in our nation’s history. I was in middle school at that time, in schools that were recently desegregated. Middle school is a confusing time in anyone’s life, apart from what was happening on the national stage.
While I lived at the Naval Academy, one of my Dad’s favorite parts of his job was to invite guest preachers to the Academy pulpit. These preachers were considered the top theologians of our time, or at least according to my Dad. Sometimes, the speakers were controversial.
Once a month, not only would the guest preacher grace the chapel’s pulpit, but would also stay in our home and be the guest of honor at a luncheon after chapel. My mother gave the luncheon for roughly 36 people, which would consist of the guest preacher, midshipmen, professors and their spouses and officers and their spouses.
One particular Sunday, we had a group of Christians in our house, and I will never forget the way they treated my Mom, their hostess. When my Mom was asked at her own dining room table when she had been saved, my Mom answered that she was raised in the church, and that she had grown up in a Christian home, and had always believed in God. She couldn’t name an hour or a day.
When my Mom stopped talking, the woman turned her head away from my Mom and didn’t look or speak to her again. I have grown up with that story and I have struggled with my understanding of this passage because of that haunting memory.
I don’t believe Jesus is requiring us to be able to name the hour or the day either, but if you can, that’s great! What Jesus does expect of us, however, is for our lives to be transformed by the Holy Spirit when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. You can’t just carry on as before, because you have been called to a new life in Christ. When someone finds out you are a Christian, they shouldn’t be surprised. Your actions and behaviors towards others should go hand in hand with your declaration of Jesus as Lord.
Prayer: Silently now I wait for thee. Ready, my God, thy will to see. Open my heart, illumine me, Spirit divine!
Dale Orzalli is a member at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. Visit their website at www.nyapc.org.
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