I love to reimagine scenes from scripture in contemporary settings. For instance, the famous late-night discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus—where the leader discreetly engages the rabbi—is usually pictured as a courtyard talk. A soft breeze blows through the palms. Moonglow provides mood lighting. The famous words—“You must be born in again (or anew)” (John 3:3) and “God so loved the world” (3:16)—are spoken in gentle whispers.
Suppose we rethink the dialogue in a brightly lit motel diner. It’s late. Pools closed. A few customers in the place. Staff talk across the room as they refill the saltshakers. No need for quiet. Just a bunch of nighthawks, some alone, a few pairs, lost in their own concerns.
Nic (we’ll call him) opens: “If you weren’t a teacher from God, you couldn’t do what you do.” Jesus ignores the compliment and gets to the point. “You must be born anew before you can see God’s kingdom.” Okay. And how does that work? “Born not only by water, but by the Spirit… Only God’s Spirit gives new life” (John 3:5, 8).
The server tops off the coffee. Nic looks through the big windows to an empty, bright blue swimming pool across the way. Suddenly he figures out the connection between water and Spirit, why Jesus’s followers are so into baptism. Re-experiencing natural birth in some way makes spiritual birth a felt, lived, multisensory event that implants itself in memory. Suddenly the pool offers Nic a chance to feel something like faith as a means of finding faith.
It matters not when or how we were baptized. Ever so often it’s good to return to the water and reclaim the experience (even if we have no memory of it)… to know it in a new kind of way… to feel fresh life and possibilities, visceral faith and clear vision. That’s what we’ll do this coming Sunday at Rainbow Beach, 77th & Lake Shore Drive. We’re going back to the water!
Bring a lawn chair. Wear shorts or pants you can roll up. Flip-flops are recommended. We’ll step into the water and get back in touch with this transformative idea that rebirth is a gift to all. If you’ve not been baptized, contact me at 312.399.3910 and we’ll welcome you to the water too. Or, if you’re not so sure, we’ll still want you to be part of this time together.
See you this Sunday, dear friends. (And bring your friends!)
With much love,