On Sunday Mar. 12, 2017, we presented a staged reading in place of the sermon. The text for the week was John 3:1-17. The gospel of John draws on "light" and "word" imagery from the book of Genesis in it's telling of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection; this reading puts words from Genesis and John together in a new way.
Also, Genesis was originally in Hebrew and John was written in Greek. The English translation for words like "spirit" (and even simple words like "for") don't always capture the full meaning of the Greek or Hebrew. So, in this reading you will see some lines repeat in new ways to capture a deeper meaning of the words.
Most of the text of the reading comes from various translations of the Bible including the Message, the Jewish Study Bible, the NRSV, the NIV, with some of my own work thrown in for good measure. Some inspiration for the reading came from a free play available online here.
As you read "Light. Spirit. Life.", read it out loud. Sometimes words hit us differently when we read aloud. The bible text is a living document. Breathe some life into it!
Light. Spirit. Life.
Rev. Emily: The Gospel of John has some of the most famous verses in all of Christianity in it. Sometimes, when a verse is so well-known, we’ve heard it so often that it loses all meaning. We need to listen in a new way in order for it to touch our hearts again.
The Gospel of John draws deeply from the book of Genesis. Today we will hear the story of Nicodemus and Jesus as told by John read, with verses from Genesis and the first chapter of John. Almost all of the words come right from the Bible. Some verses repeat, but the words will shift to illuminate multiple layers of meaning lost in translation.
Listen. Let the stories wash over you, like a warm spring wind moving across your face.
Hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.
Jo Ann: In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters....
Rich: The Spirit of God hovered over the surface of the water.
Therese: The breath of God moved across the face of the water.
Jo Ann: And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.
Therese: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into to being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
Rich: And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
Jo Ann: The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.
Rich: The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.
Therese: According to the Gospel of John, there once was a man named Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a well-known leader from a strict religious group called called the “Pharisees”. In the darkness of night, Nicodemus went to see Jesus. Nicodemus said...
Jo Ann: Rabbi, we all know you’re a teacher straight from God. No one could do all the God-pointing, God-revealing acts you’ve done if God weren’t in on it.
Therese: Jesus answered…
Rich: You’re absolutely right. Take it from me: Unless a person is born from above it’s not possible to see what I’m pointing to - to God’s kingdom.
Jo Ann: I don’t understand. How can anyone be born who has already been born and grown up? You can’t go back to the womb and be born again! What are you saying with all this “born-from-above” talk?
Rich: You’re not listening. Let me say it in another way. Unless a person submits to this original creation - the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into new life - it’s not possible to enter into God’s kingdom.
Therese: When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch - the Spirit - and becomes a living spirit.
Rich: So don’t be surprised if I tell you that you have to be ‘born from above’. You know how the wind blows this way and that? You hear it rustling in the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where’s it’s going. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.
Jo Ann: What do you mean by this? How does this happen?
Rich: Listen carefully. No one has ever gone up into the presence of God except the One who came down from that Presence, the Son of Man.
Jo Ann: The Son of Man? The Messiah the prophets and Daniel told us about?
Rich: Just like Moses lifting the serpent in the desert, so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up - and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life.
Therese: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Jo Ann: This is the way God loved the world: God gave the only-born son, in order that anyone who believes in him would not be destroyed but have life eternal.
Rich: This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.
Therese: According to the Gospel of John, God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is set free; anyone who refuses to trust in him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it.
Jo Ann: This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness.
Therese: They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.
Jo Ann: Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
Rich: Those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.
Therese: When God began to create heaven and earth - the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water -
Jo Ann: God said, “Let there be light” and there was light.
Therese: God saw that the light was good.
Rich: The light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it.
Jo Ann: The light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it.
Therese: The light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it.