Sunday’s Scripture ~ John 3:1-17.
When I think about my life, I realize I live between high expectations and contentment. I have high expectations for myself; I desire excellence and therefore seek to serve excellently in all tasks. I also seek to practice contentment, which is a grounding skill. Practicing contentment returns me to the knowledge that I am because God loves; I am not by what I do or do not produce.
The thought of giving up expectations makes me quite nervous (1) because of my desire to be in control (still working on that!) and (2) because I feel that expectations provide me with direction. But giving up expectations also creates space for God to do one of the things God does best, which is surprise me – surprise us!
Nicodemus, a Pharisee and leader of the Jews, does something surprising; he seeks Jesus out at night to ask him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born” (Jn 3:4)? Having grown up in Jewish systems of thought and expectations all his life – and serving as a teacher in these systems and with those expectations – Nicodemus courageously ventures to think a new thought and consider a new paradigm. Nicodemus was familiar with the practice of repentance and seeking forgiveness of sins. Nicodemus was familiar with baptism – participating in a ritual that declared a person’s devotion to a particular group or belief. And in his encounter with Jesus, he is surprised to learn that to receive eternal life, he must be born again by water and the Spirit.
If Nicodemus remains so committed to the systems of thought and expectations he knows and teaches, he may miss out on the surprise of what lies beyond them – the surprise and blessing of resurrection.
In giving up expectations we receive (and hopefully accept!) the invitation to trust God. And in trusting God, we live into contentment. We are because God loves; we are not by what we do or do not produce.
Join the Rev. Kate Ling and the Quest Sunday School Class this Sunday as they offer their leadership during Tuskawilla’s worship services. I will be serving with TUMC’s youth on the Confirmation Retreat Friday evening through Sunday afternoon and then at Gator Wesley Sunday evening. Thank you, Pastor Kate and Quest Members, for your preparation and service, dear friends!
Prayer: “God forgave my sin in Jesus’ name, I’ve been born again in Jesus’ name, and in Jesus’ name I come to you, to share his love as he told me to. He said, ‘Freely, freely you have received, freely, freely give. Go in my name, and because you believe, others will know that I live.'”* Amen.
“Freely, Freely,” The United Methodist Hymnal 389.