Thursday, July 25, 2024
HomeOpinionFaith‘For God so loved the world …’

‘For God so loved the world …’

Dedicated to Rainbow Christians Together … in support of the Queer Faces of Faith photographic exhibition (at Pitt Street Uniting Church until March 31, 2023).

In the gospel according to John, chapter three, we read of a night-time encounter between Jesus and a religious leader named Nicodemus, who asks, “How can an adult be born a second time?”

The question draws from Jesus a lengthy discourse on God’s maternal love for the world in need of saving (arguably the most well-known gospel utterance). And, reading ahead, Jesus inspires Nicodemus to keep asking questions.

In chapter seven, Nicodemus is a lone witness among the Pharisees and chief priests in defence of Jesus whose downfall they plot and whom they disparage as a “Galilean”, a hillbilly or bogan. Nicodemus refuses to play along. “Since when does our Law condemn anyone without first hearing the accused and knowing all the facts?” he asks.

In chapter 19, Nicodemus joins Joseph of Arimathea to remove the body of Jesus from the cross. Nicodemus brings “about one hundred pounds of spices, a mixture of myrrh and aloes” to prepare the body of Jesus for burial.

These public displays of affection, respect and loyalty evince a person, at significant cost and risk, amid hostility and death, busy being born.

He deserves our respect. “How can an adult be born a second time?” It’s actually a very good question.

How can we honour the wisdom and riches of a tradition, collectively and personally, and yet start again? Can I open my heart and mind – my very identity – to the strangeness of others? To change? To newness?

One commentator speaks of rebirth from an upper middle-class culture, a protected and protective (religious) culture, into another kind of (religious) culture: a “rawness and real-ness” of life with people unafraid of failure and celebration.

Most people, most of the time, go to where they are known – act on what they already know or think they know. A lot of the time we confuse respect and shows of privacy – keeping to ourselves and those we think we know best.

But sometimes we’re inspired to embrace the awkwardness, to improvise, even to enact change. Sometimes a respectful curiosity – neither idle nor in thrall to idols – leads to newness, rebirth.

That’s one reason art is important to so many of us. Making and showing art is an act of respectful curiosity, exploration, expression, connection, integration of various and conflicting passions, courage, communication, even communion – a coming “out into the light” as Jesus says.

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The Rev. Andrew Collis is parish minister at South Sydney Uniting Church.

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