John 3: 1-9 (NRSVA)
1 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’ 3 Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’ 4 Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ 5 Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.” 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ 9 Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’
A friend recently shared her favourite lunatic conspiracy theory that she’s heard, namely that Finland doesn’t exist. I am sure this would come as a great surprise to the Finns I know. Although it might explain why I didn’t win a Rotary scholarship aged 17 to spend an exchange year in Finland. I was told my application missed the deadline, but at last the truth has been revealed!
It is a curious feature of humanity that we can be persuaded to believe a whole range of improbable things: ‘six impossible things before breakfast’, as the White Queen said to Alice in Lewis Carrol’s ‘Through the Looking Glass’. It makes us look foolish sometimes. Sometimes, as we have seen too often recently, it can be dangerous. But it is also an understandable side effect of our capacity for wonder and astonishment. Without our imaginations’ ability to picture what seems impossible many human achievements or discoveries would never have come to pass. Nicodemus was right to question Jesus, but at some point he would have to take a chance on the belief that in some strange and wondrous way we can be born again.
Perhaps the White Queen was right to practise thinking of impossible things on her road to wisdom. Although I am sure that even she believed in Finland.
You know what a fool I can be
How often you have had to rescue me from the consequences of my foolishness
Thank you for the lessons I have learned and the wisdom I have achieved, however painfully
Give me the courage to keep taking chances,
the humility to acknowledge my mistakes,
and enough sense to recognise the truth when I encounter it