John 3:1-17

There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 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.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 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?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 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.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Nicodemus doesn’t get it. He is trapped in the idea that salvation is dependent on how well you complete your religious “to do list.” Jesus wants him to know that salvation isn’t about following the rules, it’s about letting God be in charge of your life, giving your life to God, letting go of the illusion of control. What Nicodemus doesn’t understand is that salvation is a gift from God given to us through faith. And all one needs to do when receiving a gift is to say – thank you. What Nicodemus doesn’t understand is that being born from above means dying to self and finding your new life in Christ.

If you think about it, we really have very little control in this life. Things happen all the time for which we are not prepared. Anyone who has gotten that horrible phone call in the middle of the night or found themselves rushing off to the emergency room or had their spouse simply walk out on them one day knows this truth. Life can reach out and smack us when we least expect it. We have no control about when we come into this world and very little say about when we leave it and everything else in-between is only fleetingly ours to control. We fool ourselves into believing that we are the masters of our destiny and God’s role in our lives is to simply confirm our already good decisions.

The truth of the matter is, you and I are not in control, we never have been, and we never will be. When the crisis hits the illusion of control is always stripped away. The larger truth is that everything we have in this world is gift. Love, family, health – everything that really matters is gift. We can be here today and gone tomorrow and so can our jobs, our fortunes, and our reputations. And no matter how tightly we hold on, it can all still slip through our fingers. The trick is to wake up each morning and go to bed each day with a thank you on our lips and the knowledge in our hearts that every day, every moment, everything, is gift from God. Amen


Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to thee, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly thine, utterly dedicated unto thee; and then use us, we pray thee, as thou wilt, and always to thy glory and the welfare of thy people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, p. 832)


The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith