April 21st 2009 was the 900th anniversary of the death of Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury. In honour of his memory, all the prayers used in the service at 2pm SLT were written by Anselm.
The readings for the day were Psalm 93, Acts 4:32-end and John 3:7-15. The phrase which really captured my imagination in these readings was ‘the wind blows where it chooses’. Read on to find out more.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord our rock and our redeemer. Amen
I imagine that your inbox, like mine, gets filled with many offers which are designed to help you remain perpetually young and in peak condition, looking like a film star. You can get all sorts of body parts remodelled under the surgeon’s knife – breasts, nose, eyes, chin, hips, tummy, thighs. You can lose weight by drinking wonderful teas or sticking on a patch. Laser surgery can restore your sight to perfection. Special creams will restore your skin to perfection also. Your teeth can be whitened, straightened, veneered. Going to the gym will build the most wonderful muscles. There are also some enhancements offered that I don’t think we should talk about in polite company! Once you’ve sorted all the alterations, it’s time to get out and live an appropriate lifestyle. If you’ve got it, flaunt it!
In SL it’s even easier to be a new you. Your avatar can look exactly as you wish it to, only really limited by the creativity of those who provide the parts we need and there is no need for any pain, unless it’s in your wallet. Eyebrows, hair, chin, eyes, nose, figure, height even, size of feet, body fat, muscle tone – you name it you can alter it until you are happy with your look. You can clothe your avatar in the most wonderful outfits and then set off to have great adventures in the virtual world. It’s not unusual for someone to celebrate the anniversary of the arrival of this new self, albeit a virtual one, by having rez day parties. Suddenly you have gained a new birthday along with your new look.
In the gospel account, Jesus is talking to Nicodemus. He has told him that he needs to be born again. Now he explains that this is not birth as we would think of it, a coming out of a mother’s womb. It’s most certainly not joining SL and creating an avatar as a new you. Jesus says to Nicodemus that he must be born from above or born of the Spirit. This is not a physical rebirth Jesus is talking about but a spiritual one, a regeneration that will give a totally new character to the person.
In all this, Nicodemus seems very puzzled. He was a Pharisee and well versed in the scriptures, an educated man. He seems to have recognised something in Jesus that made him risk coming to Jesus under cover of darkness to ask more. It was a big risk as he was a member of the Sanhedrin, a respected person. Jesus meanwhile was not liked by the Pharisees at all. If Nicodemus had been found out, life could have been difficult for him. To take such a risk suggests that getting answers was very important to Nicodemus indeed.
We don’t actually know if Nicodemus was any nearer understanding when he and Jesus parted that night. We can be sure he had plenty to think about. I believe that he did end up being born again in the spiritual sense. After Jesus was crucified he went with Joseph of Arimathea and got permission to bury Jesus’ body. Jesus did say that the Spirit is unpredictable but we can see her by her actions. Having Nicodemus change from creeping through the night to see Jesus, to boldly asking for his body from the Romans in broad daylight after a high profile trial in which the Jewish authorities joined with the Romans in getting rid of Jesus, has to be the work of the Spirit. It’s too amazing a change to be anything else.
That same unpredictable Holy Spirit was at work in the believers we hear about in the book of Acts. In the normal way of things, how many people would simply sell their possessions to give to other people? Filled with the Spirit, they were almost queuing up to do good things for their Christian brothers and sisters. That is another amazing sign of the Spirit at work.
When I was reading these passages the phrase that stuck with me is ‘the wind blows where it chooses’. It conjured up a picture that came from my trip to Ephesus last year. We were cruising along the coast in a boat which had sails, but we used the motor for most of the time. However, on one occasion we were treated to making part of the trip under sail. It was really exhilarating as we were pushed along by the wind.
I can’t help but think that our lives are like the boat. I guess moving around under engine power is a bit like doing things in a human way. If we choose to believe in Jesus, to be born from above, it’s like switching off the engine and hoisting the sails. That allows the wind, the Spirit, to propel us through life. We don’t know where it will take us but it will be exhilarating. And we don’t have to fear the storms. We know that, just as for the disciples, Jesus is there to calm the storms if necessary so that the waves will never overwhelm us.
Thanks be to God.