The Divine Flow

Trinity Sunday, May 30, 2021
Principle Narrative: John 3:1-17

On Wednesday, May 26th, beloved storyteller, Eric Carle, died. Requiescat in pace. Do you know the work of Eric Carle. I want us to remember Eric Carle, who spent his life writing and drawing books about ordinary things with extraordinary impact, and giving children something comforting to hold onto. We had our favorite Eric Carle books in our house: Papa, Will You Get the Moon for Me and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See and The Very Quiet Cricket, among so many more. Perhaps his most beloved story, though, is The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

“In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf.

One Sunday morning the warm sun came up and pop. Out of the egg came a tiny and very hungry caterpillar. 

He started to look for some food.

On Monday he ate through 1 apple, but he was still hungry.

On Tuesday he ate through 2 pears, but he was still hungry.

On Wednesday he ate through 3 plums, but he was still hungry.

On Thursday he ate through 4 strawberries, but he was still hungry.

On Friday he ate through 5 oranges, but he was still hungry.

On Saturday he ate through one piece of chocolate cake, one ice cream cone, one pickle, one slice of swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake, and one slice of watermelon.

That night he had a stomach ache.

The very hungry caterpillar then ate through one green leaf. He started to feel better.

Now, the caterpillar was no longer small. He was a big, fat caterpillar. 

He built a small house, called a cocoon, around himself. He stayed inside for more than two weeks. Then he nibbled a small hole in the cocoon, pushed his way out and…

he is a beautiful butterfly.

My reading this morning is more than just remembering a great storyteller. It is that – and especially in remembrance after his death. But, it is also because this story about the ordinary becoming the extraordinary fits well with the gospel we heard this morning. 

It was a not-so-special night, that Nicodemus was hungry! As I see it, he was full of that  hunger that curiosity brings. We are told that Nicodemus was a Pharisee, “a leader of the Jews;” and so we can understand that Nicodemus had likely been “eating” from Lord’s banquet his whole life – devouring God’s word, the stories of his ancestors, and the religious and cultural life of God’s chosen people. Nicodemus had eaten but was evidently still hungry, so Nicodemus sought Jesus on an ordinary, not-so-special night. What happens, though, is that Jesus transforms the ordinary night into an extraordinary encounter. And Jesus begins the process of transforming the curious and hungry Nicodemus such that by gospel’s end Nicodemus comes out of his cocoon. The last we see him in John’s gospel, Nicodemus was preparing his rabbi’s dead body with the mixture of aloes and spices and wrapping him “with the spices in linen cloth, according to the burial custom of the Jews.” 

I think this is how it normally is. Extraordinary experiences spark from the ordinary. We all have, to be sure, those spectacular moments – wondrous, joyous, heartbreaking, earth-shattering moments. And we are formed by the momentous times that mark life and its transitions. In our Episcopal tradition, we mark the momentous with sacraments and sacramental acts – baptism, confirmation, marriage, and holy orders. The Church knows the importance of what is happening and marks them with circumstance, reflection, and ritual – visible signs of God’s invisible grace.

Nevertheless, I think that when we take the time to reflect on what makes us who we are, I think that we will usually find that in the midst of the extraordinary moments (or, rather, before and after the extraordinary), we will find the faces of people and places of our everyday, the little things and the ordinary things. We will find moments instead of the momentous that shape us into the people we are.

[I think that this is ultimately what the sacraments are really about. Momentous occasions that come out of the ordinary – water that leads to eternal life, the everyday relationship solemnized to reflect God’s love for creation, a daily walk with God sealed with the Holy Spirit, bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus. And then, just as the everyday and ordinary has lead to the momentous, the momentous leads us back again to the everyday – baptized as children of God we are witness sin the world, the sacramental act of marriage leads to the everyday commitment of spouses, the body and blood of Christ sends us out to be God’s love in the world.]

The  truth of the ordinary and everyday that shapes us gives us a hint into the life of God: that God is right there with us in all the most ordinary of moments, breathing life into them and making them all a little extraordinary.

This brings us back to Nicodemus, who came to Jesus on an ordinary night. On this ordinary night we see Jesus launch the transformation of Nicodemus from questioning leader in verse 1 to witness in verse 11! And by the end of the gospel Nicodemus has entered into the movement of God as a follower of Jesus. During the late-night conversation, Jesus invites Nicodemus to wake up and be “born again,” to move beyond the limits of his occupation and title and to join the movement of God. Jesus is not interested in simply answering Nicodemus’ questions, or giving him a summary highlighting the most important information that he can then mull over and decide whether he agrees or not. Rather, Jesus is inviting Nicodemus to participate in an entirely new way of seeing, living, and being in the world. 

The power of this narrative is the way in which we readers, thousands of years later, are invited ourselves to be transformed. We are transformed not by information and facts but by God’s reality in creation. We are transformed because we have become witnesses not to an ideology but to the movement of God. We stand alongside Nicodemus bound by our physical bodies and limited perspective, and invited likewise to participate in the movement of God. 

In The Divine Dance, Father Richard Rohr describes the Movement of God as the divine flow:

“Be present to God in the here and now, the ordinary, the interruptions. Being fully present to the soul of all things will allow you to say, ‘This is good. This is enough. In fact, this is all I need.’… Why wait for heaven when you can enjoy the Divine FLow in every moment, in everyone.” 

To join God’s movement is to step, jump, or dive into the flow of God’s full self with our full selves. The tide of God’s movement leads us to a way of life that is always growing, evolving, transforming; a way of life that is about unification, alignment, and action.

Jesus calls Nicodemus, and each of us here today, to live the realization of all that we are. God made us to be part of the Divine Flow – the movement of God, the Triniarian life. While we struggle with discernment, wondering what the specifics of being born from above might be for each of us, remember that the essence of God surrounds us. This story of Nicodemus is an invitation to allow ourselves to be transformed and to enter fully the abundant life for which we were created.

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