In Chapter 3 of the Gospel of John, the writer recounts an encounter between Jesus and a man named Nicodemus, a member of the Pharisee sect, who in many ways saw themselves as the self-appointed gatekeepers of Israel’s religious life in first century Palestine.
During their conversation, Jesus says something Nicodemus finds terribly confusing: “I assure you, unless someone is born anew, it’s not possible to see God’s kingdom.” (John 3:3, CEB).
Jesus goes on to explain what he means: if you really want to see what God’s up to in the world, being born is not enough…you have to be reborn “in the Spirit.” A little bit later, he utters former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow’s favorite verse: ”God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life” (John 3:16, CEB).
Evangelicals for decades have used these verses to argue that belief in Jesus is necessary for people to go to heaven when they die. But what if Jesus had something else in mind entirely? What if this passage is not meant as a roadmap to a blissful afterlife, but a better way of living and being in this world, here and now?
What if Jesus isn’t calling for a renewal of personal piousness, but an awakening from the systems and structures of the world that exploit and oppress our fellow residents of the planet? What if he’s really telling Nicodemus that if he genuinely wants to know God’s desires for the world, he must first reject all the default settings we’ve inherited that allow us to marginalize our neighbors in the pursuit of our own glorification?
This week at New Wineskins, our Lenten collaboration with Justice & Jubilee continues as we deconstruct what might be one of the best-known and least understood statements in all of scripture and examine how the real call of Jesus is to awaken from our privilege, our protectionist rhetoric, and our religious certainty to see clearly how our institutions and unwritten societal rules harm not only our fellow humans, but the entirety of the cosmos.
Join us this Sunday, March 5, for a conversation about the relationship between divine calling and awakening. This week’s discussion video from The Work of the People features author and Evolving Faith co-creator Sarah Bessey talking about her own awakening from her evangelical charismatic roots into a fuller realization that justice and liberation, not individual salvation, is the heart of Jesus’ message.
For the full experience of our collaboration, see the schedule below…you’re welcome to participate in any or all of the following:
5:30pm ET: Justice & Jubilee Message & Music (YouTube livestream)
6:00pm ET: New Wineskins Happy Half-Hour (informal meet & greet time…see link below)
6:30pm ET: New Wineskins Presentation & conversation begin (see link below)
Join us for Lent with Justice & Jubilee!
Every week during Lent, Justice and Jubilee will host their regular YouTube live premier at 5:30pm (Eastern Time) and invite participants to join us in our New Wineskins Virtual Theology Pub powered by Zoom for Happy Half-Hour from 6:00-6:30pmET for a time of conversation and community.
We’ll then hold our regular 6:30pmET discussion focused on how we might look at the J&J topic through the lens of deconstruction, seeking to find deeper, perhaps unexpected meanings that inform our collective justice & liberation work.
Feb. 26: Tempted (Matthew 4:1-11)
- Mar. 5: Called (Gen 12:1-4a & John 3:1-17)
- Mar. 12: Quenched (Exodus 17:1-7 & John 4:5-42)
- Mar. 19: Anointed (1 Samuel 16:1-13 & John 9:1-41)
- Mar. 26: Raised (Ezekiel 37:1-14 & John 11:1-45)
- Apr. 2: Palm Sunday (Details TBA)
- Apr. 7: Good Friday (Details TBA)
- Apr. 9: Easter Sunday (Details TBA)
If you haven’t already signed up for our weekly email newsletter, now would be a great time to do it so you don’t miss any of this cool collaboration!
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Feature image: Sandor Szmutko via pond5.com