Weekly Bible Reflection
Mark's Alternative Economy
Text: John 3. 1-17. "Title"
Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
Share experiences, personal or anecdotal, of how people make the transition from ‘being religious’ to committing themselves to follow Christ.
A Window on the Text
This story of Nicodemus’ late night visit to Jesus seems oddly placed near the beginning of John’s Gospel. Nicodemus talks about Jesus having performed ‘miraculous signs’ when the only one known to us from this Gospel so far is the water into wine at the Wedding at Cana. Nicodemus seems to imply that a much greater number of miracles are already known to the Jewish ruling council. This has necessitated the air of secrecy about his visit because if it were to be done openly it could bring the condemnation of his peers.
There has been much debate about whether Jesus declares that no-one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born ‘again’ or born ‘from on high’. Talk of the ‘Spirit’ seems to fit more comfortably at a much later stage of Jesus’ ministry, and the phrase ‘born of water’ has led some to suppose that the practice of infant baptism in the Johannine community has been ‘read back’ into this account of the conversation with Nicodemus.
Jesus’ comments about going into heaven and the Son of Man being ‘lifted up’ could seem to point to a post-Ascension perspective. The remark that God ‘gave’ his only Son could also be seen as a reference to both Incarnation and Crucifixion. But however and from what sources the passage was finally compiled it leaves us with an important truth. God did not send his Son to condemn the world, but to save it – there is always hope!
Responding as a community
- Discuss how we can help each other to move from religious duty to being disciples of Christ. What does that mean for the Church today?
- People sometimes say “you don’t have to be a Christian to come to church” – in what way is this true – and can we bridge the gap?
- Must we all be ‘born again’ in the same way? What about ‘the wind blowing wherever it pleases”?
- You may wish to share your thoughts on the policies of different denominations towards the practice of infant baptism.
This reading is the one set for Trinity Sunday. Here are two ways that your group could explore the significance of the Trinity together.
1 Try writing your own Creed – what is really important for you? Creeds are communal statements of faith, so try to come up with something you can all agree to and are prepared to say. Here is one example:
I am loved – because God made me and loves me:
I am loveable no matter what I do –
Because Christ died to make it so:
I am capable of loving –
Through the Spirit who empowers me.
(Jenny Spouge, “Worship Live No 29, Summer 2004).
2. In time of danger the Hebridean Celts drew round themselves and their loved ones the caim. Using the index finger of their right hand they would point and turn a full circle sun-wise. It was a reminder by action that we are always surrounded by God; he is our encompasser, our encircler. At the same time a caim prayer would be said, such as:
There are more examples of Trinitarian caim prayers in David Adam’s books of prayers in the Celtic tradition: Tides and Seasons; the Edge of Glory; and the Open Gate.
The Sacred Three
My fortress be
Come and be round
My hearth, my home.
- Feminist theologians have questioned the practice of infant baptism because of the implication that the normal birth of a baby from the body of a woman was somehow inadequate or defiling, and must be re-done with ritual washing by, for nearly 2000 years, a male priest. The biological understanding in the first century AD was that the woman’s body was merely the receptacle for the baby, which grew entirely from the male seed.
- There is an excellent article by Chris Polhill in “Fire and Bread, Resources from Easter Day to Trinity Sunday” entitled “The Trinity as a Circle”. It challenges traditional triangular and linear hierarchical models of the Trinity by envisioning it as a circle, where God is committed to the dance of an equal and unending relationship.
Mark's Alternative Economy - Discussion