Anothen and Starstuff In other words: You can do it!
If You Have No Idea Who I Am: • SSU student. • Progeny of very cool humans. • Generally friendly but not remotely qualified. • Pretty terrified.
How We Got Here: • Last week Peter talked about a lot of things. • One of them was something I had a thought about. • He thought it was a cool thought. • Now I’m going to talk about it. • Hope you get something out of it.
John 3:1-8 (NIV) Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
John 3:1-8 (NIV) 3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” 4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
John 3:1-8 (NIV) 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spiritgives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’
John 3:1-8 (NIV) 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
The Concept of Anothen • The word that is translated as “born again” is the Ancient Greek word anothen • Born again, or anew, is one way of translating this word, but it isn’t actually the most accurate. • “The word in the Gospel, anothen, signifies ‘on high’ more often than ‘anew’,” says Simone Weil in “Awaiting God”
The Message Translation of John 3 puts it this way: “Unless a person is born from above, it’s not possible to see what I’m pointing to—to God’s kingdom.” (verse 3)
The Message Translation of John 3 puts it this way: “Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom.
When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit.” (verses 5 and 6)
Okay. Nifty. What are the Implications? There are a few.
Moral Superiority? • The Church seems to have done the unfortunate thing of seeing people who have (supposedly) gone through this “born again” process as morally superior to those that (supposedly) have not. • This would imply that the only people capable of doing works imbued by the spirit subscribe to a very narrow conception of relationship to that spirit.
One-way-ticket? • This also implies that this whole “born again” thing could only have to be done once? And only one way? • It would follow, then, that once it’s been (supposedly) accomplished in a person’s life, that no further change must occur in how they see their relationship to the spirit?
One-way-ticket? • Is this something someone would have to do to earn their salvation?
The Way I See It: • All of this came about because my name means reborn - I’m just the latin variety. • I really didn’t want to throw the baby (me) out with the bath water.
The Way I See It: • For me, it’s not so much that the experience of anothenis “born from above” and not “born anew”. • They’re deeply related. • Being reborn happens every time we remember that we are born from above.
Analogy: Carl Sagan (in “Cosmos”) “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”
Why Does That Matter? • To put it simply: we couldn’t do life any other way. • Jesus means it when he says that there is no way anyone can identify with the Kingdom unless they’re literallyidentified with the spirit.
Why Does This Matter? • The good news is: we are!! • Kingdom living is hard. We have to lay our lives down. We have to treat the whole planet with reverence. • We often forget that we have the capacity to do this.
The Ways We Forget: • We forget that everything is imbued with God’s spirit. We forget that, beyond us, lie galaxies overflowing with things we are called to treat with the utmost reverence. We forget that the spirit lies in the person who we cannot bear to relate to. It’s hard, man.
The Ways We Forget: • We also forget that we are born from above. We forget that we are overflowing with spirit we are called to treat with the utmost reverence. We forget that the spirit lies in our bodies we sometimes cannot bear to relate to. It’s hard, man.
The Ways We Remember: • But we are born from above. We are reborn every time we remember. • We were literally born and reborn to do this work. Even if it’s hard. • What are ways you remember who you are?
An Endless Cycle: • I’ve been wrestling a lot with finding myself identified with literally everything and everyone on the planet sometimes. • Being ‘reborn’ means finding myself, all the time, in a big hot mess of gorgeous starstuff.
An Endless Cycle: • I forget who I am in the despair of dehumanizing another person. • I am reminded of who I am when I remember that the fibres of my body are literally built to do this work. Even if it’s impossible to do any other way. • This is the dance I dance.