Amy Jones,
Agape Coordinator
Dear God, we come to worship you today. 
We come to pray, and listen.
You always hear us. 
Help us to hear you. Amen
John 3:1-21

1Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2He came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God." 3Jesus answered him, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above." 4Nicodemus said to him, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?" 5Jesus answered, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not be astonished that I said to you, 'You must be born from above.' 8The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." 9Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?" 10Jesus answered him, "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

11"Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

16"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17"Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God."
Every summer I teach a Hebrew Bible class for United Methodist pastors who are pastoring churches while working on their ordination credentials. I always start the class the same way, with Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz.” Students are always flummoxed to be listening to Janis Joplin on the first day of Hebrew Bible class, and if I’m honest this is really why I do it. Many of them have read the Bible stories a million times and believe that they know what they are all about. If I want students to have a new experience of the Bible, I have to do something really unexpected to get them out of their comfort zones. And, students are unafraid to critique the song, Janis (the performer), or the historical context in ways that they sometimes won’t give themselves permission to do with biblical stories. Ultimately, the analysis we do with Janis Joplin’s song produces a plethora of transferable literary skills that we use to read the Bible. There’s a great “ah ha!” moment every semester when students realize that they are being invited into a new way to read the Bible. 

Nicodemus thought he knew his stuff, but what Jesus was preaching didn’t make any sense. No one can be born twice, he insists. Jesus isn’t speaking in the same way Nicodemus has heard before. Indeed, Jesus is trying to articulate something different than anything else Nicodemus has known before. Nicodemus expected Jesus to expand on ideas he had already heard, but Jesus was intent on expanding Nicodemus himself beyond who he knew himself to be. Nicodemus is not just of earth, but also of heaven. Not just born of water, but also of spirit.

Nicodemus was used to being the shaper of ideas. Jesus is asking Nicodemus to be reshaped.

We live in a time when the things we thought we could take for granted don’t make much sense. Our politics, economics, social systems, health care, and even our schools do not conform to what we once knew. I don’t know if they ever will. I think this presents an opportunity to maximize paradigm shifts, become more creative and flexible than we ever were before, and to embrace the idea that we are the ones that need to be reshaped rather than the ones doing the reshaping.

My hope for my students is that they will become the kind of leaders who take risks, try new things, and have open minds. I never want to tell them what to think, I only want to practice how to articulate what they think and to take a chance on a new idea. I know they already have great ideas. I want them to be able to express their great ideas with authenticity and verve. It is a small thing, but it is one thing that I can do to help encourage people to be reshaped for the future.

We cannot go back to the way things were. None of us has much control over the world, but all of us have something we can do to help others be ready to be reshaped for what is ahead. I believe each of us has a gift that brings a special piece of the kingdom of heaven to earth. How will you be reshaped? How will you encourage others to be reshaped?
God of new creations, reshape us for the new possibilities ahead of us. Open us to paradigm shifts. Give us the courage to use our gifts to nurture and grow the kingdom of heaven here on earth. Amen.
Amy Jones
Amy Jones, Agape Coordinator
Amy Jones our Agape Coordinator is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church. In this tradition, deacons are ordained clergy who bridge the ministry of the church with the needs of the world, and vice versa. In more than 15 years of ministry, she has worked in churches, in children and family ministry, higher education, and nonprofits. In each setting, her focus has been on matching the resources of the church with the needs of the world. Agape Community Kitchen is exactly the type of work she was called to do. 

Amy can be reached by email at:
The Presbyterian Church in Westfield continues to burn as a light in the darkness as our community weathers this fearsome storm of illness. Our reach of care continues to extend far beyond our immediate borders. You can help us make a real impact in the lives of others by joining in our work through your time, your talents, and also in the fruits of your labors.
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