This Sunday, March 11, 2018, we continue our Via Creativa theme of Mothers of Invention. During this quarter, we’ll be exploring how we can bring forth that creative spirit of invention that can transform not just our inner world, but the world around us.
This week, we used music from XTC to explore how one of the most iconic Bible verses, John 3:16, invites all of us (whosoever) to shine their Holy light in the world.
From the Jesus Story: John 3:14-21: Light has come into the world.
From the letters of the Apostle Paul: Ephesians 2:1-10: we are what God has made us
From A Course in Miracles, Chapter 11: Christ is the extension of the Love and the loveliness of God
Song used in the sermon: We’re All Light by XTC
Back in 1977, a national phenomenon was born when a man named Rollen Stewart made his television debut during the NBA finals in Philadelphia. Stewart, who would later become known as “The Rainbow Man” or “Rock ‘n’ Rollen,” appeared courtside dressed in a rainbow afro-style wig and fur loin cloth. For his first appearance he did a dance routine and said his goal was simply self-promotion.
A couple of years later, after getting his act on camera at the Super Bowl, Stewart went back to his hotel room and found himself watching a show called “Today in Bible Prophecy.” What he learned watching that program changed his whole schtick. From that moment forward, for the next ten years of his cross-country odyssey visiting major league baseball, basketball and football games, Stewart would keep the rainbow wig, but abandon the loin cloth for pants or shorts. He also added a new accessory, a simple sign that read: “John 3:16.”
After his conversion, Stewart expanded his arenas, taking his message of salvation through Jesus Christ to other areas of the world. He was spotted at the Olympics one year as well as at the Kentucky Derby. He also made an appearance at the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, dancing with his sign on the balcony just below them as they waved to the crowd.
If you’ve ever wondered why “John 3:16” signs are so ubiquitous at sporting events – even to the point of players like Tim Tebow painting them under their eyes – now you know you have Rock ‘N’ Rollen to either thank or blame.
It’s easy to see why Stewart would pick that particular verse. It’s ubiquitous in its own way, becoming sort of a slogan for traditional Christians who believe that the only way to God is through Jesus. For those a little more versed in the Bible’s history and how it came into existence in this world, the choice of this verse is a bit more troubling. You see, the gospel of John is the most mystical – and least literal – of the four gospels.
It was written some 100 years after the death of the man named Jesus and was written, specifically, as a more metaphorical – and metaphysical – take on Jesus’ life and ministry. To take one passage from this book and make it a source of concrete dogma and doctrine is to violate the entire spirit of the book – and yet, this is what many in the Christian community have done with this one verse.
This morning, I’d like to take a little bit of time with this verse and unpack it a bit so we can understand that this verse doesn’t even say what more fundamentalist Christians believe that it says. Far from being a call to exclusivity, this verse is a clarion call for universal salvation when seen through the correct mystical and metaphysical lenses.
The evidence for this more mystical, metaphysical reading begins just before this verse when Jesus meets a man named Nicodemus, who is described as a Pharisee. Right here, the author of John is setting up a battle between literalists and mystics. Nicodemus is the author’s foil to make the point that Jesus opposes the literalist readings of scriptures put forth by the Pharisees of his day.
Nicodemus wants to know what he must do to have “eternal life.” There’s a topic for another sermon, but suffice to say, for our purposes looking through the mystical lens, “eternal life” doesn’t mean living forever as this body or spending eternity is some heavenly netherworld. It simply means living within the fullness of life, no matter whether we have form or not.
Jesus tells Nicodemus to accomplish that one must be “born again.” There’s yet another topic we could cover in depth, since this phrase has also been literalized and turned into dogma and doctrine. But, here’s our first clue, because this is exactly what Nicodemus does, he takes it literally and asks the logical question of how he could pop back out of his mama today. Jesus corrects him and says the phrase really means to be “born from above,” to be rebirthed into a higher consciousness.
The next part of the passage is so familiar we could all say it in our sleep: “For God so loved the world.” Again, we’re missing parts of older translations of this verse. We’re not talking about degrees of love, like “I love you sooooo much.” No, we’re talking about a manner of love. A better translation is, “God loved the world in this manner …”
If we consult A Course in Miracles for our lens for this passage, we’ll find out that God can’t love THE WORLD, because God’s not even aware of this ego-based world we have created for ourselves. This world came into being when we first believed that we were separated from God and others. God may have created this earth and the universe around it, but WE created this ego-based reality, not God. What God DOES love however, is us. The manner that God loves the world with is a manner that focuses that love on we weird, wonderful and often recalcitrant human beings.
To help us get out of this ego-based world, he sent Jesus. And again, we’re back to the temptation to take all of this very literally. The passage says that Jesus is God’s “only-begotten” son, which is talking about the human form of Jesus, not about his divinity. We are all the “only-begotten” sons and daughters of parents, because we are born as unique bodily manifestations of spirit. Which is to say that Jesus’ birth into the world is no more special than mine or yours.
So, what does makes Jesus special? It was his message. He came to tell us: “We’re all light.”
Here’s your assignment this week: I invite you to take an inventory of the spiritual tools you’re using. Are there some you need to discard? Are there some you’ve turned into an idol because you think that’s THE idea that everyone needs to believe? There are so many tools we’ve let go of over the years. Reflect on what has helped you arrive at this place today and see what you’ll need to take that next step. When we clear away our old beliefs and seek to see the world differently, we will be given the tools and lessons we need, and when we have those new revelations and move closer to awakening, then we’ll all get to say: “Oh, Yeah!”