lenten journal: sunday sonnet #22


    John 3:1-17 was the lectionary passage today: Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus. One phrase in their conversation, which was translated in the King James as “born again,” has been a dividing qualifier of sorts in Christianity, unfortunately. Besides being born again (as in “one more time”), it can also be read as “born anew” (recreation with a new and different nature) and “born from above” (as in transcendent, or able to see with God’s eyes). I hesitate a little with all this explanation because a poem is a bit like a joke in the sense that explanation doesn’t necessarily help its impact, yet hearing the three ways the phrase can be read made me think what they all share in common is a sense of ongoing transformation.

    As part of her sermon, Ginger quoted from a prayer by Oscar Romero, part of which says:

    We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
    This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
    It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
    We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
    We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
    We are prophets of a future not our own.

    I’m grateful for the prayer for several reasons, not the least of which is that it serves as subtext for the closing couplet.

    sunday sonnet #22

    As a child I learned John 3:16:
    that I needed to be “born again”
    as if only one thing could it mean —
    walk the aisle and turn away from sin.

    “Again” is not the only option
    in translation choices are a few;
    others that are vying for adoption –
    “born from above”, and “born anew.”

    Semantics somehow shape the story –
    the very way we see and hear it;
    and when those options we ignore we
    can miss the nuance of the Spirit.

    Prophets of a future not our own,
    we plant seeds that one day will be grown.


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