Mandarin Sermon Translations

  • John 3: 1-21 January 23, 2022

    What Do You Know?




    Thank you to Pastor Tim LeDrew’s reflection that inspired my reflection. I share some of his words directly with you this morning.


    感谢Tim LeDrew牧师的反思激发了我的思考。今天上午,我会向你们分享他的一些话。


    “What do you know? At one point that question used to be like a greeting, somewhat like the greeting some of you may have shared this morning, “How are you?”




    But when I ask, “What you know?”, it’s my intention to ask much more than simply passing on a greeting. So let me ask you again, “What do you know?” What are some of the ideas, assumptions, basic beliefs that you place your trust in, build your life upon?




    This is a vitally important question. It shapes our life of faith, how we trust or doubt God’s love for us and how we respond to our neighbours,




    What do I know? 我知道什么?


    I know that each day, if I eat oatmeal with chia and flax, flavored with cinnamon and fruit for breakfast, if I stay hydrated, and move my body, my intestines will be regular, dependable. I can count on this; I will be more physically, emotionally, and mentally energized.  But if I make any changes such as taking pain meds or muscle relaxants, the whole thing will be thrown out of whack. We know there are certain ways we can take care of our bodies that bring life, keep us regular and other ways that bring destruction.




    What do you know? What are some of the assumptions you place your trust in? What do you build your life upon?




    In the last couple of years, what we know, and can trust in, has been changing. Our lives have been anything BUT regular. What we know about COVID19 has continuously shifted…could it be transmitted on inanimate surfaces? Was it through airborne droplets or both? At first, we didn’t know if masks were protecting us at all…some were saying it doesn’t make a darn bit of difference, others insisted on it. Mask mandates have been controversial and in many regions in the US and Canada, people still refuse to wear masks. But NOW, we know COVID19 is transmitted by aerosol. Masks make a big difference. I heard a doctor say this week that N95’s is the best way to stay safe in indoor spaces. But they are in short supply.




    How do we know whom to trust? When we listen to the news or search the internet, what worldviews are informing the news we trust? Where are they getting their information?  What biases influence the way the cover the news? And how might our digital devices be tracking our preferences with algorithms designed to feed into one viewpoint?




    With the number of hospitalizations still climbing this week and the promise of restrictions lifting in February, perhaps like me you are flabbergasted that we are marking our second anniversary living with COVID19. We live with daily uncertainty. Some of you have waited months for essential surgeries on heart and hips, enduring multiple cancellations and rescheduling. Learning to manage pain with incredible patience.




    “Nicodemus thought he knew a lot. And in many ways, he did. He was a devoutly religious man. He may well have memorized the first five books of what we know as the Bible. He would have gladly given a high percentage of his income to the work of his faith. He prayed ardently every day. He fasted. He knew “lots” and likely was well respected in his community. Then he began to hear about Jesus. He became quite curious. You see, even though he knew a lot, I suspect that there was a deep hunger, a yearning in Nicodemus that wasn’t being satisfied.




    In this account of John, we notice that Nicodemus approaches Jesus by night. For John this is very significant. In John Jesus brings light, that dispels darkness on every level. So, perhaps that Nicodemus comes to Jesus ‘by night’ is symbolic to us that Nicodemus’ knowledge is far from complete. This darkness may also symbolize that Nicodemus didn’t want others to know that he was seeking out Jesus, that he wasn’t fully satisfied by what he knew and was practicing.




    Upon meeting Jesus Nicodemus begins the conversation. “Rabbi (a term of deep respect), rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Here, Nicodemus gladly shares his knowledge – what he understands about Jesus from his own experience. Nicodemus has a place for Jesus in his mind – it could even be a respectful place. Or he could be drawing Jesus out into order to trip him up.




    But Jesus won’t allow him to stay there – at a distance. Jesus loves Nicodemus. Now Jesus responds to Nicodemus. “No one (that’s pretty expansive), no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”




    There is some back and forth and then Jesus concludes his dialogue with Nicodemus by saying this, “No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” And a bit later Jesus adds, “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear 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.




    Nicodemus is beginning to be shaken beyond his certainty, beyond the deadly illusion that he has this Jesus or even God at least partially figured out, placed in a particular way within the limitations of his mind. He is beginning to question. “How can these things be?”




    So let me ask again, “What do you know?”



    At times in our later years, it’s tempting to appear to be humble and say, “absolutely nothing!” But if that’s the case, what have we been doing with our lives? Haven’t we been watching, listening, interacting, praying?




    Aren’t we sometimes caught up in wonder – wonder at humanity, at creation, at God? Ah yes, what of God? Do we know God?




    Like Nicodemus we may have heard all kinds of things about God – from our parents, our pastors, people we respect or even struggle with or both. We may have formed our ideas and opinions then about God – about God’s power and might, about God’s love, judgment, holiness, presence, and absence.




    But do we know God?



    Are we being born, as Jesus puts it in John’s Gospel, from above, by and through the gifts of God’s own Spirit? Are we experiencing God’s presence at least some of the time amid our lives, joy and pain, questions, wondering, new insights and awareness?




    Are we being enabled by God’s grace to trust God with everything we have and are, realizing deep within us that everything we have and are, including, this breath, this second, all our relationships are gifts from God?




    Or are we sometimes like Nicodemus, saying to Jesus and perhaps others, looking at the ‘signs’ around us, “we know” while still having a deep longing, a yearning for something, someone more than what we presently know and experience?”




    What do I know? For most of my life I have taken for granted the privilege with which I live. Since moving here to Canada, living in a North Delta multi-cultural neighbourhood, and now in New West where the impact of homelessness and addiction are also evident on our block, what I know about this privilege has been shifting. I was born into a family, who for generations benefited from ideas and privileges endorsed by white conditioning, that have shaped North American culture since the colonists first contacted indigenous peoples inhabiting Turtle Island. I am amid unpacking how this reality has informed me. How has white privilege shaped my way of seeing the world and my neighbours, relating with God, and knowing what I know. 


    我知道什么?我生命的一大部分,我都认为我的特权是理所当然的。自从搬到加拿大,住在North Delta的多元文化街区,现在在New West,无家可归和上瘾的影响在我们街区也很明显,我对这种特权的了解在改变。我出生在一个家庭,几代人都受益于白人所认可的思想和特权,自从殖民者第一次接触居住在龟岛的土著人民以来,这些思想和特权就塑造了北美文化。我正在解开这个现实。白人特权如何塑造了我看待世界和邻居的方式,如何与上帝联系,如何知道我所知道的。


    Now in my mid-50’s, I am examining what I know, what I take for granted, what I build my life upon. In what ways have I, perhaps unwittingly, maintained and upheld the ideas of white privilege, whether I want to or agree with it? I am asking myself such questions with the help of Layla Saad in her book called “Me and White Supremacy.” Listening to Layla is discomforting, challenging me to examine what I know, what I trust, how I carry myself in the world.


    现在我50多岁了,我正在审视我所知道的,我认为理所当然的,我的生活建立在什么之上。无论我是如何同意白人特权,我在哪些方面(也许是无意中)维护了白人特权的理念?在莱拉萨阿德(Layla Saad)的《我和白人至上》(Me and White Supremacy)书中,我在她的帮助下问了自己这些问题,听到Layla的故事让人很不舒服,让我不得不审视我所知道的,我所信任的,以及我在这个世界上是如何表现自己的。


    We have the privilege this morning, just as Nicodemus did long ago to hear Christ speaking to us. “No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above. No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.”




    Like Nicodemus so many of our certainties need to be shaken in the presence of God. God and God’s love for us and the entire cosmos extraordinarily and frequently, thanks be to God, goes way beyond our expectations and certainly our limited understanding.




    Let me tell you a story. In the early days of the AIDS epidemic, one of New York City’s most courageous and tireless workers against the disease was physician by the name of Joyce Wallace. To help stem the tide of the virus, Dr. Wallace allowed herself or perhaps more accurately was blown by the wind of the Spirit in new directions; she followed the light of God into places that many saw and felt were ‘dark’ places, not only treating infected patients but also cruising the West Side of Manhattan in a specially equipped medical van, paying people engaged in prostitution $20 to be tested on the spot for AIDS. Though she experienced the skepticism of many of her medical colleagues and the daily disappointment and heartache of watching patient after patient die, she refused to be dissuaded from her mission or confined by the conventional definitions of what was possible and impossible.




    Dr. Wallace drew inspiration from her mother, a teacher of brain injured children. One particularly powerful memory was when her mother had her class stage a production of MY FAIR LADY, and she gave the lead role to a young girl in a wheelchair. It never occurred to her mother, reported Dr. Wallace, that the audience, so condition by life’s boundaries of possible and impossible, would weep when the little girl rolled herself across the stage singing, “I could have danced all night”




    “If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe,” Jesus asked Nicodemus, “how can you believe, know, if I tell you about heavenly things?”




    Jesus was not moving Nicodemus toward a new theology, new ideas about God, but toward a new life, a new way of living with wonder, openness, and adoration. The point is not for Nicodemus to replace his old understanding, his so-called “knowing” with a better version of knowledge or knowing ‘about’ but rather to be opened, transformed in the intimate love of God for him, all people, and all creation. When the Spirit blows there is change and ultimately new life.




    To be sure there are important places for thinking seriously about God and God’s intersection with all of life. But as we do so we must have our thoughts tempered with humility, the awareness that all our thoughts and experiences of God, are still only glimpses of the wonder and blazing light of God.



    What of Nicodemus. Near the end of John’s Gospel, Jesus has been crucified. And there comes Nicodemus along with Joseph of Arimathea – and all kinds of spices. It may still be night – quite often there is still night even in the light for Jesus’ followers on this earthly plane. But God certainly has not abandoned Nicodemus. And Nicodemus is drawn, shows up. The aroma of his offering most certainly is being carried among us by the wind of God’s own Spirit. The Spirit blows where it will.




    Dear people- even now the Spirit blows among us through Word and Communing together, through people and events. Although our knowing will include a mixture of excitement and confusion, hope and fear, may we realize by the grace of God through the Spirit that we, as amazing and sometimes fumbling as we are, are most importantly known and loved by God. Blow Spirit blow, for Christ’s sake and the sake of the world. Amen.”



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