Psalm 119:49-72 • Deuteronomy 9:13-21 • Hebrews 3:12-19 • John 2:23–3:15
Today’s readings include one of the most influential passages contained in the Bible, discussed at length and in depth by biblical scholars and the basis for many sermons in a variety of Christian churches—including St. Paul's.
That passage is John 3:5 which is “Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.’’ This particular passage is considered relevant to baptism, a sacrament of Christian churches. As we heard recently at St. Paul’s, the priest finalizes the rite by saying “you are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.”
If only it were that easy: Water, Spirit; Done. Extending my reading on the scholarly interpretation of this passage was a true eye-opener about the conflict and controversy within and between the Christian churches about the meaning of the phrase “born of water” in both physical and metaphorical contexts. Does it refer to the mother’s amniotic fluid, so anyone who is born is “born of water,” or does it refer to baptism as we practice it? And how does this relate to being “born again”? I know what my faith community’s understanding is, yet there is less than unanimity, to say the least. How will we ever move toward communion with other followers of Jesus, i.e., “the holy catholic (universal) Church,” when there is disagreement on something so intrinsic?
You know what? I don’t really care. Let the people above my pay grade argue about and discuss the meaning of the phrase “born of water.” I just know that I am “born of water” thanks to my Mother, and I have been “born of water” by being baptized with water poured over my head. Rather, I am more focused on being “born of Spirit,” which is why the words of Psalm 119: 64-68 have much more importance for me.
O Lord, you have dealt graciously with your servant, according to your word. / Teach me discernment and knowledge, for I have believed in your commandments. / Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep your word. / You are good, and you bring forth good; / Instruct me in your statutes.
And let others debate.
— Diane Wakat