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Readings: Ezekiel 37:1-14, Secrets of Heaven #2916 (see below)
Well, if we could resonate with Samuel’s anxiousness last week, we can certainly even more so resonate with the valley of the dry bones today. Our text tells us of the Lord bringing Ezekiel to a valley full of bones, a great many of the floor of the valley, all dry, and lifeless.
It is powerful imagery, and it was written to a people in exile. The Kingdom of Israel had fallen to the Assyrians and its people were scattered. The Kingdom of Judah held on a while longer but eventually was also defeated by Babylon and its people taken into exile there. God’s promise to Abraham, that they would be a great nation, given many hundreds of years before, now seemed shattered to pieces. They were not only defeated and subjugated, but not even allowed to remain in their own land. Understandably, many felt there was no way forward.
The book of Ezekiel depicts this despair with the imagery of the valley of the dry bones. Could there ever be a picture of something more lifeless? Not just a dead body, but bones separated from each other, dry and dessicated. It’s incredibly bleak, no space for hope, no space for life.
These images are full of symbolism of course, which is why texts like these speak so powerfully. Swedenborg writes that a valley represents our lower states of mind, times of obscurity when it feels harder to see the bigger picture.(1) We recall Psalm 23: Lo, though I walk through the valley of of the shadow of death. Valleys can be low dark places, difficult to see where we are, difficult to see where we are headed, difficult to see how to get out.
The Bones themselves represent to us our proprium, our selfhood, which in and of itself is lifeless(2). Our selfhood is very often an immense and effective gift; it can take us a long way, it holds us up, it structures our life. We rely upon our selfhood and that is appropriate and good. But our selfhood can only take us so far. The dry bones scattered on the valley floor represent to us the limits of our selfhood, the limits of self-reliance, the limits of believing we can do it all and control everything. And these bones are also so very dry, which represents a lack of truth, a lack of a way to structure our thinking and our acting(3). This definitely strikes a chord —how thirsty we all are these days; how often do we go to Facebook or the news, desiring to know something, anything, about what is the right thing to do in this situation, some little piece of understanding that might give us hope. And finally, the bones are scattered about, disconnected. We can see this reflected in our social state of course! None of us are allowed to be near each other. Virtual connection is wonderful but it is not the same, and it is reasonable to feel dislocated from those we are used to seeing in person. And in a larger sense, in times of crisis, it is also easy to feel disconnected from providence, from a sense of God’s care. Swedenborg writes that angels can easily see how things are connected but it is harder for us, even in normal times(4). And so we find ourselves in the valley of the bones: shadowed, scattered, desiccated, and seemingly alone.
I know that I am in the valley of the dry bones right now, my friends, I don’t know about you. This is a hard time. We are all grieving in our own ways and for our own losses. But what marks these past weeks, this time in particular, is that we are also experiencing anticipatory grief. We are grieving for things that might be lost, in the future: lives, livelihoods, and the way of life that we knew.
In the regard, there is one article that I have found to be really helpful, and I included a link to it in our newsletter for this past week (or see below). In it, grief expert David Kessler speaks about strategies for dealing with anticipatory grief. He says:
Unhealthy anticipatory grief is really anxiety, and that’s the feeling you’re talking about. Our mind begins to show us images. [For example], my parents getting sick. We see the worst scenarios. That’s our minds being protective. Our goal is not to ignore those images or to try to make them go away — your mind won’t let you do that and it can be painful to try and force it. The goal is to find balance in the things you’re thinking. If you feel the worst image taking shape, make yourself think of the best image. [For example], we all get a little sick and the world continues. Not everyone I love dies. Maybe no one does because we’re all taking the right steps. Neither scenario should be ignored but neither should dominate either.(5)
It is hard not to imagine the worst right now. Our minds are very naturally go to the dry bones in the valley. We shouldn’t shame ourselves for that, it’s our brain’s job to do this for us. We have been trained over millennia to project and anticipate potential dangers and avoid them; this is how we survive. Our brains are trying to protect us. But, part of the problem is the scope and nature of this particular threat. Only a small part of it is within our control, and it keeps expanding. And so our brains keep returning again and again to the dry bones, warning us, prompting us to act. We continue in anxiety. And this can be exhausting and debilitating.
But the advice from the grief expert is good advice. We can choose how we try to balance the images we are focusing on. Our mind will continue to do its job and will talk to us about the dry bones; let us give thanks for its capacity for foresight. And also, let us with intention focus on the other images that God has given us in the Ezekiel text: breath and enlivenment. For we see that the dry bones are not the end of the story, that God has something else to say, something else to prophecy. Our minds prophecy in their own way, speaking to our own personal context of survival and loss and how-to-get-to-the-next-day. But God also has a prophecy to offer; one that speaks in a broader way about resurrection and hope and answers our most basic and plaintive question: can these bones live?
God tells us: Yes, these bones can live! This has always been God’s most basic and fundamental promise: what seems dead to us can live again. It is the heart of the holy day we will celebrate in a few weeks. The empty tomb with the stone rolled away is the same as Ezekiel’s valley where bone joins to bone, flesh and skin and breath come into being, and a nation of people figuratively come back to life. “Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them.”(v13)
God can be relied upon to take the initiative, for this is the one true purpose of Providence, to always and forever bring us out of the valley that we find ourselves in, to give us a hand up and out of the graves we have dug for ourselves, to walk alongside us in any challenge that befalls us. God will bring life to the crucified parts of our lives, and in order to show us that this is so, God went first.
Now, enlivenment does not always arrive in the ways we might imagine. And no, we don’t get to direct the process or decide how and where the life and breath manifests. If we were in charge, we would just want things to go back to exactly however they were. When the people of Israel finally got to return to their land, it wasn’t the same as before. They had to rebuild their cities, they had to rebuild their society, they had to rebuild their relationships. And it wasn’t without challenge. But this rebuilding brought them closer to each other, and closer to their God. God hasn’t promised a lack of danger or difficulty; God has promised resurrection. God has said “I will put breath in you and you will come to life.” (v6). We just get to decide if we are open to it. We get to decide if we want to imagine it. We get to decide to make space for it.
In the valley of the dry bones, we find that we have reached the end of our selfhood. A necessary end, a painful and anxious one to be sure. But God whispers in our ear: “I will put my spirit in you and you will live.” May we see this vision God has promised us, and may our breath and the breath of God, join together as one.
1 The hand of the LORD was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign LORD, you alone know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’ ” 7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’ ” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army. 11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’ ”
Secrets of Heaven #2916
In the internal sense of the Word 'a grave' means life, which is heaven, and in the contrary sense death, which is hell. The reason it means life or heaven is that angels, who possess the internal sense of the Word, have no other concept of a grave, because they have no other concept of death. Consequently instead of a grave they perceive nothing else than the continuation of life, and so resurrection…Now because 'burial' means resurrection, it also means regeneration, since regeneration is the primary resurrection of a person, for when regenerated we dies as regards our former selves and rise again as regards the new. It is through regeneration that from being a dead person we become a living one, and it is from this that the meaning of 'a grave' is derived in the internal sense. When the idea of a grave presents itself the idea of regeneration comes to mind with angels…
See also on YouTube at https://youtu.be/mKfwqgKdFFc
Readings: I Samuel 16:1-13, Secrets of Heaven #9954 (see below)
Samuel was the last of the great judges of Israel. Earlier in I Samuel, the people of Israel had decided that they wanted a king to rule them, instead of judges (who were much like prophets). God acquiesced and Saul was chosen. But over time, Saul began to rely on his own judgment more and more and less upon Samuel, as God’s prophet. Saul began to make decisions that benefited himself over the common good.
This is where we enter the story with our text. Samuel is worried. The state of things feels uncertain. The people of Israel are now ruled by an unbalanced and increasingly despotic leader. Samuel mourns, and is not sure what to do.
Perhaps we can relate to Samuel’s sense of unease; a feeling that things are on a downward spiral, not sure how or when things will get better. Afraid to act, afraid to not act. And Samuel is genuinely terrified. He feels the weight of responsibility for the wellbeing of the people of Israel upon his shoulders, yet he knows he cannot act against Saul without experiencing reprisals.
What happens? In conversation with the Lord, Samuel learns that God is with him. God hears him. God is empathetic, yet issues a gentle challenge. Time to move…you are going to need a new king.
We don’t take this literally in our own lives, of course. Yes, we do have an election coming up this year, but that is not what this story means internally, what it means to our hearts, minds and spirits. This story is prompting us to question, what rules within us? What assumptions have we been carrying with us that no longer serve? Do we need to re-evaluate the things to which we have given allegiance? Do we need to re-evaluate the way we have understood what is important?
In times of crisis, we are invited into a deeper understanding of truth. This is what David, the new king, represents(1). But Samuel knows nothing of David yet. He is still understandably uncertain, fearful, mourning. Into that state, God speaks. Fill your horn with oil.
Swedenborg tells us that a horn represents the power of truth that springs from good(2). In states of uncertainty, what do we know for sure? Not much, except that what is real and enduring must come from what is good, must come from thoughtfulness, care, and sacrifice. The power of truth, its actual effectiveness, its realness, cannot come from anything else. So, we are first grounded in the principle that truth springs from goodness, and then we fill that horn to the brim with oil. Oil represents the essential goodness of love(3). So, we assent to the framework, and we make ourselves vessels for love, clearing out whatever we need to clear out so there is space within us.
What is this love for? What is it going to do? It is going to anoint a new king within us. Anita Dole writes:
When we realize that our understanding of truth has been too superficial and has led us to make mistakes, we recognize the necessity of a new understanding, and the Lord's love working in us discovers and anoints a new “king.”(4)
What does this king look like? Samuel certainly had no idea. God led him to the family of Jesse in the town of Bethlehem. And like all of us, Samuel thought the new king should look the part. But one by one, Jesse’s older sons are passed over by the Lord. Finally, Samuel asks if there are any more sons. Jesse answers that there is only the “youngest” who is tending the sheep. The Hebrew word for “youngest” here implies not only a lesser chronological age but also a lesser significance. But, this is how the “new king” within us always appears when the “old king” is still ascendent.
David arrives and we are told that he is “glowing with health.” He is small but beautiful. Completely overlook-able in the normal course of things but shining bright upon closer inspection. And immediately, the Lord says, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”
This is the one. In the last week and a half, we’ve seen a lot. We’ve seen incompetence, greed, derision, carelessness, fear. But we’ve also seen healthcare workers putting their lives on the line to go to work, teachers rushing to create online schoolwork for their students, communities packing lunches, throwing food drives, taking care of each other. A multitude of small, beautiful things. In a time of crisis, things become clearer. We pass over the goals and choices that would have turned our heads before, so many Jesse’s sons, and make space for the diminutive shepherd-king who seemed insignificant just moments ago.
And this is a process that is not dependent on the coronavirus, of course. This is the process that drives our regeneration, our spiritual journey, all the time, over and over. Much of the time our crises are individual; what is different now is that we are sharing this experience together.
But I must make a note on self-efforting: as aspirational and inspiring as the anointing of David may sound, a lot of the time we are inhabiting the Samuel headspace of “How can I go?” We are exhausted. We are finite. We are human. So, it is important for us to know that God’s love is already working in us. It is not so much that *we* need to go out and anoint ourselves a new king by the power of our own self-will but rather that God is already anointing a new king within us. Our job is to partner and co-operate with God, to listen for God’s gentle promptings, and to try and throw up fewer roadblocks than we normally do.
Because, figuratively giving our rule over to a new king, it is transformative but it is also exhausting. We might be thinking: It’s all I can do is hold things together right now. Yes. Absolutely. Transformation doesn’t always look dramatic like a caterpillar to a butterfly. Sometimes transformation looks like getting out of bed. Sometimes transformation looks like asking for help. Sometimes transformation looks like remembering to breathe. David didn’t get to rule right away, with a bright shiny crown and a court full of servants. He was anointed and then grew into his kingship. And the first thing he had to do was go against a giant. So it is with us. A crisis will shake us, turn us upside down, make us question, and suddenly we are Samuel, uncertain, despairing, frustrated, shaking our fist at God. We say “how can I go?” and God gives us a way, one little step at a time.
None of us will be the same after these weeks. We will see the world differently because our hearts and minds will be ruled differently, organized differently. We have seen bravery in our midst. We have seen compassion. We have seen communities come together. We have seen a world suffering in solidarity and it cannot help but change us. It might be a relief when things go back to normal, whatever that looks like, but we can’t un-feel our fundamental connectedness, we can’t un-know the truths we have come to understand in a deeper way. And praise be to God for that.
“Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” Small, beautiful things. This is what will get us through.
Dear Church of the Holy City community,
I don’t know about you but I really like routine. A good routine brings out the best in me, not in small measure because I work more efficiently when I am calm. But these days, there is plenty to throw us all off balance, plenty to start feeling anxious about. And in that state of mind, I start to feel a little off my game, slower, dare I say even paralyzed. Unfortunately, then I start to judge myself, to feel bad about not being as productive or as on top of things as I would like, and I start on turn inward, away from my discomfort, away from the disquieting world. I become a little bit numb. It’s an understandable reaction, but not really how I want to life my life. But, what if we tried to see being off balance as a gift? What if we asked the question: what am I being invited to see in this slower time, in this time slightly askew? These are Lenten questions, the season we find ourselves in right now, even if we are living this season in a way that we did not expect.
To quote the poet Mary Oliver: Attention is the beginning of devotion. As we find that our normal ways of devotion, our normal ways of doing everything, are disrupted, what new pathways to devotion are asking to be uncovered? What things within us have been crying out for attention, for enough quiet, for enough slowness, to bloom? Attention is the beginning of devotion, and devotion is simply a way to become aware of God’s constant presence with us. Let us pause, and breathe, and take notice. Let us notice what kindnesses are due, what offerings are rising up, what insights are awakening. Let us notice our neighbor, our family, our environment with new eyes. Let us notice the forgotten, the left behind and the lonely. Let us notice each other. And then let us act in love. For as much as these last days have created inconvenience, disappointment and worry, so too do they speak to an enormous communal selflessness. We have disrupted the normalcy of our lives for the sake of others, for the sake of the common good. These days have laid bare the truth of our essential connectedness; may this lesson settle eternally in our hearts, may it be bound up unbreakably with our very DNA, may it become our true north and our bright star. May we never forget that we belong to each other.
And finally, I offer a prayer from my favorite Australian cartoonist and poet, Michael Leunig:
God help us to move slowly:
To move simply:
To look softly:
To allow emptiness:
To let the heart create for us.
So, as announced previously, Sunday services at The Church of the Holy City have been suspended for the time being. For this Sunday, I invite you to worship with The Swedenborgian Community Online (www.swedenborgiancommunity.org), and Rev. Cory Bradford-Watts. They will offer a live YouTube service on March 15th at 8pm EDT. You can also access all their other archived services and interviews at that website. For the following Sunday (March 22nd), The Church of the Holy City will be offering an online worship service. Please look for details on how to access that service in our upcoming newsletter, and on our website and Facebook page.
Thank you dear community! Please do not hesitate to reach out (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Rev. Shada Sullivan
Pastor, The Church of the Holy City
Photo credit: Berend de Kort
Readings: Isaiah 46:3-10, John 3:1-17, Divine Providence #82 (see below)
I do think that Nicodemus is actually a perfect figure to be considering in the season of Lent. During Lent, we commit to *doing* things a little differently so that we might *see* things a little differently. We might give up doing something we have come to rely on in an unhealthy way. We might make some space for doing something that we normally think we don’t have time for. And we do all of this, so that we might uncover truths about ourselves and the world we live in that help us to embody love more effectively; love for our neighbor, love for ourselves, love for our world, love for our God.
But as we do so, the process itself is not always instagram-ready. This is kind of the point. We are deliberately shaking things up a little, and that will put us off balance. We are exploring, we are opening up, we are listening, we are feeling our way, and we are not going to know where we will end up before we start. If we did, the process would not be enlightenment, it would simply be confirmation of what we already know and think.
So then, we might resonate with Nicodemus and the way that he seems off balance in front of Jesus, not sure what to say, shifting from foot to foot. He was a Pharisee, a leader of the Jewish church, coming to see a controversial teacher, with all the tension that this suggests. He brought to Jesus his own worldview, his own assumptions and habits of evaluation. He brought his devotion. And he brought his curiosity, as there was clearly something about Jesus that was nagging at him, something he wanted to figure it out. He wanted to know what was true. But he also came in the darkness. Darkness has a symbolic meaning in the gospel of John, that of obscurity and of separation from the presence of God. We recall the prologue only two chapters earlier: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)
This is how we often are during the season of Lent, and plenty of other times too, searching for the light in the darkness. We maybe don’t know why we are giving something up, or doing something new, except for the vague sense that it might benefit us, that there is something we might learn. We are in a necessary obscurity. We don’t know what will be revealed to us but we show up anyway. And we start from where we are and what we know, as did Nicodemus. He says to Jesus…you must be sent from God because what you have done is amazing…but in between the lines is the rest of what is unsaid…but you are challenging me with what you are saying, and I don’t want to let go of everything I thought I knew. I need the comfort of my rightness. He cannot even bring himself to ask Jesus a question. He just shows up embodying his dilemma, speaking out of his both his discomfort and his yearning, as we often do ourselves, during Lent or other times of spiritual struggle.
And so Jesus tries to give him some guidance, tries to broaden his view beyond the question of Jesus’ identity and towards the central task of being a person in this world: being re-made in the image of God. Jesus uses a metaphor to express this process: being born again. Now, because of the prevalence of Christianity in the world today, this notion of being born again is a very familiar one. We are used to spiritualizing this idea. But it probably wasn’t as familiar to Nicodemus. So of course, he is confused. He doesn’t grasp the metaphor. Maybe if we imagine Jesus saying instead that Nicodemus should replace his heart with a different one, or grow a new face, or even transform in a cocoon like a butterfly, we might appreciate a little more bit how strange being born a second time would have sounded, how easily Nicodemus might have been tripped up by the literal impossibility of what Jesus was proposing. Of course a grown man cannot return to his mother’s womb. No one can literally be born twice.
So, Jesus expands upon the metaphor a little bit more. He takes Nicodemus’ image of the womb, of a baby being born from water, from the mother’s amniotic fluids, and he says, yes, you must be born again but this time from water AND spirit. A spiritual birth. Just as we are built molecule by molecule, organ by organ, limb by limb, in the womb of our mother, so too we must be spiritually built little by little in the womb of our God, nourished and held in just the same way, birthed through contraction and challenge, but emerging whole and full of life into a new way of being, which Jesus calls the kingdom of God. This metaphor has spoken powerfully to the church over the ages.
And what the rest of the world calls metaphor, Swedenborg calls correspondence, for he understands this connective way of meaning-making and meaning-seeing to be the language that God speaks to us, indeed, the way that spirit and flesh are eternally conjoined. The world whispers a secret word and the spirit knows its meaning and in that shared understanding there is connection. We are born, and yet we keep on being born, our most basic and primal experience being the pattern for our continual journeying. And what I love about this text is that we can see the layers of overlapping connection in a couple of different ways. We are both grounded in our natural experience and invited forward into an expanding spiritual experience.
First, we are born from water *and* spirit. Our spiritual birth is not disembodied or disconnected from our natural birth or our natural worldly experience. Jesus takes the experience of our natural birth and expands upon it, infills it with an ongoing meaning and opportunity. We are not told to discount or despise our birth from water; it was a gift, it brought us here, it was a miracle. We are grounded in gratitude. And then we continually re-enact that birthing by adding another dimension to it, a spiritual dimension that requires and builds upon all of our earthly experience as container, anchor, and inspiration. Water *and* spirit, earth *and* heaven, body *and* soul, separate but not-separate, working in concert.
Second, in our spiritual process we are born from *water-and-spirit* together. We read in True Christianity 572:
To be born of water and the spirit means to be born of truths related to faith and of a life lived by those truths.
To be born of *water-and-spirit* means to create a selfhood out of what is true, and to create a life out of living according to what is true. In regeneration we are attempting to birth an integral oneness of soul; a cohesion of mind and heart that reflects the love and wisdom of God. Love that acts in wisdom, love that cannot help but to act in wisdom, love that is real and useful. And isn’t that exactly what we are trying to do here in Lent? Uncover essential truths about ourselves and to live authentically and usefully according to what we have learned? To figure out how to love more fully and effectively? Water alone cannot do it, spirit alone cannot do it, but together there is wholeness. Being born again connects heaven and earth within us, just as being born again also connects truth and good within us. Jesus’ words both ground us and invite us forward.
And while birth is liberating, it is also messy and unpredictable, and so it is reasonable that Lent might feel messy and unpredictable too. As we participate in God’s birthing of us, we come to understand that this process cannot be directed entirely by our rational minds, cannot be purely intellectual. We cannot be removed, play the game at a distance, leave some part of us enjoying ironic detachment. We have to care, we have to feel the stakes, because it is the caring that leads to the seeing of something new, and it is the caring that motivates us to live according to the truth we see. We read in Doctrine of Faith #13:
The “Inner Recognition of Truth” That Is Faith Is Found Only in People Who Are Devoted to Caring
…Caring originates in a desire to do something good. Since what is good loves what is true, this desire leads to a desire for truth and therefore to the recognition of what is true, which is faith. By these steps, in proper sequence, a desire to do something good takes form and turns into caring. This is how caring develops from its origin, which is a desire to do something good, through faith, which is a recognition of what is true, to its goal, which is caring. The goal is the doing of something.
We only search for the truth because we care to. We can only recognize truth when it matters to us. Love precedes the water of truth, every time, love precedes the birthing. The desire to do something good creates an impetus for the seeking, creates space for the recognizing, creates motivation for the acting. And sometimes caring feels uncomfortable, even unbearable, and absolutely exhausting. Caring feels likes ants in our pants, a prickle in our brain, an ache in our heart, a cry in our soul. Caring feels messy. But it is necessary. Our devotion to caring, our commitment to being invested in the world around us, this is what leads us to an inner recognition of truth. And that truth births us into new realities. Again and again.
So, it is okay to show up as Nicodemus. Not sure but curious. Wanting to have our old ways of thinking confirmed but knowing there might be something else beyond them. Staking things out under the cover of night because the newness feels too tender to subject to the daytime. Jesus shows up to this state of being with gentle challenge and an armload of metaphors, so that we might start to understand what God is calling us to. For God so loved the world…so very much.
3 “Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob, all the remnant of the people of Israel, you whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born. 4 Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. 5 “With whom will you compare me or count me equal? To whom will you liken me that we may be compared? 6 Some pour out gold from their bags and weigh out silver on the scales; they hire a goldsmith to make it into a god, and they bow down and worship it. 7 They lift it to their shoulders and carry it; they set it up in its place, and there it stands. From that spot it cannot move. Even though someone cries out to it, it cannot answer; it cannot save them from their troubles. 8 “Remember this, keep it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. 9 Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. 10 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’
1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” 3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” 4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” 9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. 10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Divine Providence #82
…The Lord teaches us that "No one can see the kingdom of God except by being born again." However, not many people know what "being born again" or "being regenerated" actually is. This is because people do not know what love and thoughtful living are; so they do not know what faith is, either, because anyone who does not know what love and thoughtful living are cannot know what faith is. Thoughtful living and faith are integral to each other the way what is good and what is true are, the way desires of our volition and thoughts of our discernment are.