he Rev. Dwight D. Andrews began his sermon at the 9:15 a.m. Monday morning worship service in the Amphitheater with a story.
There was a preacher holding a revival in a small church in a small town in Georgia. The house was full the first night, and as people came through the receiving line, a little old woman said to him, “You are something else.” Each day there were fewer and fewer people at the service, but the old woman kept telling him at the end of the service, “You are something else.” The last day, he thanked her for coming every day and asked “What do you mean by that?” She responded, “You must be something else because you sure aren’t a preacher.”
Andrews said, “I do like laughing at my own jokes, but I am here this morning to talk to you about divine dualities and about one of the most familiar passages in the Bible, John 3:16 — ‘God so loved the world that he sent his only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish.’ I want to talk about the context of that declaration.”
The title of Andrews sermon was “Divine Dualities,” and his text was John 3:1-17, the story of the encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus.
Nicodemus is described as a “ruler of the Jews.” He came to Jesus at night with a testimony of his own, Andrews said. He said to Jesus that he was a teacher come from God. Jesus told him that no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he or she is born again.
“To be a born-again Christian has become a slogan; born again equals conservative. Are you saved? I remember when I was in seminary going to visit people in the hospital. I looked pretty young to be a pastor, and the nurse asked me, ‘Are you saved?’ I answered that I was being saved every day. Being saved — being born again — is a process. It is not as if all our troubles end, as if life becomes flat. Life becomes more textured.”
Nicodemus did not understand the divine duality of water and spirit, of flesh and spirit, Andrews said. To be born again means both.
“It is not an either-or but a both-and. Jesus reminds us that we are not just flesh and blood but we are also spirit. In our modern world the spirit gets short shrift. But when I get up every day, I have to get my spirit ready for the day, too.”
Nicodemus asked Jesus if he had to go back into his mother’s womb to be born again. Jesus told him he needed to be born from above, that is born anew in the spirit.
“We live a spiritual life in a mortal body,” Andrews said. “We live in binary opposition in our world, liberal versus conservative, Republican versus Democrat. But [binary opposition] is not big enough for our human experience.
“We are spiritual beings living out life in a mortal body,” he continued. “How do we live together in the beloved community? It is a more complicated conversation. We have to have both-and for all of us to be in the house of God. This is a world that wants to label [people] before we know what the issue is. We need to get to the knotty texture and the hard conversation.”
Andrews said the question he hated most as a professor is “Will this be on the test?”
“I have just gotten to the nuances, just enjoyed talking about all the connections, and then I get deflated by the question, ‘Will this be on the test?’ ” he said.
According to Andrews, Bach was not just a consummate musician: He was a master of the language of music. Bach brought together folk music and church music and pulled the traditions together into a new way of understanding the music.
“Wynton Marsalis said that you have to master the notes but listen to the tradition and the music comes through you in a new way,” he said. “So many people practice the music but forget the expression; they play the notes but forget the music.
“I am not just a handsome African-American guy standing here before you,” Andrews said. “I am also a spiritual being, and I have to take of myself — my body — so I can do what God called me to do. I have a new sense of gratitude, a new sense of how complicated life is. There is a duality of flesh and spirit and because God gives it all to us, it is all good.”
The Rev. Robert M. Franklin Jr. presided. The Rev. Susan McKee, founder of Women4Women-Knitting4Peace and United Church of Christ minister, read the Scripture. Jared Jacobsen, organist and worship coordinator, directed the Motet Choir. The choir sang “Hear My Prayer” by Moses Hogan. The Edmund E. Robb – Walter C. Shaw Chaplaincy supports this week’s services.