Murmurings of the Spirit within
The experience of Nicodemus: (A first person account)
Though I was a teacher of the Law, a Pharisee.
I was brought up not to ignore
the Prophets’ and the Wisdom writings,
so necessary to understand the Torah.
The description of the Law in Psalm 119
was something I was well aware of.
It frequently contrasted pride with obedience to the Law.
But in particular, in the spirit of Psalm 1
I often ‘meditated’ on the Law, day and night.
In our tradition it meant “murmuring”,
the silent interior recitation of its phrases in an undertone.
It was my daily antidote to pride and presumption,
faults that could well evade one’s consciousness.
For quite some time, I had begun to feel distant from my colleagues.
inwardly restless, and wrestling with pain
Jesus’ indictment of the Pharisees affected me deeply.
I was inwardly restless, wrestling with the pain
that comes from being part of a system
that has lost its authenticity and authority.
I was uncomfortable with keeping up appearances.
It expends a lot of energy, and most of us knew that.
The unease I felt with this situation did not go away easily.
My daily “murmurings” had brought me face to face with myself.
I prided myself on my clarity of mind.
knowing that it was a predisposition to honesty.
Yet I found myself increasingly side-lined
by my colleagues because of it.
I felt myself not only becoming critical of the system,
but also growing in cynicism and self-righteousness.
And that didn’t sit well with my “silent murmurings.”
As I groped in the dark, searching for an answer
I felt increasingly drawn to Jesus.
It wasn’t surprising that I decided to visit him by night.
I greeted him in the manner of the rich young man
who walked away from him, sad because he had many riches.
Perhaps it was the “murmurings” within me that prompted me to stay;
the spaces between one’s breaths that prompt us to listen,
to the inarticulate groans of the Spirit within.
Although I did not walk away, I felt embarrassed
when he said I needed to be born from above.
I was distracted and easily slipped back into seeking clarity,
perhaps to ease the pains of giving birth to the child within me
as his words echoed the stirrings of new life born of the Spirit.
The womb of the tomb was being laid bare
I was being stripped of my presumption and pride,
as I journeyed into nothingness.
Very ingeniously, “I’m not like this publican”
had been transformed into “I’m not like the other Pharisees”.
I presumed I had got it right, while the others got it wrong;
I prided myself on my being “subtle”
only to find that I had been “grossly” ignorant and arrogant;
I, a teacher of the Law had failed to understand,
reading the Law as one whose heart is exiled from the LORD
and so unable to sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign land.
Cyrus, on the other hand, not a subject of the law,
but attuned to the spirit which blows where it will,
was moved by the Word of the LORD, God of heaven,
to fulfil that which he had spoken through Jeremiah.
Then I knew that being a child of Abraham
is signified not so much by circumcision of the flesh
but by a circumcision of the heart
that allows us to resonate with his faith in the LORD.
In the Kingdom there is no distinction
between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and free.
I left him, dispossessed of my knowledge, renewed with inner joy,
content that my inarticulate “murmurings”
were a path to poverty of spirit
and that in him who did not cling to his equality with God,
I, though a Pharisee, could like him be a friend of sinners as well.
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