Question: "Jesus told an incredulous Nicodemus that he must be reborn of Spirit. Mary Baker Eddy said that we can unite with Church only as we are new-born of Spirit. Why is being new-born of Spirit so important to growth and uniting with Church?"
Response 1: Lois Carlson
Think of the humility it must have taken for Nicodemus, a nationally known religious leader and Pharisee (also a member of the powerful Sanhedrin, a council of the 70 most outstanding Jews in Israel), to come to Jesus under cloak of night. Jesus explained that his teachings and healings were based on a clear understanding that the origin of life is Spirit. The conversation was earnest, but Jesus' answers were met with resistance and misunderstanding of what it meant to be born again. Great freedom was being offered Nicodemus to let go of his identity anchored in human history and live in the Christly relationship of sonship with God—to be new-born of Spirit.
This is no less than the struggle we each face: to let go of the pride of human intellect that argues persuasively for its own matter-based experience, opinion, and judgment. When Jesus said to Nicodemus, “We speak that we know. . .” (John 3:11). I think he was asking Nicodemus to remember the power—the spiritual impetus—that initially impelled him to come to Jesus.
What if every time we came to church, we honored our new-born life in Spirit? Moments of inspiration found through study and prayer aren’t really rare occurrences. They’re the natural consequence of God’s fresh, vibrant, uninterrupted conversation with us as His dear children. Remembering our healing experiences and spiritual insights—when the Christ awakened us from some fear or sense of isolation; when we found the courage to silence the accuser; when we knew we had no strength of our own but felt the strength and power of the Christ—these are the foundation of continuing spiritual growth that unite us with Church. Every time we newly honor Spirit as the substance of our being, the old belief in matter-based living is loosened. We become more alive and that aliveness can be felt by everyone we come in contact with in church and in our daily interactions.
What if our church work was always based on overflowing gratitude and awareness for our new-born life in Spirit? Then we’d meet and greet each other in a state of reverence and wonder, grateful that we come together in Church to learn more of our spiritual life from a broad range of people who are also having these glimpses of reality.
And we’d soon find Church not in just one location, but under-girding the very fabric of our lives. We’d notice in the routines of our everyday life the innocence, the compassion and honesty that continually percolate to the surface as evidence of our new life in Spirit.
This would keep uniting and reuniting us with Church. The Church that will always be new and alive.
Response 2: Karl Sandberg
For many who consider themselves to be Christian, this term may mean simply the acceptance of a religious doctrine or creed based on a personal faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior.
What Jesus presented to Nicodemus, and what Mary Baker Eddy wrote on the subject of spiritual rebirth in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, goes far deeper than the basic acceptance, by faith, of a religious doctrine or creed. This idea of being born again, or of being new-born of Spirit, indicates that a demand is placed on all who embrace the teachings of Christ Jesus to live in accord with those teachings and practice them, not merely believe in them!
The Gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus indicate that Jesus taught not only that the kingdom of God is at hand, that is, present, here and now, but also if people want to experience this kingdom, their daily lives need to conform to his teachings. And the promise he gave them and us was that if we follow his teachings, we, too, will heal as he did (see John 14:12).
Mary Baker Eddy so caught the essence of this concept, that she advanced the spiritual meaning of church membership, moving it far beyond the mere acceptance of articles of faith or religious doctrines presented by a specific religious body. The real essence of uniting with church, she maintained, occurs only as we demonstrate our understanding of God, divine Truth, through healing or, to use her own words, “… as we reach the Life which is Truth and the Truth which is Life by bringing forth the fruits of Love, — casting out error and healing the sick” (see Science and Health, p. 35).