Born from Above

The Gospel reading on Sunday for the second Sunday of Lent was taken from John 3, where Jesus tells Nicodemus, “No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” When Nicodemus doesn’t understand, Jesus elaborates: “What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’”[1]

Jesus then compared the Spirit to the wind. It blows where it chooses, and we don’t know where it comes from or where it will end up. 

When Nicodemus, understandably mystified by Jesus’ talk about being “born from above” and “born of the Spirit,” responds by asking, “How can these things be?” Jesus answers by comparing himself, the Son of Man, to the bronze serpent Moses put on a high pole. Anyone who was bitten by a snake could lift their eyes to look upon Moses’ bronze serpent and they would live. In other words, Jesus was saying, Look to me and I can give you eternal life, a life born of the Spirit. 

Moments in our life when we have transcendent encounters with God can give us a “born from above” experience. My first was as a young boy having an honest, soul-wrenching conversation with Jesus in my bed one night. I immediately was enveloped with an incredible sense of God’s presence and love. Other encounters with God followed throughout my life, some powerful enough to shake up my life a bit and put me on a different spiritual path. 

About twelve years ago I heard Elaine Harris speak about the Cornerstone Community and recognized immediately that the Holy Spirit was leading me in a new direction. It was a transformational experience that led me to becoming a Benedictine and adopt an ancient rule of life. Little did I realize then where the wind of the Spirit would take me. My life hasn’t been the same since.

Being born from above is not the destination of our spiritual journey; it is the beginning. 

[1] John 3:1-17

Published by Stephen Isaacson

Stephen Isaacson is Prior of the Cornerstone Community, a lay Benedictine group within Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, Oregon. He has served in many other roles in the Cathedral and is currently the Co-coordinator of Outreach Ministries at the Cathedral. Prior to his involvement with Outreach or the Cornerstone Community, Steve was Professor of Special Education at Portland State University, where he also served as Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Education. During his career in academia, he authored a number of juried publications and instructional materials.

4 thoughts on “Born from Above

  1. Thank you for the reflection. I love your blog posts. They are artistic, spiritual and easy to read (nice font size for my aging eyesight). I am interested in joining the Cornerstone community.


  2. Would love to learn more about Cornerstone Community. I am Episcopal, and use Benedictine Daily Prayer Book for my daily devotions. Retired but life is mainly work and prayer.


  3. The pull-down menu under “Home” can lead you to a page about Cornerstone. We meet in small groups weekly and have monthly community meetings, all held at Trinity Cathedral (Portland). Elaine Harris offers a class on Benedictine practice every fall at Trinity, which is required for those interested in joining the community. Look for it next fall on Trinity’s website (www.trinity-episcopal,org). We’d love to have you join us.


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