Sometimes it is the details of the project that can get in the way of the bigger picture. Sometimes details can confuse the power of the real message. You ever start a project and get so caught up in the little details that you lose focus and can no longer see the bigger picture. Back in the 90s magic eye 3 D art, known as stereograms, was really popular. There was even a Seinfeld episode all about it. They were in doctor’s offices and in schools. Well I could never see the image in these paintings no matter how long I would stare at them.
My brothers would try to help me. My parents would try to help me. Each gave advice about how to look at the picture. Look beyond the details, just don’t focus your eyes. I would get so frustrated. How could I not focus my eyes and how could I look beyond the details. I just couldn’t do it and still cannot manage these. I know this painting has a shark somewhere in there. I know that there are shapes that jump out at others, but this does not work for me. I get caught up in all these little lines and designs.
I believe today’s scriptures are very similar to these stereograms. Like the stereograms we are to look beyond the logical details and at the overall picture of God and God’s love for humanity beyond the troubles or successes of this life. This was what Nicodemus struggled with. I can identify with Nicodemus. Like Nicodemus sometimes I get bogged down in the details missing the true message of Christ in the words. But unlike Nicodemus we do not need to give up. In fact, it is important that we don’t just give up on trying to see the picture of salvation and grace that God affords to all of us. Sometimes we need to stop focusing on the rules, regulations, or the exact words and allow God to reveal himself and his plans to us in those moments.
Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin. This meant he was an expert in the law. He was a lawyer and a judge. For him, the details mattered and mattered quite a bit. Yet in Christ, he recognized that God was doing something new. In the message Christ shared, God was revealing something new. This was the whole reason for him to go to Christ under cover of darkness. He was curious and wanted to understand. Yet when Christ tried to educate and share with him, he struggled. The laws, the details of the past skewed the image of what God was creating. It clouded his vision. The same happens with us. Sometimes the details of life skew our ability to see the new and wonderful works of God in our lives and in our world.
Like the stereogram, we are not always able to see past the surface to the promise beneath. There are times when I look at this image and doubt the existence of the shark beneath. But I trust the words of my friends and family who assure me that it’s there and so I keep trying, I keep looking, I keep my curiosity alive. Philip Yancey, a 20th century Christian writer, wrote, “I have learned that faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse”. I know I must work to trust in the Lord. I must seek to see him at work, I must allow my curiosity to open my heart to the possibilities of the Holy whatever they may be. This is what we are all called to grapple with in life. We are all called to work to open our hearts to the leading of God and not let the little details distract from his possibilities. For some people this will be easy, for others this will be a constant struggle in life.
Just as the Jews who made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, learned to trust in the protection and presence of the Lord amidst bandits, the ravages of the heat, illness and disease. So too we need to face all that plagues us in our lives and see the work of God, we need to bravely face this life, this world and know that our God watches over us, cares for us, journeys with us, and creates anew in our lives and world. Do you see it? Or is something blocking your view? Remember what Christ said to Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes may have eternal life”. God gave us a leader; he gave us a teacher; he gave us a living human reminder that he is with us. He grieves with us, he feels our pain, and he walks our lives with us. God speaks to us. We are only asked to have faith, to believe, and to trust that God is doing something new and wonderful. God loves each of you. Walk with him, love him, and look beyond this life, beyond the rules, and beyond common sense and just listen and hear God’s words, look and see God’s salvation, and build your faiths.
 Philip Yancey, 20th century.
 John 3: 16, NRSV.
(based on Psalm 121 and John 3: 1-17)