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John 3: 1-17

Spirit Born


Let’s take a deep breath and open our hearts, mind, soul and spirit to receive the message that God has for us this morning. Let’s focus our thoughts on the mystic presence of the Holy One. Let us pray: Lord God, Lord Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit, please let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all of our hearts, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our Strength, our Rock and our Redeemer. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Author and Sister Maria Boulding has said that “All loving is a leap beyond our securities, and when God asks us to let go of everything that might seem to give us value other than His love alone, it is a very daring leap. In our hearts we long for this radical simplicity, but the emptiness can frighten us and tempt us to turn back.” Our relationship to God and our salvation is a free gift that God gave us through Jesus Christ. It’s not something that we can earn through good works, clean living or by a sharp or clever intellect. Love, God’s love for us, is the key. We read in the epistle of 1st John, “…we know and rely on the love (that) God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them... perfect love drives out fear.” It is God’s nature to love us, and reach out to us, even though we may sometimes seem to God like the upside-downside of what we know to be Christian!

So, what is your conception of God, and who is God to you? And how does God look to you? In today’s scripture lesson, we see the Pharisee Nicodemus, a member of the ruling Jewish Sanhedrin, wrestling with these questions. Nicodemus has been watching, listening and hearing, about what Jesus has been doing. And having heard the reports of what Jesus has done, old Nicodemus has gotten word that here, MAYBE, is the long-awaited Messiah. It’s hard to know for sure, because it has been over 400 years since God spoke to the Jewish people and Israel, through a prophet. AND, if we go back to the end of the last book of the Old Testament, to the Book of Malachi, we read Malachi prophesying that, God “will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord!”

So, if you haven’t been aware of John the Baptist coming in “the spirit and power of Elijah,” then you would, like Nicodemus, have a problem. Is Jesus the Messiah? Is He “the One to come,” or as even John the Baptist stated, “are we to look for another.” Who is Jesus? So, in today’s scripture lesson we read, “Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council…came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come

from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him."

Picture this: the Pharisees were the ones with all the answers; they were the ones who, in their perceived righteousness, couldn’t hear or understand, what Jesus was saying to them. So, Nicodemus, an old Pharisee, a ruling Pharisee, comes to the young Jesus for answers. Who are you (?), Jesus, is really what Nicodemus is asking. He at least comes and asks the questions; he’s left the other Pharisees and comes to see for himself. He’s a “show me” kind of guy! His encounter with Jesus becomes the old learning from the young. And Jesus doesn’t disappoint. He brings new spiritual thoughts that changes the spiritual world forever.

Jesus speaks to Nicodemus, and us, about the spiritual aspects of all life. Jesus says to Nicodemus, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” And Nicodemus answers back to Jesus: “How can a man be born when he is old? Surely, he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." "How can this be?" Nicodemus asked. And Jesus answered, "You are Israel's teacher, and do you not understand these things?” I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still, you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things, and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?”

Earthly things: Secular things: Material things: In the movie, Angels and Demons, starring Tom Hanks, the movie begins in a laboratory, in Geneva, Switzerland, where there is the Large Hadron super-collider that is trying to isolate an atomic particle called the Higgs Boson, or what has been referred to as the “God Particle.” Until 2012, the Higgs Boson was probably the only non-antimatter particle that had not yet been observed, even though there was strong evidence for its existence. Experimental detection of the Higgs Boson helps to explain the origin of mass in the universe, and that is in part why it’s called the “God Particle.” The Higgs Boson is an integral and pervasive component of the material world. This particle is part of the material sub-atomic world that is earthly and material, rooted in space-time. My point is that we know more and more about the material world we live in, while knowing less and less about our inner spiritual selves!

So, getting back to our scripture lesson for today, Jesus is trying to help us find ourselves, and see that there is more to life than what our consciousness perceives—more to life than material elements and space-time--more to life than what we see, feel and touch. Jesus is saying that there is a completely different realm of Spirit and a spiritual other-world that we can be a part of; and that we must first be “born again’ to enter into this spiritual world. This is Jesus assuring us that there IS a place where God stands ready to receive each one of us.

Why would God do this? Why would God open the gates of eternity for us wee folk? Because "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” The whole world. “Greater love has no one then this, that they give their life for that of another.” Redemption originated in God’s great love for us. Notice the phrase pairs in John 3:16: God and the Son; loved and gave; the world and whosoever; believe and have; not perish but have life. In Christ, the judgment has already happened, and the turning point for each of us will be how we respond to this fact. The light of Christ is the spiritual light that brings consciousness, illumination, knowledge and enlightenment through our baptism. The psychological sense of darkness is a Jungian idea that spiritual darkness darkens the mind, which results in ignorance, moral depravity, psychological indiffernce and death. Jesus tells us that spirit is beyond what we can see and measure, beyond the material and the visible, and even the invisible. Yet, in doing so, He invites us into a heavenly realm of spirit by telling us that we must be born “of water and of spirit.” It brings us back to the memory of our baptism, the moment where we step into the womb and water of spirit and come out, filled with the Holy Spirit. It is an invitation to eternal life that we would be crazy not to accept.

Natalie Wigg-Stevenson has written, “We’re so used to ‘born again’ language that Nicodemus’ question can sound, well, …dumb. He’s too literalist…But think how strange Jesus’ suggestion to be born again would sound if you’d never heard that phrase. Christians who want to rescue the idea of being born again from its right-wing connotations might find resources in that strangeness. The idea of being born again has calcified around a narrow criterion. But I think Jesus meant for it to be more like a posture, an orientation—a continual disruption of all we think we’ve figured out about God so that the living God can always come to us anew.”

John Sanford states, in his book “Mystical Christianity”, “Consider what a powerful image we have here! —the image of going back into the maternal womb to be born again as a new person. Nicodemus took this idea concretely; Jesus will take it symbolically. Jesus is referring to what can be called “the womb of God,” and here we have one of the biblically feminine metaphors for God…If God is like a great psychic womb in which we are reborn, then God must be “feminine” as well as “masculine,” “maternal” as well as “fatherly.”” Ultimately, we know that Nicodemus finally gets it, because after the crucifixion of Jesus, he is one of the Pharisees who risks his life and reputation to take away the body of Jesus for burial. Nicodemus gets it; do you? We are born again in spirit because of God’s love for us. We have the invitation, from the Son of God Himself, to be spirit born.

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Today, Jesus is calling us to be spirit-born and come into the Spirit-presence of The Lord God Almighty! Are you ready?

Let us pray.

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