Un-Natural Birth

John 3:1-17

“Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.  What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is Spirit.  Do not be astonished that I say to you, you must be born anew.”

A story is told of a little girl who was asked to write an essay on “birth.”

She went home and asked her mother how she had been born.  Her mother, who was busy at the time, responded by saying:  “the stork brought you darling, and left you on the doorstep.”

Continuing her research she asked her dad how he had been born.  Being in the middle of something, her father also deflected the question by saying, “I was found at the bottom of the garden.  A leprechaun brought me.”

Then the girl went and asked her grandmother how she had arrived.   “I was picked from a gooseberry bush,” said grandma.

With this information the girl wrote her essay.  When the teacher asked her later to read it in front of the class, she stood up and began: “There has not been a natural birth in our family for three generations…”

When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus of being born from above – or being born anew, he too was not talking about a natural birth.  As he explained to Nicodemus, he was talking about a spiritual birth – a birth that was, and is somehow, supernatural.

Jesus said,

“Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.  What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is Spirit.  Do not be astonished that I say to you, you must be born anew.”

Though one is born “of water,” and “of the flesh” one must also be born “of the Spirit” – that is, anew and from above.

 

The breath of God, the Spirit of God, is the source of re-birth.  To be born again is to enter new life through and in the Spirit, a life centered in the Spirit of God.

 

The point of this text is that what Nicodemus needs is a spiritual rebirth, an internal rebirth, and a personal transformation.

I want us to think about our “un-natural birth,” about what it means to be born again – and about the mystery that is involved in it – the mystery of God – the God who made us and gave us our first birth – the God who saves us, by becoming one with us, dying with us and for us – the God who lives and works in us and gives us our second, our “unnatural birth.”

On this Trinity Sunday we are talking about the one reality of God in three different forms: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – creator, redeemer, and sustainer of us all.

We have and we know the God of Isaiah:

The God who is high and lifted up in his temple;

The God who speaks and brings forth all of creation;

The God who is judge, lord, ruler, king;

The God who is: “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise; In light inaccessible hid from our eyes.”

This God is strange to us; this God is beyond us; this God we dare not touch even though we know this God and He knows us; even though we see this God’s signs all around us in the earth, the wind, the air, and the fire.

And then we have the God who is in Christ,

The God who is Christ – The Incarnation

The God who is lowly, and humble

The God who reaches out and touches others,

The God who serves others,

The God who walks the earth with us; cries and laughs with us;

The God who calls God, “Abba, Father…”

The God who is tempted with us;

The God who hungers and thirsts with us;

The God who embraces us and encourages us;

The God who surrenders himself to death for us;

The God in whom we receive the promise of the resurrection

And we have and know God the Spirit:–

God the bringer of visions and of dreams;

God the source of strength and of hope;

God the supplier of healing words and of comfort-filling prayer;

God the wind, the breath, the air we breathe;

God the transformer, the one who gives new birth, new life;

God the presence within us and the presence all around us.

“Holy Spirit, truth divine, Dawn upon this heart of mine Word of God inward light, wake my spirit, clear my sight.”

We don’t know all about God, not even close, God is always greater than our knowledge of him/her.

Sometime ago I heard a story about a three year old girl.  She was the only child in her family, her mother was pregnant and the little girl was very excited about having a new brother or sister.   Within a few hours of the parents bringing their new baby boy home from the hospital, the girl made a request; she wanted to be alone with her new brother in his room with the door shut.  Her insistence about being alone with the baby with the door shut made her parents a bit uneasy, but they remembered that they just recently had installed an intercom system, so they realized they could let their daughter do this, and if they heard the slightest indication that anything strange was happening, they could be in the baby’s room in an instant.

So they let the little girl go into the baby’s room, shut the door, and they quickly went to the intercom listening station.  They heard their daughter’s footsteps moving across the baby’s room, they visualized her standing over the baby’s crib, and then they heard her saying to her three day old brother: “Tell me about God, I’ve almost forgotten.”

This true story suggests that we know we come from God, and that when we are very young we still remember this, we still know this.  But in the process of growing up, of learning about this world, we increasingly forget the One from whom we came and in whom we live.

What so many of us lack in our lives is a sense of the mystery of God and of the mystery of the life that God gives to us.

We keep trying to develop one simple mental picture of God, one simple portrait of what our life in God is like or ought to be like.

Many of us like to think that things are either black or white – and we will go to great lengths to fit things around us into one or the other category – but God is greater than any category – any system of thought or classification, and so is our life in him.

God is just and holy; demanding perfect obedience, yet God is merciful and forgiving, willing to forgive unto the seventh generation.

We are sinners, unworthy to touch the hem of the gown worn by Christ, yet we are all God’s children, intimately acquainted with his Spirit, joint heirs with his Son of all the riches of heaven.

Our God is a mystery and the life that our God gives us is a mystery, but because God, within that mystery, touches us, it is mystery that we can experience and savor and know.

As we realize what it means to be a Christian, and as we yield ourselves to the outrageous claims of Jesus; his claim to be the Son of God; his claim to be the way, the truth and the life; his claim to be “in” the Father, and the Father “in” him; something happens to our lives.  Our vision begins to change.

We begin to see new things in the world around us;

We begin to see the hand of God in the lives of people around us;

We begin to sense that God is reaching out to people and calling them;

We begin to sense that God is in people, struggling to convince them of the beauty that is in them;

We begin to see the world as a magical place, full of enchantment, full of purpose, and of meaning, and

We begin to feel compulsions to do things that we have never done before:

The compulsion to pray for others;

The compulsion to tell others that God is all around them;

The compulsion to suddenly stop in the midst of confusion and to thank God for little things;

The compulsion to simply take a breath and savor the fact that in that breath, in those simple things, there is a divine purpose too deep for words; and in so doing:

We begin to experience within ourselves a growing peace; we begin to experience in others, in their struggles and in their joys, in their sufferings,  and in their triumphs, the presence of the God that is in all of our lives.

Our life is not natural, we are constantly in the process of being born anew, being born again, and we thank God for that.

This experience of being born anew, being born again, is not something that comes to us as the result of our first birth; nor did we learn it somehow by going to this or that school, or by reading this or that book; nor did we earn it by living a better life than most other people around us,

It happens, as a result of coming to believe in God, and in his Son Jesus Christ, and asking him to be our God

As we believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we experience grace; we sense the giftedness in the lives of the people around us; we know the incredible miracle of the God dwelling within us; we know that we are born from above, and as in our first birth, the birth by water, we know it is totally miraculous, totally the work and the labor of another

And as a result of our experience, we come to see the words of the Bible about God as true; we come to see that God has revealed himself, and reveals himself still, in many ways:

The way that is written about in the scriptures,

The way that describes God as three, yet one,

The way that shows God as creator, redeemer, and sustainer,

The way that speaks of God as Father, as Son, and as Holy Spirit,

The way that tells of God being a loving parent, a dear sister, a dear brother, a loving spouse, a caring presence.

 

That, my friends, is part of the truth that Jesus spoke of when he spoke to Nicodemus.

 

“Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.  What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is Spirit.  Do not be astonished that I say to you, you must be born anew.”

 

Nicodemus had a hard time grabbing hold of that truth, he couldn’t quite understand how one could be born anew, it just didn’t seem natural to him – and it isn’t natural – rather it is divine; It is the gift from God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

 

As we gather to celebrate Holy Communion this Trinity Sunday may we feel the presence of God and be open to the mystery of being born anew, being transformed by the renewal of our minds, our hearts, and our souls; as we seek to live out our lives as God’s committed disciples.  Amen!