Rebirth

Spiritual Rebirth

I’m willing to bet that you weren’t born alone. When you came into this world, there was at least one other person in the room. None of us gets born alone. Your birth was work for your mother, that’s why we call it labor. You merely allowed yourself to be pushed. All of this doubly applies to our spiritual birth. God labors to bring us to new life. This may be why Jesus speaks about being born again, instead of using an eastern turn of phrase like, coming to enlightenment.

We often forget this mystery when speak about faith. Some people make a memorial out of the moment they came to believe. They remember the evangelists, music, scriptures, teachers, and books that influenced them. In all these little details, it is easy to forget the wind of God incompressible spirit. It blows where it wills without any dependence upon human communicators. We were not saved by being in that particular church on the night so and so spoke. We are saved by God, who in His prevenient grace stacks the dominoes so that they all fall in the right sequence for us and we get pushed into new life.

Consider Nicodemus. This man had become so thoroughly enmeshed in the brotherhood of the Pharisees that his thoughts rarely returned to the singular relationship he had with God. Ask him about his faith and he will speak for hours about his teachers and the respected elders of his religious order. Jesus silences him with one phrase, “You must be born again.”

This is not a command, but a statement of fact. Nicodemus isn’t being told to adopt a new set of beliefs. Instead, he is being called to return to the place where the only other person in the room is God. There is a purity and mystery to John 3:1-17. It deserves its place as one of the most quoted passages of the Bible.

Sunday, May 27, 2018
Pentecost 2
Trinity Sunday

Seeing

The story of Jesus and the Blind Man in John 9, is very ‘John.’ It’s funny and deep. Like the stories of the Cana Wedding (expectations), Nicodemus (rebirth), the Woman at the Well (understanding), it plays with a one word spiritual theme, in this case blindness. Like some super-Socrates, John crafts the dialogue so that we come to see that we don’t really see what we think we see about the spiritual theme. I remember reading this passage in seminary and for the first time, I got John. I had read his gospel many times without noticing that each thing Jesus says is misinterpreted and that leads to someone asking a stupid question. The answer to the stupid question goes way beyond what the person’s (or the reader’s) capability to grasp spiritual things. In the end, John tells us that you can’t see Jesus unless you are really ready to see Jesus.

    The pharisees ask the formerly blind man to rat Jesus out. The man responds by telling his direct experience. They respond by telling the man all the things their great learning has taught them about people like Jesus. The blind man says, “I only know what I see.” 

Sunday, March 30, 2014
Lent 4

Born Again

I’m willing to bet that you weren’t born alone. When you came into this world, there was at least one other person in the room, probably your mother. The room, in fact, was likely to be quite crowded, but the person who really mattered at the moment of your birth was your mother. She was in that moment, truly indispensable. The same thing needs to be said about spiritual birth. When a person comes to themselves and given the opportunity to find fulfillment in this world and hope for the one to come, they are never alone. There is at least one other person in the room, usually God.

 

Even in the church, we forget this mystery. When we tell our own birth stories, we often forget to mention the obvious, that our mother was radically involved in our birth experience. My son was the first in a series of seven or eight births that took place that night in the local hospital. The nurses and doctor were so busy that by the time morning came, they didn’t know our child from Adam. But, his mother did. There are many people who hover over our spiritual life, but only one mother-God.

 

Sunday, March 16, 2014
Lent 2
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