“Born of Water and Spirit”

John 3:1-17 

Trinity Sunday, May 30, 2021

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

John 3:1-17

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.”

Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.

Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?”

Jesus answered, “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 said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”

Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

| Centering Prayer |

Have you ever been with another person,

Such that both hear the same words,

But each derives a different meaning?

Recently, I heard this illustrative story:

People in a hot air balloon are swept up in a storm.

When the storm breaks

They come out the other side

Of the wind, rain, and pitched darkness

Into completely unfamiliar territory.

They reduce altitude

And spot a farmer standing in the middle of a wheat field below.

“Where are we?” yelled the pilot.

“You’re in a balloon!” the farmer shouted back.

Thinking of a better way to rephrase it

The pilot shouted back again, “Where are you?”

To which the farmer replied, “I’m in a wheat field!”

Such is the case of Jesus and Nicodemus.

A leader of the Jews,

Schooled in the law of Moses,

Nicodemus clandestinely approaches Jesus

Under the concealment of darkness

Seeking understanding about the signs Jesus performs.

Clearly in the mind of Nicodemus,

These signs show favor or power from God.

The word in question

Is spoken by Jesus:

You must be born anõthen.

This is one Greek adverb with multiple meanings.

Nicodemus clearly hears it as “again,”

As demonstrated with his silly follow-up question

(“How can anyone be born after having grown old?

Can one enter a second time

into the mother’s womb and be born?”).

However, Jesus’ continuing commentary clearly demonstrates

He meant it to be heard as “from above.”

(Considerable linguistic insight provided by: Sharon H. Ringe, Professor of New Testament, Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, DC, as found at: https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/the-holy-trinity-2/commentary-on-john-31-17-3)

“No one can enter the kingdom of God

Without being born of water and Spirit,” Jesus teaches.

In other words,

The only way into our Heavenly Father’s kingdom

Is to have one foot in this world

And the other foot firmly planted in heaven.

Being born of water = think “this world,”

“Think the great flood with Noah and his ark,”

“Think the Red Sea parting for Moses and our Hebrew ancestors,”

“Think the baptisms of John the Baptist for repentance of sins.”

Being born of water

Should cause one to consider

how the God of creation

has a long history of rescuing God’s people;

saving us from unrighteousness, warring intent, and sins of the flesh.

But the world is not enough.

Baptism by water is not enough.

Perfect attendance in church isn’t enough.

Attending seminary and being ordained isn’t enough.

There is nothing humanly possible,

No human effort, no righteous deed, no feat so worthy

That will, on it’s own, open the doors to the kingdom of heaven.

“We are not saved by our works,”

the apostle Paul correctly interprets the Gospel,

“We are saved solely by the grace of God.”

And that grace is the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Being born of the Spirit:

Think the presence of Christ in the absence of his body.

Think wind, Jesus tells us,

“It blows where it chooses,”

(which is to say Christ’s mind is not our mind)

“you hear the sound of it,”

(our senses are aware of the presence of the Spirit)

“but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.”

(In other words,

don’t spent wasted time

attempting to understand what the Spirit’s next move may be.

Just let it go,

Just let it be.)

Simply be aware;

Watch for signs of the Spirit’s presence and movement.

Listen for it’s rustling.

Discern it’s intent.

Follow where it leads.

Let the Spirit guide you

From the here and now

Forward to God’s deepest desire.

“Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” – Jesus, John 3:3

Not “again.”

“Born from above!”

Baptized in this world and

Adopted by the Spirit of Christ

From above!

Though we struggle in a world filled with sickness, sin, and death,

The apostle Paul writes in his epistle to the church in Rome,

We have not been abandoned.

In Christ, God has adopted us

As God’s very own children and heirs.

(With thanks to Elisabeth Johnson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, Watertown, MN)

We have not been left behind

Simply with four historical books of the Bible

That tell us the story of Jesus.

We have been claimed and named,

Bought and paid for,

Accepted and included,

into God’s heavenly family.

The power of adoption,

Or huiothesia in the Greek

(Phonetically: hwee-oth-es-ee’-ah)

Cannot be overstated.

Think chosen,

Preferred over all others.

Parents who have adopted children may understand.

Adopted children might gain understand with age.

It is one thing to give birth,

It is something altogether different

To intentional lay claim to a child,

To gather them in and make them your own.

That intentional selfless act

Is but a taste,

Just an inkling of

The enormous gift of love the Spirit provides.

Grace is an order of magnitude beyond our comprehension.

We don’t have to understand it.

We simply claim it,

Live in it,

Bathe in it,

Drink it in.

Our scriptural lessons for today

From Isaiah, Romans, and the Gospel of John

Help to paint a picture of our Triune God;

A Father’s love that created us,

Made covenant with us,

Taught us how to live,

And desires our obedience;

A Father’s love who sent us his own Son

As a gift to humankind,

To forgive our sins

And to save us into eternal life.

The Gospel is a portrait of

A Son’s love

That taught us to love,

That showed us how to love,

That laid down his own life because of his love

For you and me.

This is what a Son’s love looks like:

Jesus refused to abandon us in the Garden.

By fulfilling His Father’s will

He enables us to call upon God

With the same loving intimacy we heard

Our Lord cry from the cross:

“Abba! Father!”

Jesus paints a picture for Nicodemus of

The Spirit’s love

That has chosen us,

Preferred us,

Adopted us as God’s own.

The Spirit’s love

Desires to abide with us, and in us.

The presence and guidance of the Spirit

Connects us with Christ and

Connects us with each other

As fellow children and heirs of God.

Dearly beloved,

Jesus is talking about

A God that will not let us go,

A God who loves us

We are His children,

Siblings with Christ,

Heirs to the divine inheritance

Of eternal life in God’s completed kingdom.

Come,

Be the Body of Christ.

Cry “Abba! Father!”

And lay claim to God’s grace and love

Given to you.

Amen.

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