"Born Again" / Sermon / Pr. Ted Giese / Trinity Sunday / May 27th 2018 - / John 3:1-17
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday May 27th 2018: Trinity Sunday / John 3:1–17 "Born Again"
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, 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 the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And 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, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Jesus says, ‘You must be born again.’ When did this happen for you? For Lillie Mclean it happens today in our 11am Divine Service. But she’s just a baby, in the grand scheme of things she’s only just been born why does she need to be born again so soon? In our Gospel reading today the Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews had come to Jesus in secret because he was struggling with his faith: Jesus had caused Nicodemus to wrestle with what he knew and what was being revealed to him in Christ Jesus – the second person of the Holy Trinity. If Nicodemus would be born again it would surely be because of his sincere grappling with his faith and a final acceptance of the truth of who Jesus is; that Jesus is in fact actually God, the uncreated infinite eternal almighty Son of God, true God and true man, right? And Lillie, well she’s too little to wrestle with big ideas like that; therefore she’s too little to be “born again,” if that’s what it means to be born again? What does it mean to be born again?
The phrase “born again” in this week’s Gospel reading made me think back to a time years ago when I was in my undergraduate degree living in Halifax Nova Scotia, going to art school there. At the school there were three openly Christian men, students at the school who were willing to talk publicly about their Christian faith, and even include their faith, to varying degrees, in their work. I was one of them and then there was a Lebanese Orthodox guy Camille Zakharia and a guy from the State of Maine, Erick Michaud, who was a Born Again Christian. That was really the first time I had contact with a “Born Again Christian.” And to Erick’s credit he accepted my infant baptism, and took me to be a brother in Christ even though most every Born Again Christian believes you must be able to make a decision for Jesus; you see I had been baptized at 10 days old. When asked by him when it was that I had been born again I had said 10 days after I was first born. I was even younger than Lillie is today. How old were you when you were born again, how old were you when you were baptized?
For people like Camille Zakharia, my Lebanese Orthodox friend, and for a majority of Christians the gift of baptism comes at a very young age and the emphasis is on the work of God, the command of Christ to go a baptize all nations and not on the persons intellectual or even emotional acceptance of the gift. We Lutherans like the Orthodox or the Roman Catholics and others don’t limit baptism to infants or children, we baptize all ages. Being born again can come even when one is old, this is why Jesus’ answer to Nicodemus is baptism when Nicodemus asks, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?”
This one baptism, as St. Paul says, is a baptism into one Lord, one faith – the Christian faith – one body - the body of Christ, one Spirit - the Holy Spirit. Over time I cherished this about my friends Camille and Erick. Today Camille Zakharia lives in the small Arab Kingdome of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf and Erick Michaud lives in Austin Texas in the USA and yet we in our faith are part of one body in Christ Jesus even if we are separated by great distances, even if we have not seen each other in years. Even if our public confession of faith separates us by denomination in this life we are still part of the same universal catholic faith, the Christian faith. And if we never see each other again in this life as brothers face to face, in Christ Jesus we will see each other again, reunited with each other as brothers face to face in the kingdom of God in our resurrection on The Last Day. I lived my life not knowing that I would meet these two men and in those days in that environment of art School that was so openly hostile to our faith I needed those brothers in the faith and they were provided to me just as I was provided to them; Jesus says, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” The wind of the Holy Spirit blew us together in those days and the wind of the Holy Spirit has blown you here today into this place and not just for you and your needs but to be here to help and build up those who the Spirit has likewise brought here: To bear the fruits of the Spirit toward them in their times of need as they bear them out for you in your time of need.
This Thursday at the Church we have youth from our congregation who will talk about the faith that they have been baptised into and then next Sunday at the 11am Service they will have their baptism confirmed. They will publicly receive the testimony of Jesus as it has been handed down to them, as it’s been taught to them and in this they will remember their baptism and the gifts given to them in it: The gifts that Lillie likewise received today in her baptism, the forgiveness of sins, rescue from death and the devil, and eternal salvation. In baptism regardless of the age of the one who receives it they are born again with these gifts, a Divine inheritance, for they are now a member of the family of God the Father with Jesus His only begotten Son as their brother. In this baptism they receive by birth from above, a new identity by adoption, a new name: Christian.
There is a word that is used when someone forgets their identity: Amnesia. And there is a reason why the Catechism teaches that we Christians need to remember our baptism every day, when we wake, and when we go to sleep at night, forgetting to do so increases the risk of developing a kind of spiritual amnesia; Where you begin to forget that in Baptism you are bound to God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity. If your baptism slips between the fingers of your mind like sand, your identity as a child of God can slip between the fingers of your mind too and in the forgetting your identity as one who has been “born again” is in jeopardy. Because this one baptism binds you to the name and persons of the one true God the negligent disregard and ignoring of your baptism becomes a breaking of the 2nd Commandment, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.” In this case the name into which you are baptized. Do you find yourself up to your neck in sin because you failed to remember that you are a Christian, that you have been sealed into the name of Christ Jesus? Is this you? Do you fail to fear and love God as a baptized Christian in your work, with your family, with your friends and neighbours? Do you fail to remember your baptism or to call upon the name of God as a baptized child of God in every time of trouble, do you fail to keep in mind that you are a baptised child of God when you come to your Heavenly Father in prayer, do you forget to praise God and give thanks as one who has been born again in Christ Jesus? Here we are not talking about people with physical dementia but folks who a fully capable of remembering that they are baptized but don’t or wont.
If this is you in full or in part there is forgiveness for your spiritual amnesia. Listen carefully: In Christ you are forgiven, in Him you are born again. He remembers you even when you forget Him. In His grace this is particularly true for the young who have yet to learn and the aged and those with genuine impairments to memory, and yes even for you. Therefore remember your baptism, and if you are not yet baptised come and be baptised it is for people of all nations, it is for people of all ages, it is for you because as Jesus said to Nicodemus, as Jesus says to you today, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” And this, dear friends in Christ, truly is a gift full of grace, as St. Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
If the one who has been born again desires to boast in their new life in Christ Jesus, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” Let them gladly boast in the One who lived His life never forgetting that He was the Son of God the Father, the one who had no spiritual amnesia, who remembered full well who He was every painful step to the cross, and who in His crucifixion kept true to His baptism where the Sprit descended upon Him and God the Father said from heaven said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” For we all are baptized into His blood, the blood of Christ Jesus, baptized into His death, Jesus’ death upon the cross, and into His resurrection, Jesus’ walking alive out of the tomb Easter Morning and His riding up the heavenly way to sit at the right hand of the Father. What belongs to Him belongs to you for in Him you are born again, “born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Ephesians 4:4–5, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”
 Ephesians 2:8–9
 Corinthians 1:31
 Matthew 3:17
 John 1:13