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Message for 12 March 2017–“Spiritually Reborn” (Second Sunday of Lent)

Consider something so obvious as to be almost silly:  everybody who reads this has been born. Sure, we can playfully call attention to something as undeniable as our own existence. But the next topic, spiritual birth, isn’t as obvious.

John’s Gospel reveals a great story about Jesus meeting a man named Nicodemus, someone described as “a leader of the Jews” (John 3:1). Jesus spoke with Nicodemus about the necessity of being spiritually reborn, what Jesus described as “being born from above” (John 3:3). Nicodemus was confused at first because Jesus used language describing physical birth.

People can be born into two worlds. The first world is that of everyday reality, the typical scenario of a biological childbirth. You’ve already achieved birth, or else you wouldn’t be reading this. However, the second type of birth is spiritual, a form which, in contrast to physical birth, is your choice. Being born into either the material or spiritual worlds is challenging. You are a resident within political boundaries such as a state and nation but you can also choose to accept God’s redemption, thereby becoming a citizen in a heavenly kingdom.

Jesus’ use of the term born from above is similar to spiritual birth, awakening, enlightenment or even the more controversial born again.  Jesus masterfully uses the provocative metaphor of birth to describe the magnificence of spiritual life.  “Are you born from above?” Some people ask this question by loading it with unspoken assumptions, implying that you can only be born again/born from above if you follow a certain narrow set of beliefs. Using biblical language as a weapon or ideological litmus test is regrettably common. Your response needn’t be to throw out the spiritual baby with the theological bath water. Being reborn is entirely good, despite how some people try to stuff their baggage of belief down others’ throats.

Spiritual birth can refer to an awakening and awareness of life-changing spiritual realities, such as God’s redeeming love. Jesus was inviting Nicodemus into an intentional spiritual life, a miracle of spiritual rebirth. All of this is driven by God’s awesome power to redeem people, providing eternal fulfillment to all who accept God’s gift. “For God so love the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). Yearning for and accepting God’s forgiveness and reconciliation is key to life renewal process and a state of wellbeing.

There is a sense of mystery surrounding spiritual birth. How does a person know when God’s Spirit is at work? It is the effect that alerts to God’s presence. Therefore, as love becomes more of who you are then that is an indicator of spiritual rebirth. Are you reminded of your spiritual nature? Have you been born of the spirit as Jesus described?  Being born from above/born again is more than a Right-wing slogan shouted by fundamentalists thumping thick black Bibles. Spiritual rebirth is available to you, and to anyone willing to be transformed by God’s love.

How does spiritual birth occur? As you become open to and aware of God, the choice of rebirth arises, just as when Jesus encouraged Nicodemus. As you are transformed, so also are you blessed with the evidence of the Spirit revealed through revitalized thinking and behaving—a life demonstrating God at work through spiritual rebirth. Choose God and you’ll experience heights of meaning and purpose not possible any other way.

–Reverend Hoxey