I preached on John 3 last Sunday. Nicodemus coming in the night, asking what it means to be born again. God so loving the world that he gave his only begotten son. Familiar words and a text that many of us have stopped listening to because we’ve been given a specific set of lenses… For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son (to die on the cross for our sins) that whoever believes in Him (by saying a certain prayer once in their life) will have eternal life (by going to heaven with me, not hell with people who don’t say the certain prayer).
I spent a week of preparation cutting through the forest of my own cultural and religious baggage. In a clearing, I found an invitation to mystery rather than a list of answers. Jesus evades the four spiritual laws, a neat and tidy formula for eternal life and offers Nicodemus a mystery. A mystery that is embodied in the incarnational reality of Jesus’ life – flesh infused with God. God infused with flesh.
It is so easy when I come to texts like this to spend time on what feels comfortable and safe. But I could not avoid that this text asks for something. It asks for a yes, for a commitment, for a birth. I wanted to skip that part. I work in a mainline church where we don’t do altar calls and talk more about the work of the Spirit within us than call for a personal conversion.
Still holding the tension and nervous about where the sermon would land, I walked out to listen to the musicians warm up before the service. They were singing out with full voices, “Freedom is coming, oh yes I know.” They sang with conviction and power.Freedom is coming. Oh yes, I know.
I believe that. I believe freedom is coming. I believe our yes answers God’s constant yes to us. I believe that wholeness is possible. I believe our spirits can be born again. And again. And again.
So I preached for revival. I preached for conversion. I preached to invoke a “yes” from each one that was there. I preached with gratitude for the 3 year old girl who said yes to Jesus in my mother’s backyard Bible club. I preached with hope for the 40 year old woman who is in desperate need of courage, strength and daily conversion to do the job I am called to. I preached “yes” because I don’t think one theological perspective has the corner market on conversion or being born again.
There is good news to be told. Good news that shows up when we say yes to the mystery of God that showed up in the flesh of Jesus and continues to show up in our fleshly reality as well. Good news that brings wholeness, freedom, justice, hope and purpose. Good news that is asking us for a response, to say “yes” over and over again.