3-16-14 Unbusy: Breathing in Eternal Life

We continue today our sermon series Unbusy: Reconnecting with an Unhurried God. Today we will talk about breathing in eternal life. To understand this passage from John, you have to understand that the word in Greek for “born again” is the same word as the word for “born from above” and the word for Spirit, ruach, is the same as the word for wind or breath.

John 3:1-17 A certain Pharisee named Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin, came to Jesus at night.  “Rabbi,” he said, “we know you’re a teacher come from God, for no one can perform the signs and wonders you do, unless by the power of God.” Jesus gave Nicodemus this answer:  “The truth of the matter is, unless one is born from above, one cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said, “How can an adult be born a second time?  I can’t go back into my mother’s womb to be born again!” Jesus replied: “The truth of the matter is, no one can enter God’s kingdom without being born of water and the Spirit. What is born of flesh is flesh; what is born of the Spirit is Spirit. So don’t be surprised when I tell you that you must be born from above. The wind blows where it will.  You hear the sound it makes, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it goes.  So it with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” “How can this be possible?”  asked Nicodemus Jesus replied, “You’re a teacher of Israel, and you still don’t understand these matters? “The truth of the matter is, we’re talking about what we know; we’re testifying about what we’ve seen—yet you don’t accept our testimony. If you don’t believe when I tell you about earthly things, how will you believe when I tell you about heavenly things? No one has gone up to heaven except the One who came down from heaven—the Chosen One. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so the Chosen One must be lifted up, so everyone who believes in the Chosen One might have eternal life. Yes, God so loved the world as to give the Only Begotten One, that whosoever believes may not die, but have eternal life. God sent the Only Begotten into the world not to condemn the world, but that through the Only Begotten the world might be saved.

March 16, 2014

Unbusy: Reconnecting with an Unhurried God       
                Breathing in Eternal Life

OK, I have been fasting from electronics from 5:30-7:30 pm each day for the last week and here’s my first report. I noticed that at first I was saving things to do that would not need the computer or the phone for that two hour afternoon time period. I saved some things I needed to read. I listened to the radio, which I decided wasn’t part of my fast. I walked the dog.
I had to decide if I was doing this little experiment for me or for my family. Would I keep the fast when I was at church or just when I was at home? When I decided to keep it as church as well as at home, my desk got clean because instead of watching Facebook videos over the dinner hour, I was listening to the radio and clearing clutter off of my desk. So far I have not been a lot more available at home, but I’ve been more available to myself – to other things that are important in my life. It has been a nice week of noticing what I treasure.

One thing I’ve noticed is that I can spend an endless amount of time consuming juicy little bonbons of information – reading speculation about the plane that got lost in Malaysia, watching Facebook videos about cute puppies begging to be adopted from the local SPCA, reading articles about good preaching techniques, watching a story about 8 pronunciation errors that changed modern English. I can read dozens of e-mails from pastor friends, magazines, newspapers, some of which may actually help me with a sermon or class of some type – but most of which goes down the hole with all the other articles and useless things I consume.

Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night. Generations of pastors have interpreted that night-time visit as a fearful move, a way to hide from the growing number of enemies of Jesus. In that time though, teachers visited each other at night to learn from each other. Nicodemus may be showing Jesus some respect by visiting when he’s less busy.
Nonetheless, the interaction between Nick at Night and Jesus is so filled with double entendre’s and miscommunication that my friend Jim McIntire does a sermon modeled on Abbott and Costello’s routine “Who’s on First.”

Jesus tells Nicodemus, “Unless one is born from above, one cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus interprets Jesus as saying you have to born again and makes a bad joke, asking how an adult could be born from their mother’s womb a second time! Many read Nicodemus today think as rather dense, but we may have trouble ourselves saying what Jesus meant by “born from above” or “born again.”
It’s ironic in fact that we Christians are rather confident that the phrase used means ‘born again,” when it is more likely that Jesus meant “born from above.” Jesus goes on to explain that he is talking about the Spirit and the leading of the Spirit, like a random wind in your life. When we are open to the leading of the Spirit, we are born from above – each moment becomes so precious that it is like we are living eternal life in the present.
The gospels often talk about eternal life this way. Eternal life is a quality of living your life right now, with the presence of the Spirit.
When we have our lives full of clutter, when we are responding always to the messages of our phone or the comments on Facebook as though they are the most important thing in the world, we easily miss out on the beauty of life in the moment, of the Spirit’s life in our eternal Now.
Last week, I asked you to write on a sheet of paper what you might fast from during Lent for a day or an hour or a week. Today, I would like you to take a moment to breathe.  Take 5 deep breaths in fact and as you breathe, breathe in the beauty and the wonder of being alive in this moment.
Yesterday, as I practiced for this sermon by turning off the computer and my cell phone, I noticed that I was worrying about things that happened years ago. As I gently shifted my attention to the present, I noticed a stained glass window in our bedroom that I don’t ever remember looking at closely before.  It’s quite beautiful.
May you too during this Lenten season have the experience of being born from above.         Take in the wonder of eternal life in this present moment and, after you have had a chance to breathe deeply and reflect, write on a piece of paper a few of those treasures. Maybe you’d like to write them down twice, because I want you to put one copy of these treasures of your life, these gifts from above, into our treasure chest in front of the piano. While Matthew plays for us, take 5 deep breaths of life-appreciation, then write down one or two treasures. As we sing about our journey, or walk by faith,

Responsive Hymn: 2196 We Walk by Faith