The Birth from Above
Preparing for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: One Day before Sunday (Year C)
Psalter: Psalm 82
Old Testament: Amos 2:12—3:8
Epistle: John 3:16-21
Psalter: Psalm 25:1-10
Old Testament: Leviticus 19:1-4, 32-37
Epistle: John 3:16-21
Life-giving God, heal our lives, that we may acknowledge your wonderful deeds and offer you thanks from generation to generation through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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 (John 3:16).
From the Church Fathers, through Martin Luther to John Wesley, preachers have stressed the sate of human loss - flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. We may be a descendent of Abraham, a faithful pious Jew, a teacher of Israel, but unless we are born from above, born spiritually, we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven, let alone even see it’s coming. Entering the kingdom of God, possessing salvation, getting into God's presence and standing eternally approved before him, is not something gained by human effort, or ingenuity.
To stand accepted before God requires a conversion of one’s whole being. It requires being born from above, washed new by the Spirit of God. Such a dynamic life-change demands a total renewal of our being. For our frail humanity, such a spiritual change is impossible. Our only hope lies in the hands of God. Only the Spirit of God can renew our beings; only he can give eternal life as a free gift.
So, life eternal is a gift of God's grace. We apply that grace to ourselves by trusting Christ. It is when we reach out to him as the only ground for our eternal security, that we receive, as a gift of God, eternal salvation. “Ask and you shall receive.”
The basis of this salvation, freely offered in Christ, is found in Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross. He dies in our stead; he rises on our behalf. In the cross of Jesus we die and we rise. We look to the lifted up one, and in that looking we are lifted up to glory.
The theology, encapsulated in our passage for study, has driven the Christian church to undertake mission, to reach beyond itself to the lost and broken. We recognize the essential need for personal conversion and so we preach for conversion. We proclaim the simple message that there is no way to get into the presence of the living God other than by a spiritual birth from above. This spiritual birth is offered to humanity as a gift from a gracious God, on the basis of Jesus' death and resurrection, and is appropriated through the instrument of faith. So, a mark of the Christian church is a love of the evangel - the gospel, the message of God's grace in Christ.
PRAYER: God of salvation, who sent your Son to seek out and save what is lost, hear our prayers on behalf of those who are lost in our day, receiving these petitions and thanksgivings with your unending compassion; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
More from Lectionary studies can be found here.