I was (finally) cleaning out some old storage containers and I came upon a onesie that both my daughters wore. I saved it because it was my favorite. The puppy-flying-an-airplane motif seemed just right for a family of dog lovers whose Daddy is a pilot. I was glad to find it, because it made a perfect object for my children’s sermon last Sunday.
John 3 (The Message)
3 1-2 There was a man of the Pharisee sect, Nicodemus, a prominent leader among the Jews. Late one night he visited Jesus and said, “Rabbi, we all know you’re a teacher straight from God. No one could do all the God-pointing, God-revealing acts you do if God weren’t in on it.”
3 Jesus said, “You’re absolutely right. Take it from me: Unless a person is born from above, it’s not possible to see what I’m pointing to—to God’s kingdom.”
4 “How can anyone,” said Nicodemus, “be born who has already been born and grown up? You can’t re-enter your mother’s womb and be born again. What are you saying with this ‘born-from-above’ talk?”
This is a confusing story. We are confused, just as Nicodemus was confused. Explaining to the children on Sunday that my 5’10” daughter would never fit into this onesie again was pretty easy to understand. Obviously we aren’t meant to take a literal view of born again. So what was Jesus trying to get at?
When you think about it, becoming a new-born makes sense in the context of setting aside your adult preconceptions and seeing your relationship with God the way a newborn looks at her mother. Newborns are totally reliant on their parents for food, nurturing, learning, and life. Jesus is telling us to be new-born and rely solely on God for those things. We are to depend on him, not ourselves, for our daily needs. We are to look to him for what we need to learn, and not lean on our own understanding. We are to look to him to feed us both physically and spiritually.
5-6 Jesus said, “You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit.
How can you look at your relationship with God through new eyes today? What is he trying to teach you?
God invites us to be formed by something we can’t see and touch…the Holy Spirit. When we submit to his power and authority in everything, when we put ourselves under the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, we can be born anew. Only then can we enter God’s kingdom. May the invisible move the visible in us toward new life.