Sunday, March 8, 2020

Second Sunday in Lent Year A March 8 2020

Audio  2 Lent Year A March 8 2020
Genesis 12:1-4a, Romans 4:1-5, 13-17, John 3:1-17, Psalm 121

What is following Jesus really about? Why do we bother, every Sunday, every Wednesday, coming here, to this place to worship a God we cannot see? It would be so much easier to be out with the others, drinking good coffee at our favorite coffee place, reading our newspaper, eating a wonderful confection for breakfast. Or sleeping in late on a Sunday morning, what’s that about? Or reading a good book or hanging out with kids and partner after a long and grueling week. And yet we are here. I don’t think it’s because I compel you to be here, I have thought about preaching hell and damnation if you don’t come, hoping to increase our numbers, but I don’t, I can’t. I can’t honestly do that, because I don’t think it’s right or true. Coming here on Sunday mornings, being together, participating in good music, prayers, bread and wine, body and blood, is not about hell and damnation, it’s not even about life after death, it’s all about life in the here and now. It is about the eternal life that Jesus talks about with Nicodemus in our story this morning.

When the gospel writer John uses Eternal life it’s not about heaven. We live in chronological time, we are conceived, we are born into the world, we grow, we age, and we die. The story we hear from the gospel of John today seems to, and all the other stories as well seem to show a time that is not chronological, or chronos. The stories in the bible speak about God’s time, they show us kairos, not chronos. The word eternal in today’s gospel doesn’t mean forever. It isn’t a uniform measurement of time like days and years marching endlessly into some unknown or even known future. That’s a category or concept that we really don’t even find in the bible. Eternal, as in whoever believes in him may have eternal life, doesn’t mean the literal passing of time, it means transcending time, or wrinkling time, or layering time. It is kairos, belonging to another realm or reign altogether. It means belonging to God’s realm. That is where heaven comes in. When Jesus talked about heaven, he was talking about our present, eternal, intense, real experiences of joy, peace, and love in this life, this side of death and in whatever is to come. Heaven for Jesus wasn’t just someday; it was and is a present reality. Jesus blurs our lines, inviting Nicodemus, and us, into the merging of heaven and earth, the future and the present, here and now.

That is how you can be born again, because eternal life is less about a kind of time that starts when we die, and more about a quality and vitality of life lived now in relationship with God. Eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts now. It’s not about a life that begins at death; it’s about experiencing the kind of life now that can endure and even survive death.

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. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Why do we come here each Sunday morning to sing songs of praise, to worship, to encounter God’s word, to be with each other, to be fed by God’s body and blood? Because new life in Christ demands it. Because the response to God’s amazing creation, God’s amazing love and grace is to give thanks, because the response to God’s amazing gift of life and love is to rise up in prayer and song, and to fall on our knees in awe. And because it’s not about any one of us individually, it’s about us together.

Some Christians have co-opted this language of being born again and have made it into a one time and exclusive deal. If you say a particular set of words you have access to some sort of life after death that means you will spend eternity in heaven, as opposed to hell. However, that really doesn’t seem to be what Jesus talks about or is concerned about. Jesus seems to be much more interested in the here and now, and the new life that is available to everyone, but especially people who are suffering, in pain, and on the margins. Jesus gave his life for this new life; Jesus walked a road of pain and suffering, for what? So that some people could have comfort in an afterlife, and so that most people who don’t have access will spend life after death in a place called hell? I don’t think so.

God’s amazing and abundant love is available to all, that’s what Jesus’ life, suffering, death and resurrection makes real. There is no exclusivity to it; all of scripture shows us that. That’s why I come here, Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. Not because it’s an exclusive club, but because together we give thanks for this amazing gift, because together we recognize our need for forgiveness so that we can realize fully the love that God has for us, and because together we are fed and nourished so that we may feed and nourish others.

We are born again. In the midst of the pain and tragedy of this life, Jesus walks with us. In the midst of the pain and suffering of our lives, Jesus walks with us. Jesus doesn’t take that pain and suffering away, often we wish he would, Jesus carries the burden with us. The work that Jesus does in life and death, and resurrection, is to absorb all that pain and suffering, violence and hatred, and defeat it with the power of God’s amazing and abundant love.

You and I have access to that new life, to that amazing love, right here and right now. We are born again and again and again. It’s not about a one-time deal; it’s not one moment in time. It’s a process that begins in our baptism, when we are claimed and marked as Christ’s own, and it keeps happening, with cycles of acceptance and resistance, epiphany and doubt. We keep coming to church and we keep being fed and nourished because this journey is messy and unclear. We glimpse the new life that is right in front of us at one moment, and then we miss it, again we miss the mark, we lose the trail, we wander in the wilderness, and we come back to be fed and nourished and find our way again.

And as we are fed and nourished, we go out and feed and nourish others. And in the end, and in the beginning, and in the middle, that is what following Jesus is about, that is what this journey is about. It is about responding to the amazing love that God has for each and every one of us and for all of us, it is about the new life, the eternal life, the life of here and now, that is available to all of us. In the messiness of our lives, in the good and bad choices we make, in the pain and tragedy of human action and inaction, and in the pain and tragedy of disease, God’s amazing and abundant love is available to Abraham who lived in a land that worshiped gods who were not the One God, it is available to Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews, it is available to the Samaritan woman at the well, it is available to the man born blind, it is available to Lazarus and Martha and Mary, all outsiders, all people on the margins, and all who never said the words, I accept Jesus as my personal lord and savior. And this same amazing and abundant love is available to you, and to me and to all of us.

Jesus walked this journey to show us the truth of God’s love for us. We walk this journey so that we may live this truth of God’s love for all. Thanks be to God.

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