Lent #2…Series A
Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church (March 11th&12th-2017)
Text: John 3: 1-16
Title: Born All Over Again From ABOVE!
I want to begin my homily this evening/morning by focusing on a single word from our Gospel for this 2nd Sunday of Lent. It is a word which I believe is the most important (and one of the most controversial) words in our Gospel for today. The word that has captured my attention and my imagination this week is the Greek word ANOTHEN. Like so many words in the Greek vocabulary this word ANOTHEN can be accurately (and correctly) translated as either “AGAIN” (as in Born Again) or as FROM ABOVE (as in Born from Above). It is interesting that in the New Revised Standard Version (the translation used in our Common Consensus Lectionary) ANOTHEN is translated “FROM ABOVE”, but there is a footnote at the bottom of the page which reads: “Or Born AGAIN”. In the more conservative New International Version, ANOTHEN is translated as “BORN AGAIN” but there is a footnote at the bottom of the page which reads, “Or Born from Above”. So what is the “Best translation of the most important word in our Gospel for today?
Actually, my all-time favorite translation of ANOTHEN is not AGAIN or FROM ABOVE…my all-time favorite translation of ANOTHEN was written by Professor Dale Bruner (retired professor of NT and Theology at Whitworth College in Spokane, WA) in his commentary on the Gospel, of John. Bruner translates ANOTHEN as “Born All Over Again from Above”…isn’t that a wonderful combination of both of the acceptable translations…BORN ALL OVER AGAIN…FROM ABOVE!!
But, no matter how the Bible you read translates ANOTHEN (As Born Again…or Born from Above…or Born all over again from Above), there are, I think, three simple but important truths spiritual truths in the Gospel…truths which we need to hear and to embrace on this second Sunday of our Lenten journey toward Easter:
First, this REBIRTH…this second birth which Jesus speaks about in today’s Gospel is beyond our human ability to manage or to control…or even to completely understand…it is elusive and mysterious and unpredictable (kind of like the wind)…it is a “God-thing” really, and, because it is a “God-thing” there is really no telling when it will happen or to whom it will happen.
Secondly, Jesus teaches that this rebirth is absolutely essential…it is not optional….it is not something reserved for a select group of spiritual elites(like monks or missionaries and the ordained clergy). No, Jesus says, this is something for all of His beloved children…everyone who is searching to fill the hole at the center of their
life…everyone seeking to know and experience the truth that has the power to set us free. In fact, Jesus goes so far as to say, if you are ever going to see…if you are ever going to catch a glimpse, let alone enter into and experience the rich and abundant life that God’s Kingdom provides, then you must…it isn’t optional, it is absolutely essential that you be Born All Over Again From ABOVE !.
Finally, and most significantly, when a person has this experience of new birth, there is a change that occurs…it is a radical change…it is all encompassing…it is comprehensive…It isn’t like doing a little spring cleaning around the edges of your life…it isn’t like tidying up the house before guests come over on Friday night! No, the change the transformation of heart/mind/life is so total…so complete that the best way to describe it is to say that it is like being Born All Over Again From ABOVE!i
One final thought as I conclude this homily this evening/morning:
As you come to the Altar tonight/this morning to receive the Risen Christ in the bread and the wine of the Holy Eucharist, I want you to try to get in touch with that moment when you knew, in your bones, that the gaping HOLE at the center of your life was filled with the knowledge of God’s fierce/relentless/unlimited/unconditional love for you personally…try to get in touch with that mysterious moment when the course and direction…the piritual architecture of your life was changed…when your life was turned inside out and upside down by an experience of the mercy and the amazing grace of the Risen Christ!!
But maybe you’ve never had that experience…maybe that gaping hole at the center of your life remains unfilled…maybe your heart is restless tonight….maybe you are still searching for someone or something that will provide meaning and purpose and direction in your life. Well if that describes your situation, then let me suggest that as you kneel at the Altar tonight/this morning, why not say YES to Christ’s grace-filled invitation to provide that meaning/purpose and that direction.. why not (simply and without fanfare) say “YES” to.Christ’s gracious invitation to fill that hole at the center of your life with His light…with His love…with His life tonight. Because, here is the simple but certain truth…here is the core message of the Gospel of Grace in it’s simplest and most basic expression…here is what I have really been trying to say in every homily I have ever preached: it is God’s will that none…not a single one of His beloved children leave His holy house tonight without knowing in their bones that they have been BORN ALL OVER AGAIN FROM ABOVE! God Bless you…