There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
“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.
“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
This gospel reading starts with a story. Nicodemus, a pharisee comes in the night in secret to find out more about the person people are calling the messiah. I think it must have started out as kind of an awkward discussion. Nicodemus is trying to wrap his head around a literal translation of being born again. It is hard to tell if Nicodemus was being serious about his question of being born again from a mother's womb or if he was just prodding Jesus to explain further what he meant.
Jesus is of course talking about a different kind of birth and he tells Nicodemus in very clear terms that the second birth is spiritual and when Nicodemus opens himself up to the Holy Spirit he will have eternal life.
Let me try to bring that message closer to home. I would like to share with you an experience I had several years ago. I have a distant cousin who confided in me that he was an atheist. I think there was a back story to his statement. His father was an Episcopal deacon and I am pretty sure there were some unresolved issues with their relationship that needed tending.
Anyway, I listened to him as he shared with me how he had come to his conclusion that God does not exist. He also listened to my story of faith. Near the end of our discussion I asked him if he believed he had a soul. He thought about that for a moment and then responded that he believed he did. I don't remember much of our conversation after that ( I believe we were called to dinner) but I think I set some wheels in motion for him to do some serious refection.
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.”
God is love. How do we show our love for God. One way is to let our love of God guide our actions in our everyday life. We have to look at our lives through a different lens, a spiritual lens.
As I was writing this sermon I reflected on where in our prayer book being born of the spirit and our relationship with God and our creation are best focused. I realized that the baptismal covenant is where we open up ourselves to the Holy Spirit and we commit to a relationship with God. I encourage you to read and reflect on the message the Baptismal Covenant gives.