Receiving Your Inheritance XVIII – 2 Lent, Year A

  • Genesis 12:1-4a
  • Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
  • John 3:1-17
  • Psalm 121

I remember when my youngest daughter was born.  It took a lot longer for the contractions to do their work than I’d expected, but when they had, things started to happen pretty quickly.  When Gretchen was born, she was mad.  No two ways about it.  She hollered at us for two hours straight.  (I’d like to joke that it’s been going on ever since, but that’s not true.)  She had some good lungs on her, that kid, from the get-go. 

You see, being born isn’t pleasant.  It’s uncomfortable, (sorry, moms out there, I’m only focused on us babies at the moment) even painful, and you emerge into a world that you’ve never seen or heard before.  Gretchen’s response?  “Put Me BACK!”

No wonder that so many of us in mainline churches blanch at the notion of being “born again.”  Like Gretchen, we’re comfortable in our little womby spaces, and we’d rather not undergo the transformation process that might birth us into a new way of being.

But Jesus is very plain.  If we are not born again, we cannot see the Kingdom of Heaven.

Oh, I know, you can translate “anothen” as “from above” as easily as “again,” but does it really matter?  It’s still being born, and being born isn’t an easy process.  Nicodemus’ mistake isn’t that he mistranslates the Greek, it’s that he can’t imagine anything where he’d be so thoroughly transported into a new way of being aside from physical rebirth.  He understands that “re-birth” will be something wild and out-of-control, he just can’t imagine that spiritual re-birth (whether you call it “from above” or “again”) could be like that.

And it is.

Which is why I shudder every time I hear a main-line Christian say that his or her “conversion” process was a “gentler” version, one that took place over time, and that they “didn’t need” a big shake up.  And there are those who insist that it happened when they were sprinkled with water as babies.  As far as they’re concerned, they’re “born again.”


Saved?  Probably.  Infant baptism has as it’s only real merit that it reminds us that it is God who gets us saved, not us by our decision.  Born again?  Not if they’re talking that way.

Because people who are “born again” see the Kingdom.  And they know that there’s a radical disjunction between the World and the Kingdom.  They see that the beauty of the Kingdom revealed reduces all that we’ve accomplished to “filthy rags” (Is. 64:6), and they know that their translation from one to the other was a fairly violent event, not a sweet and easy growing process.

Of course there’s a growing process.  Sometimes we grow a lot on the way to being born again.  Always we grow a lot afterward.  (So do babies!) And I suppose that can be sweet and easy (though the war for my soul got a lot more intense after I started to “see”).  But there’s a transition, a fairly sudden movement from one realm to another.

I have a date in an old Bible of mine.  The day I prayed and asked Jesus into my heart back when I was a teenager.

And it isn’t the date I was born again.  Sorry.  No magic formula.

I wanted that transition, but I wasn’t ready for it, and God in His mercy put it off until I was.  (about 30 years later!)  I sometimes question Him about the timing of all of that, but He just chuckles.

So, you can be “saved” (I believe I was a long time ago.) and blind to the kingdom.  (I know I was.) 

Jesus invites us to be born a second time, into a new way of being that is more truly life than the one that we knew in the “womb” that is the world.  He invites us to see, really see the Kingdom of His Father.  We can.

But not until we’re born again.

In Him,

Jeff Krantz

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