Welcome to Advent, and to my return to blogging. I basically took last week off (from blogging).
Rachel and I traveled to Overland Park, Kansas to visit family for Thanksgiving. as we were out and about one of the days we were there, we passed a church that had a sign that made me think I was back in Texas. The marquee-sign read: “Jesus said ‘you must be born again.'”
This is, indeed, true. Jesus did say to Nicodemus in John 3 that “you must be born again.” I first discovered this verse myself in the late 70’s, when, as a new Christian, I was reading through John. “Born Again” at the time was more or less the catch-phrase of the precursor to what was becoming the Christian Right. Jimmy Carter had been elected President as a self-avowed “Born -Again Christian.” I had come to undersatnd my own 9then) recent experience as one of being born again, so I read this passage with amazement.
Why didn’t they teach me this in Sunday School? Partly because I rarely went to Sunday school before this time. Partly because the United Methodist Church is not one that tends to use such terminology.
I was beside myself. How could we (as United Methodist) not use such terminology when it is plainly biblical?
When I saw the sign (cue the 80’s song in your head, then pause to let it pass, and read on…) the first thought I had was : “But Jesus said so many other things, too!”
In John’s Gospel, Jesus told at least two different people not to sin anymore. (John 5:14 & 8:11)
Both Matthew and Mark share Jesus telling a young man to “go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19 and Mark 10)
In Matthew, Mark, and Luke Jesus says that “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Matthew 16, Mark 8, Luke 9)
This is just a very cursory set of examples. There are many things Jesus emphasized more than being “born again;” especially in so many words.
So, why the sign, and why do I link it to Advent?
Reading John 3 (You must be born again…)as the blueprint for What God expects for everyone too easliy becomes a expecation of how God has, is, and will act. it also becomes a baseline experience: “this happened to me, and it should happen to you, too.” Thus, we wuold like to expect that everyone be born again.
But Jesus said so much more than this; offered so much more, expected so much more.
Advent is about expecancy and preparation. The King is coming! God is at work in God’s creation in some new way that will change everything!
Let us not limit God or our expectations of God to some baseline experience. Let us, for the next several weeks leading up to Christmas, re-discover what it is that God expects from this new creation into which we are all invited.