LENT 2, A – March 16, 2014

SCRIPTURES – Genesis 12:1-9; Rom. 4:1-8, 13-17; John 3:1-17

 

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."

 

Last Monday I attended one of the most inspiring and emotional worship Services I have ever attended. It was the funeral of a fellow pastor, Mike Hintze, who served for 37 years as pastor of Our Savior Lutheran in Westminster, MA. He died several days after suffering a stroke. In the sermon the preacher said, “I’m not going to talk about how great a man Mike was – and he was – and about all the things he did, which were many. He himself would tell you he was a sinner.” I remember thinking, “Yes, we all are. But, how many think that a good pastor like him will surely go to heaven?” Then, a thought struck me like a lightning bolt: if a pastor can go to heaven it is surely only by God’s utter grace and mercy! Remember what Christ said to Nicodemus: "Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?” How greatly was Jesus disappointed with him! He expects so much more from pastors and teachers. How bad are their sins!

 

And, what about you? Although your sins may be less consequential than mine, they are no less damning. "Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God," Jesus declares. You must be born again! Do you understand this?

 

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” We are born sinful, and this is no little thing. Jesus first says that our sinful nature so corrupts us that on our own we cannot even see God’s kingdom. In this life we cannot begin to know God, understand Him, or recognize His works. We know less about God, I suppose, than a baby in the womb knows of the world outside. Then, He says: “Unless one is born again, of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Unless the Holy Spirit makes us completely new and different we have no hope of heaven. Before us is only hell.

 

So, do not be content with who you are and what you are. Be born of the Holy Spirit! You might as well try to climb back into your mother’s womb, as Nicodemus said. The Holy Spirit is not at your beck and call. You cannot summon Him or control Him. Jesus tells Nicodemus, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Grabbing the Holy Spirit is like grabbing the wind. It cannot be done. Nicodemus should have understood this. So should you.

 

But, the wind blows frequently, doesn’t it? It can be felt and can be harnessed for our benefit, can’t it?

  • Weather forecasters see how it moves the clouds and warn us of coming storms.

  • For centuries windmills have been built to generate power with it.

  • And golfers will often throw a little grass into the air to determine the wind’s direction and how it will affect their shot.

    You and I cannot see or summon or control the Holy Spirit. But, we can know that He comes and blows and brings new life in Christ. Jesus tells us that He gives birth through water: the water of Baptism. And you have been baptized! Treasure your Baptism, then. Treasure it as the very presence of God in your life. It is not simply a one-time act that means little afterward, no more than your birth from your mother was a one-time act that meant little afterward. You live now because you were born then! Life with God in His kingdom, life with Jesus who died for you and rose from the dead to bring forth eternal life for you, is yours now because in your Baptism the Holy Spirit gave you birth into God. Do you not understand this?

     

    Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.” Do not be one to whom these words apply. Receive His testimony! The Holy Spirit is testifying to you when God’s words are spoken. He is telling you this heavenly thing:

    “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And 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-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

    These words are heavenly things; eternal things; the gift of eternal life to swallow up your sin and eternal death. Do you not understand this? Do you not understand that the Spirit is present and is blowing in these words?

     

    We heard about Abram in our Old Testament reading this morning. God spoke to him and told him: "Go from your country and your relatives and your father's house to the land that I will show you. I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing… in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." Abram believed and went. He didn’t know where he was going, but he believed he was not alone. And God was with him to lead him.

     

    Do you not understand this? Do you not understand that the Spirit is present and is blowing in these words? Then listen, believe, and follow! Do not let the Holy Spirit and the life the Spirit alone can give pass you by. For, the Spirit is not under your control. As the wind may suddenly change direction, or cease altogether, so may the Holy Spirit.

     

    The Holy Spirit is blowing now. Listen, believe and follow. God will be with you to guide you and bring you to Himself in heaven.

     

    He who has ears to hear, let him hear!