Preaching to the saints of the Lutheran Church at Christ-Elkhart and Faith-Hugoton in Kansas since February 8, 2015. All sermons prior to that date were preached either at Trinity Lutheran Church-Layton or First Lutheran Church-Tooele, Utah.
Jesus said, "You must be born again." What Does This Mean?--"How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"
Irony of ironies, most of those who bandy about the term "born again" as "evangelical Christians"--in using it to describe themselves and how they became a Christian--get it exactly wrong and use it in the exact opposite sense of what Jesus means to teach us about our relationship to God and life in the kingdom of heaven.
Not one of us is, nor can we be either conceived or born into this world or the kingdom of heaven apart from the will and work of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
To hear the entire sermon preached for The Feast of The Holy Trinity at Trinity, Layton, "You Must Be Born Again"--along with the Service of the Word beginning with the Old Testament Reading, Isaiah 6:1-7; through the Prayer of the Church; sans the Service of the Sacrament; and concluding with the Benediction & closing hymn, LSB #876, "O Blessed, Holy Trinity": go to the MP3 audio link provided above.
It begins with the Old Testament Reading, Isaiah 6:1-7; includes the sermon,"You Must Be Born Again;" runs through the Prayer of the Church; skips the Service of the Sacrament; and concludes with the Benediction & closing hymn--LSB #876, "O Blessed, Holy Trinity."
A servant of the Word and His folk,
If you would rather just read the sermon, or read along as you listen, the preaching manuscript follows below. However, please understand some transitions are filled in and explanations fleshed out from the pulpit that are not included in the ms.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Three of the baptized children of God here at Trinity, Layton have celebrated their graduation from High School this year:
Robyn Christensen—Ben Lomond
They have worked hard—well, they have worked—for twelve years to get through all the classes, jump through all the hoops, and have a little fun along the way.
But they also have been shielded and have lived in something of a protective bubble we parents--and by extension, our schools whether public or private—have constructed for them.
BRIEF Fourth Commandment Excursus.
While the may indeed be going on with their schooling, and even remaining at home or on the family dole while going to school elsewhere, their graduation pretty much means they are being born, that is, delivered out into the cold, cruel world.
The analogy of graduation as a type of birth breaks down at that point where, admittedly, the High School graduate has had to do at least a fair amount of work, put in at least a modicum of effort, and meet some minimum standard of worthiness. The birth of a baby into this world comes by no real effort or even worthiness of its own—unless, of course, the baby's parents look at the unborn child as just another piece of the pie set before them as another choice on their menu of self-fulfillment and actualization.
But the truth of the matter is that one's birth into this world is something that happens to the person without any real cooperation from the one being born at all. That is true of conception as well. To go even further, not even father or mother have ultimate control over birth or conception. No matter how hard a mother tries, her labor is in vain w/o the gracious will, merciful protection, and life-giving power of God. No matter how many procedures, medications, treatments, experiments a couple tries, apart from the work and will of God—no baby. Even in vitro babies and babies born to less than godly parents, whether within or without marriage, are neither conceived nor born apart from the will and work of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This is what must be kept in mind when we listen to and examine the words of our Lord to Nicodemus in today's Gospel for The Feast of The Holy Trinity.
Text: 3Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." 4Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" 5Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' 8The 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."
WDTM?--"How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"
Irony of ironies, most of those who bandy the term about as "evangelical Christians" in using it to describe themselves and how they became a Christian get it exactly wrong and use it in the exact opposite sense of what Jesus means to teach us about our relationship to God and life in the kingdom of heaven.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' 8The 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."
Not one of us is, nor can we be either conceived or born apart from the will and work of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This what we confess in the Creed, whether Apostles', Nicene, or Athanasian. Even the good done of which the Athanasian confesses is like that of a baby who has been successfully delivered into the doctors or daddy's hands. "You done good, sport!" "You go, girl!" These expressions of joyful parents at the arrival of their little one reflect on the nature of the good works of the baptized as well.
Our works are the works of an in infant in utero—works done w/o any real knowledge, effort, or skill. They are works born of God our Father's "workmanship, created in Christ Jesus …, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" by the power of the Holy Spirit s He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies us and every baptized believer in His holy Christian Church to keep us with Christ in heaven at the right hand of the Father. [Small Catechism Explanation to the Third Article of the Creed]
Thus, we see it is true, "He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother." -- St. Cyprian, Bishop to the church and saints at Carthage
And yet, the work of the Church is not her own either. It is the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word commanded and the Sacraments instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ by the will and grace of His Father in heaven.
While it is true that, by virtue of our Baptism and the work of the Holy Spirit, each baptized child of God is already born again from above and into the kingdom of heaven, in some ways it is more like we have been conceived and are yet in utero ourselves, being prepared and nurtured and formed into that which we will be in our maturity when we are delivered (born) in the flesh of The Resurrection on the Last Day—which will really be our first, like the baby crying his first breath of life in the delivery room.
And, like the baby in utero, these are the most dangerous of times for both us and our mother, Church.
Like a pregnant woman who writhes and cries out in her pangs when she is near to giving birth, so were we because of you, O LORD; Isaiah 26:17
The "we" of which the prophet of our Lord speaks is the Church, that is, the communion of saints on earth. So we confess and maintain in the communions, that is, the fellowship of our truly Lutheran churches only that which our Lord has clearly revealed, delivered, and commanded to us by and in His Holy Word. And in confessing and maintain only those things we must also reject, condemn, and refuse to be joined with those that confess and maintain that which is set against those things.
[FORMULA OF CONCORD: SOLID DECLARATION
ARTICLE XII.37-40 OTHER FACTIONS AND SECTS
ERRONEOUS ARTICLES OF THE NEW ANTI-TRINITARIANS
39 These and similar articles, one and all, with what belongs to them and follows from them, we reject and condemn as wrong, false, heretical, and contrary to God's Word, the three Creeds, the Augsburg Confession and Apology, the Smalcald Articles, and Luther's Catechisms. All godly Christians should beware of these articles to the extent that the welfare and salvation of their souls is dear to them.
40 In the sight of God and of all Christendom ‹the entire Church of Christ›, we want to testify to those now living and those who will come after us. This declaration presented here about all the controverted articles mentioned and explained above—and no other—is our faith, doctrine, and confession. By God's grace, with intrepid hearts, we are willing to appear before the judgment seat of Christ with this Confession and give an account of it [1 Peter 4:5]. We will not speak or write anything contrary to this Confession, either publicly or privately. By the strength of God's grace we intend to abide by it. Therefore, after mature deliberation, we have, in the fear of God and by calling on His name, attached our signatures with our own hands.
Why? Because by these things, and only by these things does God promise to deliver us from this world of sin, death, and condemnation and into His kingdom of forgiveness, life, and resurrection--in the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Insofar as this sermon is a true proclamation of the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, it belongs to Him and His Church. Therefore its use is free to all who deem it worthy and beneficial.
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