Born Again? What you didn't know about that phrase will change your life
In Jesus’ day, maybe not too dissimilar to today, it made a big difference who you were partying with.
Over and over, Jesus gets himself in trouble for hanging out with the wrong crowd. You may not know this, but Jesus was known for drinking with and carousing with people who were considered sinners.
In Luke's Gospel, Jesus tells two short stories to explain his behavior.
First he says, "Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
The second story he tells, he says:
"What woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ``Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.' Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
Jesus explains to us the meaning of these two parables, so it's not too hard for us to understand.
There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than 99 righteous persons who need no repentance.
There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
In other words, the joy, the partying, the eating and drinking that Jesus is doing in his life on Earth with the sinners that the Pharisees don’t want to be seen with.
This is just a glimpse of the partying going on in heaven over these people.
Here’s some of the good news for us:
God will do anything to have us. God will do ANYTHING to be reconciled with us, that is, to close the gap between us, to be close to us, and to make things good between us.
God will do anything to give us his love and himself. He’ll do anything!
God is the shepherd searching after the one lost sheep.
God is the woman tearing her house apart to find the lost coin.
God is partying and rejoicing over even one person who is lost and is found.
That party, the party we call heaven that is God celebrating reconciliation with Creation, that party is what we are called to live and celebrate here on Earth.
We’re invited to that party, to celebrate with each other, to leap for joy and feast and eat, drink and be merry because of the Good News.
That good news is that God loves us, endlessly, each one of us, and longs more than anything to be with us. So he sent his Son Jesus to be with us and for us so we could be joined together with him, so that we could be reborn in him.
That is the promise for all Creation: God will never quit until each one of us is found by him and joined to him forever.
This year at IHS our theme for the year is “Born of Water and Spirit: God’s Promise to all Creation.” We are celebrating that our old selves were put to death in this womb of water that we call baptism, and that our new self, as a child of God, broke the water of the baptismal font and came up breathing again the first breath of the resurrected life of Christ.
Each of us baptized in him was Born Again, a new creation, free to live, not for ourselves or for sin or for the ambitions of the world, but free to live for God, free to live for others, free to live his love and be his love for a hurting world. That's what it really means to be born again. We're born again when God washes away our old self in baptism and raises up to new life, second chances, and forgiveness. We hear "born again Christians" and think of one particular thing, a group of judgmental Christians threatening others with tracts that they're going to burn in hell. But being "born again" isn't about avoiding hell. Being "born again" is the grace God gives us to be transformed in him to new life, and a new way of living that gives us a much better, much fuller, much more joyful life!
This is the gift each one of us baptized and forgiven people has been given. We’re invited and called to celebrate this gift of new life, which we do each week in the feast we call the Great Thanksgiving or the Holy Eucharist at the Lord’s Table, and when we celebrate as a parish in picnics together and coffee hour. This isn’t just social hour with our friends, it is a glimpse of the feast of heaven that God throws because of our salvation in him.
Let’s take this one step further. We’re not just invited and called to celebrate it, we’re invited to share this good news with others, to share this new life in him with others
God calls us to invite others to this feast, to this banquet, and to be like Jesus, carousing and spending time with especially those who are looked down on by others in society, the least, and those with the most need. We're called to invite those who perhaps might get looked at as sinners, or not respected or invited by others to the fancy parties.
If we believe in this good news, that there is new life in Christ, that there is forgiveness in him, that there is a better way of living, that there is strength for our families, and a new church family that makes our lives better to be a part of it, then let’s share this good news with others in our lives. Can we do that? Can we share the good news of Jesus with others?
There’s so many ways to do that. We do it when we give a meal to someone in need. We do it when we gather and share school supplies with Stonehurst Hills Elementary School.
We do it when we throw a party on the front lawn called Alex’s Lemonade Stand and invite others to join it so we can raise money for childhood cancer research and celebrate Alex’s legacy.
We do it when we throw a picnic on the front lawn and invite anyone to come and join us.
But we also need to do it by inviting others into a new life in Jesus.
So that’s my challenge for us this year at IHS. To actually share the good news of Jesus with others, to share the good news of this church life with others. I'm challenging us to invite others to come experience church.
And I’m going to make it easy for us. This is how easy my challenge is for us this program year at IHS:
I’m asking that each one of us invites ONE PERSON to come to church this year. We have a whole year, from now through May, to invite just one person to come to church this year. This is a little challenge, an easy challenge. Just invite ONE PERSON to come to church one time this whole year.
It’s a little challenge but its a big dream: God’s dream for us, to be the kind of church that invites other people to new life in Jesus! God's dream for us is to encourage others to be born again in him! God longs for those who are lost to be born again, not in the way you’ve heard that term before, but born by Water and Spirit.
This challenge is easy because all we’re doing is inviting others to join us at this party, to join us in celebrating the feast of new life in God. Who doesn’t want to invite someone else to a party?