Sunday, 12 March 2017

Born again

A few years ago, may be more than a few, I remember that almost every second person was asking "Have you been born again?" asking of course if you had accepted 'Jesus' into your life. After a while this became boring and embarrassing, perhaps because of the overly enthusiastic manner of the asking or maybe at the end of the day thinking 'I am a Christian. Why do I need to be tagged by these embarrassing invitations to a charismatic event I know I will just shrivel up and die at.' or some other similar thought. I always felt that there tag along lines were fatuous and boring not really portraying the reality of Christian life.  Yet, Christ asks us to be 'Born again' and as Nicodemus asks 'How can someone be born when he is old?' (Jn 3.3-4).

If we are to think of these things in any manner of depth we start to realise that what puts people of from the question "Have you been born again?" was the earnest frivolousness of the poser of the question.  The question is real and needs to be thought about especially when Christ is surprised at Nicodemus' ignorance. The real response that Christ is trying to elicit is a turning or rather a re-turning towards God. A conscious movement of metanoia, the re-establishment of God's commandments in our hearts so that we can live them rather than mouth them.  Looking back towards the end of the age of Charismania  the turn off was with regards the embarrassing debacles that some had become involved in and the lack of re-turning that had occurred with great publicity.  The failure of so much is in the misunderstanding that the call to be born again is a one off.  This is not true because our lives are only human the call is a constant one that is repeated every single day.

The blind lead the blind  like lemmings off a cliff. 
 Christ leads us to new life as we are born again

The call of 're-turning' is a long and hard journey as Abram found out (Gen. 12ff).  All that Abram had was a promise from God.  All that any of us has is a promise from God.  God does not promise us an easy life all that God asks of us, in return for his promise, is faithfulness.  God knows that we are only human and have the failings of all humanity. Christ is our example of a life that is to be lived in God, re-turned to God and lived with God.  All we have to do is follow.  We follow where God leads this does not mean that we are lemmings following blindly as we run off the cliff.  Our paths are not always paths that are conducive or even easy but so often we are pulled from what God calls us to by our own petty minded wants and wishes.  It is when we focus on these that we are again reminded that we need to re-turn to God.  In focusing on God we begin to live lives that are filled with the Spirit and bring hope into the lives around us.  If we begin to believe that it is 'our' ministry or 'our' leadership, or 'our' sermon that is changing lives then sadly we have missed God.

Lent is a time for us to re-turn to the path that God calls us to.  It is a path filled with struggles, low places, high places, places of sadness and places of joy but it is a journey that God calls us to.  It is the journey to the resurrection and new life.  It is a journey that calls us to be 'born again' and 'again' and 'again'.  Each time we turn from God's purposes we turn from new life, each time we go our own way we turn from new life.  Just as our initial birth is both a joy and hard labour so our re-birth is joy and hard labour.  Lenten journeys ask us to reflect on who we are, what we have become and to re-turn to Christ-likeness on the long path to God.  Too often we indeed act as lemmings rather than as intelligent beings made in the image of God rushing after this saviour or that only to find disappointment.  God constantly calls us to re-turn and a new birth.  A change in our lives so profound that we ourselves are changed.

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