Jesus confounds Nicodemus in John, chapter 3, by telling him that he must be born again. And Nicodemus clearly understands Jesus to be talking about a literal rebirth, because he asks: can a grown person climb back into the womb, and be born a second time? Only, Jesus, of course, has something else in mind. He’s not speaking of a physical rebirth, but a spiritual rebirth by which we become children of God. And I think Nicodemus’s biggest problem was that he had God all figured out – or thought he did! Nicodemus’s God was static, unchanged and unchanging, and so Nicodemus thought that he had God all figured out. Only, as Jesus tells him, the wind blows where it blows, and the Spirit moves where it moves, and so it is with everyone who’s born of the Spirit…
God moves where God moves, when God wants to move. And this moving is beyond our control, and it’s ongoing. God’s Spirit continues to move, to teach us, to lead us, to cleanse us. God doesn’t stop moving once we’ve been born again in Holy Baptism, marked with the cross of Christ forever, and sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. The activity of the Spirit continues. Baptism is a beginning, not an ending, which is why Luther has so much to say about our daily remembrance of baptism. It’s why Luther encourages us to begin and end each day by making the sign of the cross, remembering that we’re baptized, that we’re reborn, born again, in the name of the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And this is why Lutherans talk so much about taking every encounter that we have with water, like the simple act of washing our faces in the morning, as an opportunity to remember that, by water and the Holy Spirit, we are named and claimed by this Triune God.
And I think this is particularly important, because I know my own need for rebirth and renewal didn’t stop at baptism. It’s an ongoing reality. Like Isaiah, standing in the throne room of almighty God, I know that I, too, am a man of unclean lips. And I hope you’re not too offended or surprised by this next part, but, like Isaiah,
I, too, live among a people of unclean lips. And our need for cleansing isn’t just a one-time thing. That’s why we begin, each time we gather, at the water, at the font, with confession and forgiveness, or with giving thanks for baptism, reminding one another, and confessing with one another, that we’re all in the same boat – that we all miss the mark. And remembering together, and hearing together, that because we’ve been marked with the cross of Christ forever, and sealed with the promised Holy Spirit – sealed with a forever seal – God forgives us all our sins
- Touching us again, as it were, with the burning coal of God’s righteousness
- Washing us again, as it were, with the cleansing water and the saving promise that are at the heart of God’s activity in us…
Some theologians have said it this way: God is a verb. In other words, God is active, not static. God is alive and moving, and I think that on this Feast of the Holy Trinity that’s a good thing to remember, and especially so in light of our gathering today for the Affirmation of Baptism of three of our youth – Skyler, Kayla and Justin. God is alive and active, as God has always been, and God calls us to join in God’s holy activity in the world. Note that Jesus is meeting with Nicodemus here in John Chapter 3 under the cover of darkness, but this isn’t the only time we meet Nicodemus in John’s Gospel. Later, at the death and burial of Jesus, Nicodemus is one of those who come in the broad daylight to anoint and bury Jesus.
What happened in the meantime, between this meeting when Nicodemus comes in secret under the cover of darkness and when he comes publically to help lay Jesus in the tomb, we don’t know. But we do know this: the God who is a God on the move didn’t stop moving in Nicodemus’ life, and God doesn’t stop moving in our lives, either…
These three young believers are making a public affirmation of their faith today, and it’s an important step in their faith journey, but it’s just a step. This is just another example of how God is moving and active in your lives. This isn’t the beginning, and it’s not the end. It’s just another step along your journey of faith. And God is here, as God will continue to be with you throughout the rest of your life’s journey.
The Spirit will continue to call, gather, enliven, enlighten and empower you to live the Christian life, as God does continually in the lives of all the faithful. And as God’s people, we’re a people who share what God has first given to us:
- The bread of life and the cup of salvation
- The amazing story of God’s saving love
- The cleansing waters and the promise of forgiveness of Holy Baptism…
In a few moments we’re going to celebrate the Affirmation of Baptism with these three Confirmands, who have chosen to join with us in mission and ministry in the power of God the Father, in the name of Christ Jesus the Son and in the joy and freedom of the life in the Spirit.
May we all be renewed, refreshed and restored, as the Triune God continues to move in, through, and around us, for the sake of the Gospel, and for the good of all the world. Amen.