Last Sunday’s Gospel lesson from John chapter three included the iconic encounter in the night between Nicodemus and Jesus, in which Jesus proclaims that if you want to see the Kingdom of God you must be born again. To which Nicodemus responds – how can a man be born again? Jesus answers by saying: "'5 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, "You must be born again."'" (John 3:5-7)
With this proclamation, Jesus is referencing what we read in the prologue of the Gospel of John, which states that Jesus had come to the world but was not known: “11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” (John 1:11) Scripture goes on to say: “12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)
Those who RECEIVE and BELIEVE are given the right of adoption by the Creator of the Universe – it’s too amazing to understand, and too important to ignore!
What does it mean to receive Jesus? Think about receiving someone at your home. To greet them at the door is not the same as receiving them. Too often someone shows up and we don’t want to invite them in – it’s too messy; to0 intimate – it’s easier to greet them and leave them at the front door. Better yet, just have your conversation through the screen.
But RECEIVING them is to invite them into the home. I think of the scripture from the book of Revelation when Jesus says: “20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20)
To receive Jesus is to open the door of our heart and welcome him into our messy lives. I recognize that is difficult for many of us – we like to keep the illusion that all is well, and to invite Jesus in is scary because he’ll see that all is not well! (As if Jesus didn’t know that already!) In the 1970’s there was a book out by the title I’m OK You’re OK. Remember that one? Problem is - we’re not OK. A more honest title would be: I’m All Screwed Up and So Are You.
In my thirty years of ministry in the church, I’ve met many people who “believe” in Jesus but who, in their fear, never invite him into their lives. It’s easier to keep Jesus at arms length – to say, “Well, I’ve been baptized. I go to church...when I can. Surely that’s enough.”
The idea is that we’ve got Jesus at the ready – when and if the chips are down, I’ll open the door and call Jesus into action when I need him; no need to overreact and be one of those “religious fanatics.” This is a way of saying “I’m in charge – I’ve got this covered.” And ultimately, Jesus is left outside, looking through the screen door of our lives.
My brothers and sisters, my prayer for you and my prayer for me is that we’ll have the courage not only to believe in Jesus, but to receive him into our lives – warts and all! It is only then that we can truly be adopted as sons and daughters of the Living God! “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
I pray you all a blessed and Holy Lent!