Sundays:  Pastor's Class 9:00 AM (Eucharistic Prayers & Post Comm. Collects)
               Divine Liturgy 10:30 AM

Wednesdays: Divine Liturgy 7:00 PM



March 3, 2023 Pastor: Rev. Peter Mills

begottenLENT 2/A (03/05/2023): Genesis 12:1-9; Ps. 121; Rom. 4:1-8, 13-17; John 3:1-17 (translation, Wm. C. Weinrich, below)


Jesus answered and said to [Nicodemus], “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is begotten from above, he is not able to see the kingdom of God.” (v. 3)

For Nicodemus, Jesus is but a prophet, not perceiving the kingdom of God come in the person of Jesus, nor able to hear voice of the Spirit spoken by Jesus. Nicodemus, pre-eminent teacher of Israel, and Jesus, incarnate Torah out of heaven enter a confused conversation reminiscent of the Abbot and Costello routine, “Who’s on first; What’s on second”.

Nicodemus and Jesus use identical words capable of distinct thought. Jesus teaches a new “begetting from above”; while Nicodemus hears only a second human birth, being “born again”.

The two talks past one another. Nicodemus speaks nonsense about re-entering his mother’s womb. How sad, for unless the Spirit’s voice from Jesus is comprehended as unambiguous reference to Holy Baptism, we with Nicodemus would fail to “see the kingdom of God”.

Over the last two Sundays preaching concern has been the church problem of denominational “enthusiasm”, asserting private interpretations over God’s word (2 Peter 1:20). Adam and the woman fell from grace in urging a false interpretive construct of God’s clear command (negative pregnant of adding “not to touch the tree”), a private interpretation of Word, hallmark of “enthusiastic” religion.

Nicodemus’ question of Jesus; “How can a man enter his mother’s womb a second time?” choosing to obfuscate the necessity of water and Spirit new begetting was mindless. Jesus’ words anticipated his work on the cross: the giving over of water, blood, and the Spirit to accomplish nothing less than transforming Satan’s desert to a new florid Garden.

Following the Transfiguration Jesus and three disciples descended from the Mount enroute to the place of his death. As proximity of the cross approaches in Lent and Holy Week, we grapple with enthusiastic natures that desire moderation of God’s word through our own lights (v. 21). We follow in the train of ancestral enthusiasm; dressing-up our motives toward God’s word but denying it plain meaning from Holy Writ. We insinuate reason, philosophy, and social science from man’s low “wisdom” of experiencing good and evil; we construct tabernacles for Jesus yet fail to recognize he alone is our Place and God’s new temple (cf. Mt. 17:4).

The irony is, that by enthusiasm we are conflicted toward the Truth, hating its light, lest faux piety and worthless works apart from Christ are exposed (Jn. 3:19, 20).

God called Abram, an idolater, out of Ur of the Chaldees, to the Land he would give his offspring. On journey God promised to make Abram a great nation and blessing to all the families of the earth. (Gen. 12:2, 3). Trusting the promise, Abram progressed from faith to faith.

Abram crossed the Jordan, arriving at the oak of Moreh. There he beheld the Lord’s presence, constructed an altar, worshipping God in the midst of pagans. Abram’s faith would be counted as righteousness, first to his physical seed through the sacrament of circumcision, and now we who, by an Abrahamic faith, share in his Seed’s crucified death for our blessing (Gen. 15:5, 6).

Nicodemus believed salvation was a function of being Abraham’s physical stock. Jesus, Torah Teacher from Above, corrected. Salvation only comes in the fulness of Christ’s Baptism, in which there comes new begetting from the Father (“above”). Through Christ crucified, faith issues from his rent side for a Baptism in “living water” and his blood, to the Spirit’s new creation.

For Jews who rely on their physical lineage from Abraham, Jesus instructs, “That which is born from flesh is flesh, but that which is begotten from the Spirit is spirit … it is necessary that you all be begotten from above” (Jn. 3:6, 7). Abraham’s seed, circumcision, and Mosaic legal obeisance was only preparatory for new Israel’s recreation and restored Garden at Christ’s vivifying death.

To Abraham’s physical seed, Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad…” (Jn. 8:56, 58). We might ask: in what was Abraham’s faith situate; what was its object? It was the sight of the pre-incarnate Christ with him on journey through the Land, recognizing in this One the sum and substance of God’s gracious and merciful blessings. Abraham’s faith resided in that One whose voice Nicodemus did not hear, the One whom the Father calls, “beloved Son”.

Modern-day enthusiasts argue over Jesus’ words to Nicodemus, saying salvation is not by Baptism but faith, as though Baptism’s faith are unrelated realities; faith the spiritual reality, but Baptism mere symbol, or legal obligation, devoid of gospel promise. But Baptism in water and Spirit are the very means to convey Jesus’ cleansing blood.

To enthusiasts of every age, St. Paul urges they identify “which Jesus” is object of faith and which gospel holds their loyalty? (2 Cor. 11:4). Nicodemus inquired, “How can these things take place?” (Jn. 3:9); Jesus identified himself as the venom-less Serpent lifted by God in the congregation, that whoever raises their eyes to him in faith of salvations promise, already possesses eternal life (vv. 16, 17). In this way Jesus answered Nicodemus question, “How can these things take place?”; through the regeneration by Baptism that beholds his death.

From the cross Jesus handed-over the HS, who is the agency of our resurrection in cleansing in word, water and blood issued from Jesus’ side. As Eve from Adam’s side in slumber, Christ’s NT bride is begotten in his blood and bone by the Spirit’s living water, a begetting from above by the Father’s will apart from the will of man.

Adam and the woman desired knowledge of good and evil; instead, they knew evil in doing evil. Baptism into Jesus’ death by the Spirit in water and word gives us the light of the Word to see evil taken into Christ for our forgiveness.

In sublime irony, Baptism makes us God-like, eschewing evil by faith to bear the mind of Christ crucified, the Kingdom’s sole point of entry. Amen.