February 17, 2008 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan
Topic: Biblical Verse: John 3:1–3:17
Second Sunday in Lent
Put together one very run-down house, a deserving family, several opinionated designers, seven days, and what do you get? The answer is Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, a well-known and award-winning TV show. Ordinarily this kind of home renovation/makeover project would take at least four months to achieve, but it's a race against the clock to get it done in just seven days. With the help of designers, contractors, and several hundred workers the entire house is rebuilt in a week. Each episode begins with team leader and show host Ty Pennington's now famous "Good morning!" wake-up call, when he, along with the others, surprises the unsuspecting family with news that their home has been chosen to be renovated and receive a makeover. Then viewers witness not only the unbelievable transformation of the house, but during the final and emotional reveal, they see how the home makeover has impacted the lives of deserving families. (Information taken from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition website, www.abc.go.com/primetime/xtremehome). Put together one uncertain teacher of Israel, a mysterious nighttime visit with a controversial rabbi, strange references to being born from above and the wind blowing, and what do you get? Extreme Makeover: Jesus Edition. In today's Gospel lesson, Jesus assures Nicodemus and us that the makeover he is talking about is even more radical than the TV show. May the Lord?s rich blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word, for Jesus? sake.
Nicodemus has questions, and he?s pretty sure Jesus has answers, but he can't risk his reputation by being seen with this controversial rabbi in broad daylight. Nicodemus is a Pharisee and a leader of Israel, so he goes to talk with Jesus under cover of darkness. John?s Gospel alone records their conversation. The extreme makeover that Jesus tells Nicodemus about begins with being born from above because ?no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit? (John 3:5). Hmmm, now where have we heard about water and the Spirit before? If you?re thinking this sounds like Baptism, you?d be right. To be re-born, to be born from above into God?s kingdom means that an extreme makeover has to take place. A whole new birth is needed ? not a human birth of flesh and blood, but a spiritual birth of water and the Spirit. This is not something we do for God, but it is what God graciously does for us.
The problem comes when people don?t see the need for such an extreme makeover. They think things are just fine the way they are ? sort of like a run-down house. People can become oblivious to just how bad things really are. They don?t see the peeling paint or rotting wood. They don?t notice the sagging roof or cracks in the foundation. ?The house looks just fine to me,? they say, but in truth it?s falling apart. Sometimes we don?t always see just how bad things really are in our spiritual house. We don?t see the signs and indicators of how run-down we are. Or maybe we do, but we ignore them because we?re not sure what we need to do, or we?re fearful of admitting we need help. Some of these signs may be how we make time for everything else but have no time for God in listening to what he says in Scripture, or spending time talking with him in prayer. Or how there is no joy in life, just drudgery and one thing after another. Or how we?re looking for purpose and meaning in life in things that cannot give us purpose and meaning. We can go for awhile ignoring these signs and indicators, but sooner or later they catch up with us. Sooner or later, that spiritual house of ours is going to need an Extreme Makeover: Jesus Edition.
That extreme makeover which we so need, and which Jesus alone can bring about, begins with this: ?For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life? (John 3:16). This little verse, probably the best known verse in the entire Bible, is called "the Gospel in a nutshell" because it sums up the entire message of the Bible. I want you to take out your worship bulletin and turn to the Gospel lesson. Take a pencil or pen, and do some highlighting of different letters in that Gospel lesson. From John 3;16, underline or circle the G of God; do the same with the o of only and the S of Son. Underline or circle the p of perish, and the e of eternal, and finally the l of life. Those highlighted letters from John 3:16 spell out GOSPEL, which is good news; God?s good news to us who so need that extreme makeover in our spiritual house. God the Father is the master architect who not only sees our problem, but also sees our potential, and who has the plan. That master architect sent his own Son as the contractor to bring about our extreme makeover through the shedding of his own redeeming blood upon the cross. The verse which follows John 3:16, although not as well-known, is just as important: ?God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him? (John 3:17). God?s design here is not just to destroy our dilapidated spiritual house, but to completely restore it, to recreate it.
The extreme makeover which Jesus accomplished for the world upon the cross is now received by us through faith. Even faith itself is God?s gift to us, and that gift is first received in holy Baptism. That's why the Baptismal font has been placed in the back of the sanctuary during Lent; as a reminder to us all that we enter the family of believers by being born of water and the Spirit? (John 3:5). This gift of God is a one-time gift. We don't need to be re-baptized later on, as we profess in the Creed: believe in one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins. But that gift needs to be reclaimed and reaffirmed each and every day of our life because the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature will do their very best to undermine that gift. This is a call for every one of us go back to those cleansing waters of holy Baptism and call upon the Holy Spirit to rebuild and renovate us. May the good work, the extreme makeover, which God has begun in us be brought to completion in the day of Christ Jesus. Amen.