[Part 1 of 4] How does worship change your life? —John 3:1-8
Be sure to read the series introduction!
Jesus begins with Nicodemus, saying one must be born again in order to see the kingdom of God (cf. John 3:3). The Divine Service, in the Lutheran Service Book, begins with the rubric and exhortation to make the sign of the cross, as a faithful remembrance of one’s Baptism. It is then that what Jesus says to Nicodemus is our own, and that to make the sign of the cross is more than liturgical busywork but a call to remember how God’s kingdom is ours– in Baptism we are born again.
We can be certain that Jesus is in fact speaking about Baptism and not simply committing our lives to Jesus, in order to be born again. For Jesus gives how being born again must happen, one is born again by water and the Spirit (see John 3:5). Flesh gives birth to flesh, of this the world is our example by natural birth and of sin itself. However, the Spirit gives birth to Spirit (cf. John 3:6). In this way only God can place himself within man, that our bodies become his temple (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19). The water in a baptismal font only becomes Spirit-filled with the authority it is given by God’s Word that the pastor recites (cf. Mathew 28:19-20; [18:20]). Specifically, the pastor is told by Jesus in what name the baptized is to be born again into, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… (Matthew 28:19).”
That Triune Name, by which we all are to be born again into–to receive God’s kingdom– is the first “Amen” in every Divine Service. This “Amen” recalls or remembers our Baptism as that moment God entered our fleshly and sinful body and gave us his Spirit. With this remembrance as our confession of faith we are drawn near to the Lord with a true heart of repentance to implore God of his mercy for our sins, and forgive us from these iniquities. At this faithful confession of sins, the pastor is given again to speak God’s Word of forgiveness. This forgiveness is a seal of absolution, by it the soot of our sins are washed away to reveal the watermark branded upon us when we were born again in Baptism, and made God’s child. The final word we speak in this portion of the Divine Service is another “Amen,” which trusts this forgiveness that has been received.
With Nicodemus, we might be prone to marvel at such ordinary water doing such great things by the authority of the Holy Spirit. But Jesus would not have us marvel at this gift of faith, rather he tells Nicodemus and us that everyone born of the Spirit has God’s kingdom. This is not one of the marvels of the world, but the simple way of life for those not of this world, but of God’s kingdom.