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Easter Sunday, March 31, 2024


Sermon Manuscript

I do not like the word can’t. Because I’m a hopeful person, I believe in the word can. Maybe its because of the story The Little Engine that could, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.. I had a similar experience. Growing up. Where I am from, there’s a road on a steep hill. School bus drivers avoided traveling on that road. Well, one day, I was on a bus with a new bus driver. She went on this road. When we reached the incline, she was uncertain if she should try to ascend the hill. But nervously, she drove up it anyway. As we were moving up the hill, the bus started to slow down.  The driver shifts the gears, the strain makes a grinding sound. Us kids are thinking this bus is going down. This driver is going to kill us all. Until, someone starts to say, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.  Then we all joined in. I think I can. I think I can, I think I can. And the bus driver joins in, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.  Until we finally made it to the top of the hill. And we all cheered! 
 
We live in an I can’t world. How can this thing possibly be? How can the resurrection of Jesus be possible? How can a person change their life around? We think of that family member who is addicted to drugs or alcohol. The family member who has a gambling problem. The person who seems like they were born on the wrong side of the bed. They just seem to be mean all the time. The person who says racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic things. We might say that just who the person is. 
 
And we think they can’t. The person can’t end their addiction. The person who has a gambling can’t stop gambling. The family member can’t unlearn their prejudices. 
 
Personally, we might say. we’re saying to ourselves, I can’t give up my addiction. I can’t end my gambling problem. I can’t give up the corrosive anger in my heart. I can’t accept people who are different from me. For some, it’s I can’t be loved.  
 
The way of the world is to say we can’t; even some Christians act this way. 
 
Christians are not supposed to be people who say we can’t. We are supposed to be people who say, we can. I can. You can. I can do life differently. I can be a better person. 
 
The resurrection of Jesus is a sign that God’s love can and does endure. By Christ’s resurrection, we are to be new people and to be renewed everyday. By Christ’s resurrection, were are to be people who repent which in part means we rethink our unhealthy behaviors or unhealthy thoughts.
 
We know people who are like Nicodemus. Nicodemus does not understand how a person can be born again. 
 
Part of his issue is that he thinks born again means a literal, physical rebirth. Born again is a spiritual rebirth. 
 
Some translations translate “born again from above” as “You must be born anew.” Together, they speak of the spiritual nature of being born again. Being born again is also a state of mind. It is to have an attitude of saying, we can. That we can turn our lives around. That we can have fresh new perspective. Belief in Christ is not to be stuck in the mud but to let Christ lift us up and be renewed in throught, mind, and action. 
 
Now, some of you will hear Born Again and be reminded of the person who asked you if you have accepted Jesus in your heart as your Lord, God, and Savior? I remember when that happened to me the first time. I was sitting at the University Christian Ministry house, a United Church of Christ campus ministry at UWM. I was eating lunch at its weekly lunch bunch. I was sitting eating my lunch, minding my own business. This dude sitting next to me asks if you have accepted Jesus as your Lord, God, and Savior? My heart dropped and then sped up. 
 
I?m thinking t myself,  I know that I am a follower of Jesus, a Christian. But I know what he means is not what I mean. Generally speaking, what I think of born again and what he thinks born of again is different, at least slightly. Now, admittedly, I did not ask him, what do you mean when you say born again? I just wanted to eat my lunch. My response to him was yes, I have. And that’s true. I love Jesus. I believe Jesus’ teachings are wise, and his continued presence in my life leads me to be renewed.  Jesus is at the center of my heart. 
When I read the Gospels, I read the story of the one who reminds us that God is love. 
 
Something the Born Again movement has right is that we are to have a personal relationship with Jesus. 
 
But there are some problematic issues. A problematic aspect of born-again theology often tends to focus on a heightened spiritual and emotional experience as the only way to mark being born again. As part of this, you’re supposed to be able to say which day you were saved. Some of those who are part of this movement will ask what day were you born again and saved? Almost as if, if you can’t name the day or the experience, then you are not truly born again.   
 
But Every day is a chance to be born again. Every day, we can do life differently. 
 
Some other problematic issues of what I will call unhealthy born-again theology. A major one is a theology that says some people, based on their sexuality or gender identity are in need of salvation and turn themselves away from who they are. 
 
Unhealthy born-again theology tears us down in order to build us back up. Repeatedly people are told they are inherently bad, wretched sinners,that they’re no good. People told over and over again that they are inherently bad. They start to believe it. 
 
Healthy born-again theology depends on a personal, loving relationship with Jesus and accepts the power of Christ’s presence and teaching in our lives to transform us. 
Healthy born
 
Healthy born-again theology says, that  yes, we have some faults. But that there is room for growth and change. Takes what Jesus says about repentance and forgiveness. Repentance means a turning of the heart. 
To go in a different direction. It’s a turning a mind. To turn the mind against unhealthy behaviors, turn away from our anger, turn away from our greed.  It can also mean that we rethink 
 
Healthy born-again theology recognizes that there is goodness within us. That we were original blessed with goodness. 
 
Healthy born-again theology creates good disciples. Good disciples don’t try to tear you down to build you back up.  Good dischipels look at your strengths and help us strengthen them…… Christ took a band of rag-tag group of fishermen, tax collectors, Zealots, alongside their faults and their sins, and turned them into the community who went out and preached the gospel, the good news. Took that good news and lifted people up by healing them. 
 
The people who followed Jesus, those who were not called disciples but who followed him from one place to another, because they had seen him healing people. They heard him turn people’s live around. 
 
To be born again now is to let the love of Jesus dwell deeply within us. This love increases our love for other. This love works has the strength to turn our lives around, to be renewed.  
 
I like to think of our church like we’re planet fiteness. A judgement free zone and yet we want to walk with you as you grow and transform as a person and as you deepen your relationship with Christ. 
 
Here, we want to cheer you on your spiritual and life-changing path. Because Jesus cheers us on. 
 
Jesus is there saying, I know you can. I know you can. I know you can.
 
Amen.