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  • The Rev. Jessica E. Sexton

Back to Crawling

Today is another glorious day for our church. Stella Stys will be baptized. Four baby girls baptized in two months! It’s such a joy for us as a faith community. And like Charlotte and Everly and Ellie, Stella will be welcomed into God’s family through the water of baptism.

Now if I was to ask Stella’s parents to bring her up here right now to the front of the church and place her down onto the carpet so we could drink in her cuteness, most likely Stella will lay on her stomach and prop herself up onto her forearms using her strength to lift up her little head to look around to take us all in too. Or if she is crawling, she would be on all fours baby crawling around the carpet with her older brother bennett following her around.

For us, we would think nothing of Stella crawling around on all fours as that is what babies do. Because as their muscular and nervous systems develop and get stronger, their movement slowly progresses until they are strong enough to stand upright and eventually walk.

However, if you were to enter the church one day and find me baby crawling around the halls of Good Shepherd then all of you would probably think I was crazy. The funny part is… I do baby crawl. That’s right... when I am at the gym I usually will baby crawl for about 10 minutes--front and back, side to side--just like a baby--just like Stella.

And you like the many people of the gym may think I am crazy and that’s okay.

See, we have probably all fallen victim to the normal adult activity cycle. From college into our professional lives, at least for small periods of time.

College was spent hunched over a desk or computer studying for hours. We enter the workforce and now we get paid to hunch over a different desk with a nicer computer. And then we have kids and deciding on an hour of tv and an hour of exercise becomes a no-brainer especially when it finals week on the voice or there’s been a tragic plot twist on dancing with the stars.

Through these periods of sedentary living we start to lose the connections in our nervous system that Stella is just starting to learn.

A couple months after beginning my time here I started to workout again. I had been hunched over a desk in Seminary and I decided I was going to get strong and ripped and turn into an athlete and so I got with a trainer who trains young athletes all the way to professional athletes, Mark Shropshire.

I was pumped to get back in the gym and get biceps only to find myself crawling… like an infant… on the floor. I finally had to ask why…

What I learned was that as adults with limited physical activity we begin to lose those connections in our nervous system. And in order to get them back we have to do the things that infants do like crawling and rolling and head nods to re-establish those nervous system connections and this is called Original Strength.

Which makes sense because we essentially have to go back to the beginning, to our origin. We have to go back to those simple yet fundamental movements to have those most profound physical transformation.

And this idea of Original Strength going back to the simple and fundamental movements also pertains to our faith--to our life as Christians.

Since life is complicated so too can be our spiritual life when we try to make sense of every theological question and get bogged down in all the little stuff that we can’t figure out about God.

But maybe that’s what we need to do...go back to the the simplest question: do you believe in God? And why?

In today’s text Nicodemus is caught up in the particulars. He’s trying to figure out how Jesus is connected to God. He tells Jesus, “Rabbi, we all know you’re a teacher straight from God. No one could do all the God-pointing, God-revealing acts you do if God weren’t in on it.”

But what Jesus does today is try to make things simpler for Nicodemus. Yes, Jesus does all those God revealing acts like turning water into wine but he explains that’s only possible because of God--God revealing himself to the world through Christ.

And to simplify things for Nicodemus Jesus says, “Take it from me [he says]: Unless a person is born from above, it’s not possible to see what I’m pointing to—to God’s kingdom.” Now this is not about who is in or out of heaven but simply that to witness the amazing power of God in our lives and have the awareness to recognize it then we have believe in the first place. And for many of us--we need reasons to and two as it is trinity sunday we have three--God connects with us through the three persons of the trinity--as father, as the son and as the holy spirit.

To be born from above as Jesus refers to it is not about being a child of God which we are, but being born from above is believing in God above so that we can experience the transformational power of God’s love through our lives--through the words of his son, Jesus Christ that move us to actions of loving our neighbor and through the power of the Holy Spirit that inspires to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. To keep it simple.

You may think...well I’m a Christian and of course I believe--like exercising and aging--things change and Jesus is calling Nicodemus and all of us to not let our love for God and our relationship with God not be something we work on. But rather a continue evolution of mutual love and discovery.

Being from above or the term being born again--it’s actually translated as “spiritual renewal” so Jesus is calling us to work on our spiritual well being. So that we can recognize those moments in our lives where God is speaking to us or calling us to do God’s work in the world.

This idea of being “born again” has really taken on a life of it’s own within American Christianity and over the years has come to be referred to as a Christian conversion experience whereby a person publicly or privately accepts Jesus Christ as their lord and savior in order to be saved and given eternal life with God in heaven. These conversion experiences have profound spiritual significance and impact on the believer.

The great Evangelist and preacher Billy Graham who I had the privilege of seeing speak about 10 years ago now at Camden Yards, described being “born again” as “to have the Holy Spirit transform our hearts from indifference and hostility toward God to a love of God and a desire for righteousness and holiness. The only way one can come to God and experience what it means to be “born again” is through repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ.”

This may be a way of looking at what it means to be born again but it doesn’t necessarily hold the same meaning for Jesus.

Being born again is a conversion experience for him but it is not just a one time spectacular and spiritual thing. It’s about connecting with God each and everyday so that we have those mini conversion experiences where we are constantly reminded of the love of God and the love we need to be in God’s world. Where we can evolve as spiritual beings continuously renewed by our all powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, omnipresent, God that meets us where we are.

We are called to constantly work on connecting with God just like we have to work on making those connections with our nervous system so that we can literally move. Connecting and being reborn and renewed allows us to move into the world with the holy spirit so that we can not only believe in earthly things but heavenly ones.

So we need to get back to the being reset or reborn...we need to connect with God so we we remember why we believe and worship in the first place. In order for us to move within this world with God’s spirit within us. How do we do this?

Well, what about your spiritual life does not seem super strong? What has fallen to the wayside? Has it been your prayer life? Or maybe you have been feeling like you just don't need God right now?

Renewing your spiritual life begins with recognizing what needs to change, what needs growth and what also has been a strength. How is God calling you to spiritual renew in your own life? What needs to be renewed so that you can feel reconnected with God?

The beauty of spiritual renewal whether it’s in the form of a more centered and structured prayer life or being more intentional of seeking to see God in the world--is that we are transformed. Not just one conversion but the power of being born again and again is that we take part in this renewal process everyday in seeking out God then we'll be forever changed, forever stronger.

If you see me crawling like a baby--join me! And join me in getting back to the simple reasons why we believe--that God sent his only son so we can have eternal life. A life where we will forever be connected to the love of God. Amen.

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