I was in the pulpit this last Sunday at Westwood UMC and I chose to preach on John 3. It was the first time I have ever engaged that text outside of an evangelical environment.

You can take a listen here [link]. It works to stream it, download it, or get it on Itunes.

I began by addressing an awkward pairing:
– On the one hand, the phrase ‘born again’ has fallen into disrepute and disuse among many believers.
– On the other hand, Jesus is pretty clear that we ‘must be born again’.

Two other aspects that I attempt to overcome with this approach are:

A) We too often read both John 3:3 and 3:16 through a lens of individualism.
B) We have been taught to think of ‘eternal life’ as life after you die.

In order to correct these severely limited and limiting readings, I look at 5 key words/concepts.

  • Kingdom
  • Flesh
  • Eternal Life
  • Salvation
  • Repent

I hope you will listen to the sermon. For those of you who are not initiated into this (in)novative approach … here is a quick overview.

Jesus never talked about the “Kingdom” of God [I’ve written on this before]. That is an English translation and as such is up for debate. I think that there are at least 4 better translations for ‘Basileia tou Theou’ (Strong’s #932).

  1. Kin-dom of God. We are in the family, Abba adoption, etc.
  2. Reign/Rule of God. Still governmental but with the Caesar baggage.
  3. Commonwealth of God. Also governmental imagery but not so top-down and coercive.
  4. The way things should be/the best that they can be. At minimum, this is what we are after.

You will hear all of these explained in the sermon. I do the same for ‘flesh’ (Sarx in Greek), Eternal Life (life of the ages/God’s best life), and salvation/repent.

In the end, what you end up with is this invitation:

We will not see the Basileia that we long for and expect
Until we turn from the way we have been doing things (repent)
Realizing that God loves the world and gave us live through his son
So that we are now children of God
As we participate in God’s plan (the way things should be/the best they can be)
We live the life of the ages and welcome in the reign of God for the common-wealth

This gives us a confidence that things can be different from the way they are now and don’t have to be this way!

If you do take the time to listen to sermon (and I hope you will), I would love to hear your thoughts-concerns-question.

I am glad that I attempted an engagement with John 3 in a different way than I ever had before. It was also significant (as you will hear) that events of South Carolina this week were heavy on everyone’s hearts.