Pastor Darrin Ronde
March 31, 2016
This past Easter Sunday I tried to communicate in a short period of time how necessary and possible it is to experience a resurrected life, something Jesus called a new birth (John 3:3). When I first heard the term “born again” being tossed around churches when I was in high school, it freaked me out. It sounded so bizarre and unfamiliar. So out of my thinking and sphere of control. Which is precisely the beauty of it! Jesus says that humans give birth to human life, but only the Holy Spirit can give birth to our spirit. We don’t control the rebirthing process—except for surrendering our dead lives to God. Even then, our surrender is initiated by the work of the Spirit, who whispers to us and awakens us to our need.
I saw this play out Easter Sunday as I watched people stand or kneel before the cross and give their lives to Jesus. They were so much like me, putting too much hope in my religion. I thank my Mother for getting me started in church. Here intentions were good. But over the course of several years, I grew uncomfortable with that upbringing. Many of the rituals of my church felt hollow and impersonal. I remember watching the clock during the reverend’s sermon and checking off the minutes. He only preached twenty minutes, but it seemed like an eternity!
Religion has a way of suffocating faith and giving us false confidence that we are on the right track with God. Jesus came to free us from religion. That was his message to Nicodemus, and is still his message to sincere religious people everywhere. God wants us to be open to the freedom, mystery and power of the Holy Spirit in the present. And isn’t that the message of Easter…that Jesus is no longer in the tomb but present to minister and communicate with us today?
I saw this in action on Sunday. I had the privilege of praying with individuals who wanted to experience the new life Jesus offers. Some chose to be baptized on Easter Sunday and forever link their spiritual resurrection with the resurrection of Jesus! One was a young man in a wheel chair. With great emotion he shared how he went to church as a kid only to appease his father. It bothered him that he didn’t have a deeper reason, but that was the best he had. More recently, as a young adult, he says he’s finding joy in coming to church. It’s like chains are falling off him and freeing him to experience a new life. It took two men to lift him from his wheelchair and carry him into the baptistery. You should’ve seen the expression on his face as he confessed his faith in Jesus right before they leaned him back into the water! We cheered as he smiled from ear to ear. Pure joy!!!
That made Easter for me!