re-born royalty (or, your family lineage means nothing)

7 06 2012

There are things we get from our families we cannot choose. Physical traits  (I got the knees and nose) or mental abilities (I didn’t get the maths genes). It might be expectation and achievement; or it might be expectation of non-achievement. I’m not sure which is worse.

There are some people who trade off their family name, rather than bringing any new skill. Bruno Senna, Peaches Geldof, Charles Windsor… [**tongue in cheek**]. I’m sure you can think of others. 

When Jesus spoke to the Pharisee Nicodemus, he was speaking to someone deeply influenced by birth. Jewish society was strictly hierarchical on family lines, but more importantly, being a child of Abraham was the most important thing. God had chosen the people of Abraham, so they were blessed. A bit like the Royal family, it was all about who you were born as.

Jesus tells Nicodemus, no-one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. “Hmph, how can you be born again?” laughs Nicodeumus. “What, can you squeeze back into your mum’s womb?!” The women wince. It was hard enough the first time.

For Nicodemus, this is who I am. For us, often we think, this is who I am. Don’t try and change me. You can’t change me. I we talking to someone  about their anger and short temper – this is who I am, they said. My dad was short-tempered, I am short-tempered. It’s just the way it is. End of.

Jesus says No! This is not who you are. Your family does not define you. Where you are now does not define you. The kingdom of God is all about new birth, re-birth, a fresh start. To enter the kingdom of God you need to be born again, of the water of baptism and also of the spirit. The spirit who is unpredictable like the wind.

Nicodemus is confused. For Nicodemus the kingdom of God was not unpredictable like the wind. It was about birthrights. Genetics. A strong wind makes neatness and predicability very hard.

That strong wind means your family lineage means nothing to God. Whether it brings you privilege or pain, your family history and your family present is irrelevant. Irrelevant! Hear that,  inherited money. Hear that, inherited poverty. Hear that, inherited achievement. Hear that, inherited non-achievement.

We are born again, born into the family of God, born of the Spirit. Born royal. 

This is a family it is good to be a part of. It is a family it is good to become like. With the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we become more and more like our Father, shaped into his likeness. So this week as we celebrate the monarchy and the inherited family names that make this week important, let’s remember who we are in God:

Born again to new life in Christ;
Born fresh without the birthrights or birthwrongs that surround us;
Born free, free from sin, free from fear, free from our past and free to face the future with hope.

Blow, wind, blow. 



13 07 2011

I remember my first car chase. I say car chase. I was on my bicycle, and slapped a car for stopping on the yellow-box junction outside Oval tube. He reversed out of the queue and chased me down a side-street where I lost him.

I remember the first time I was punched. It was days after the car chase, in almost the same place. I had slapped the white van for pulling out on me when I was cycling home from work; the white van man chased me, and I didn’t lose him. He overtook me, waited for me, and punched me.

After this I took the bus to work.

I assume both those driver had driving licenses. Their driving licenses didn‘t mean they were driving well. The fact that I have my cycling proficiency certificate from 1987 didn’t mean I was cycling well either.

The proof of ability to drive is in the driving, not the certificate. The proof of ability to cycle is in the cycling, not the certificate.

I have another certificate. My birth certificate proves that a birth took place.  But it doesn’t prove that I am still alive. What proves I am alive? Me.


Jesus talks about us being born again, or born from above. It’s like being born the first time, except that the first gulp of life-source we take is not air, but the Spirit. In the Greek, the word is pnuema, as in pneumatic tyre. Filled with pneuma.

Often when this happens we get a certificate. We remember this day. Like our first birth, we rightly celebrate it, but unless we keep on breathing the Spirit our baptism certificate, like our birth certificate, is meaningless. Interesting history, but it doesn’t prove life. And this applies whether you are baptised as a baby or a believing adult. Because neither prove on-going life. Anyone can get wet.

We may go faithfully to church every week; we may just come for a baptism. But the challenge is the same for all of us. Are we living as new creations? Are we living as those who have been born from the spirit, breathing in him as our source of life, reconciled to God and changed from the inside out?

That is proof of life.  Certified.

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