Script: Mark 15:33-39
Title: “Just Breathe”
My wife is 26 weeks pregnant. We went to the baby doctor this past week. We listened to the heart beat, and Karen was examined and everything is fine. But on the way home I started thinking about the difference between life in the womb and life outside the womb. The more I pondered the difference between life before birth and life after birth the more I was reminded of a couple of John Wesley’s sermons. I was specifically reminded of Wesley’s Sermon, “The Great Privilege of those that are Born of God”. We are going to talk about this sermon in two parts; this week and next week. And this week we are going to talk about the difference between being justified by faith and being born again.
Let’s have a show of hands. How many of y’all have seen that Dawn soap commercial with the baby duck. The commercial starts with a baby duck all covered in thick, black, crude oil. A pair of hands wearing yellow rubber gloves tenderly picks up the baby duck and uses Dawn dish soap to scrub the oil away. Sisters and brothers – that is justification. Justification is God coming down with loving hands, tenderly lifting us out of our sinful past and washing us clean – not with Dawn dish soap, but with the blood of Christ. All of our past sins are washed away. We are as clean as that fuzzy, little, baby duck. The only problem with Justification alone is if we took that clean baby duck back out to the beach where it was found and allowed it to walk away, where do you think it would end up? (Pause for answers) Yup, probably right back in the crude oil again. It isn’t that the duck is dumb. The truth is that cute little duck just doesn’t know any better. I think it’s that same way with sinners.
Picture it: a tiny baby in its mother’s womb. The child is about nine inches long and weighs about a pound. The skin isn’t tough enough to handle the outside world and the eyes are still sealed behind their eye lids. Light is muted and sounds are muffled inside the womb. At 26 weeks a baby just aint ready for the outside world. It’s almost as if a closed thick veil hangs between the baby and all of us. Now y’all know a baby cannot stay in the Momma’s womb forever. Eventually, the child has to come out. And oh what a world the child will see. Creation is by God’s design beautiful and good. Even though creation is broken it is still beautiful. There are new sights to see. There are new smells to smell. There is the sound of the first “I love you’s.” There is the feeling of first cold when the child comes into the world and then warmth of being wrapped in those blankets and being handed to Mommy for the very first time. At first the real world is a shock. We had no idea life could be this beautiful and cold, loving and scary all at once. And of course real life is a shock when we have spent all of our time behind the veil.
Sisters and brothers something wonderful has happened. The veil has been torn. With Jesus’ death on the cross the veil was torn and the barrier between us and the “real world” of God’s creation was taken away. When the veil was torn we were given this wonderful and blessed opportunity to be born again. Just as Christ rose from the grave on the third day so we too can step out into the light of Jesus Christ. Through this opportunity we no longer have to live in the muted world of sin behind the veil. Instead we can live in the light and wonder of God’s love and grace.
Now let me ask you, What is the first thing a baby does when it comes into the world? (obvious answer: cry) It cries, right? But what has to happen first before the baby can cry? (pause) The baby has to take a deep breath. The baby has to take air into its lungs in order to breathe out the first, “Hey!!! This cold air is not what I signed up for!” From then on the baby is growing and learning what it means to live in the real world. The baby is hungry for milk. Then the baby is hungry for thicker baby food. Then the baby is hungry for something it can sink its new teeth into. I am sure y’all remember the first thing baby wants to do when it learns to grab is put stuff right in its mouth – right? (pause) The baby strains to see – at first a few feet in front of it, then across the room, then outside of the house. The baby wants to see it all. The baby wants to move and explore. The baby stretches and grows until it can crawl, and then walk, and then climb. The baby turns into a toddler, then a child, then a teenager, and finally an adult.
The same is true of our walk with Christ. When we accept Jesus Christ as our risen Lord and Savior two things happen. At once Jesus washes us clean of our sin with the only thing tough enough to scrub our sins away – the blood of Christ. At the same time we take our first deep breaths in the love of God. There in the Garden of Eden God formed man from the dust of the earth and breathed into man the breath of life. God’s breath gives us life. How are we meant to respond? I’ll give you a hint. The correct response does not sound like, “Hey!!! This cold air is not what I signed up for!” No, the correct response to breathing in the breath of God is to breathe out love, and prayer, and praise and thanksgiving. Let’s face it folks, “love and praise and prayer,” are the spiritual breath of everyone who is truly born of God. If we aren’t giving back love and praise and prayer and thanksgiving then odds are we are sucking on the tail pipe of sin instead of drawing in the sweet country air of God’s good grace.
Just like a baby in the womb we cannot live in sin forever. There’s a consequence to that. When we continue to try to live behind the veil we become choked out and constricted. There isn’t space for any kind of growth and we become stunted, sick, angry and bitter. That’s no way to live. That’s no way to feel. That’s not a good way to be. Think about this for a minute. It is the precise moment when Jesus breathes his last breath that we were able to take our first breaths as the Children of God. Jesus had to give up everything, even the breath He breathed so we could have new birth. Jesus died so the veil could be torn. When the veil was torn the breath of God was released. We could once again breathe in the love and creative Spirit of God instead of trying to inhale the ashes of sin from the ash tray. There aint nothing sweeter than the love of God. Even the pagan centurion who witnessed Jesus take His last breath recognized there was power there. The centurion remarked, “Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39)!
Hear me now, sisters and brothers. We were not meant to stay babies any more than we were meant to stay behind the veil. We are meant to take in the breath of God. We are meant to grow and mature. It’s no good trying to stay baby Christians whose faith is spoon fed to us. It don’t matter how long we have been Christians if we are still trying to sip our milk like a baby. Babies instinctively know they need to stretch. Babies instinctively know they need to breathe, and to eat and to explore. How much breathing, eating and exploring are we doing in our faith? Are we big Christian babies? Or are we eager to become Christians who are mature in our faith? The Church can no longer tolerate congregations filled with Peter Pan Christians who refuse to grow up and carry outlandish expectations and feelings of entitlement. We cannot live and act like spoiled Christian babies trying to have our cake and eat it to. Christ has set a standard by which all who love God must live. By today’s standards the kind of maturity Christ calls us to seems unattainable. However, in Christ all things are possible. Amen? Amen! Let us not be content to try and hide behind the torn pieces of the veil of sin. Let us step out into the light. Let us come together in the light of Christ to take a moment away from all of the busyness of life. Sisters and brothers if we truly want to become mature Christians following the way of Jesus Christ we must first learn to breathe the sweet breath of God and remember what it is to truly live.
In the name of Jesus Christ,
 John Wesley, John Wesley Sermons An Anthology” “The Great Priviledge of those that are born of God”, edited by Albert Outler and Richard P. Heitzenrater (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1991), 186.
 Some manuscripts translate this “a son” of God instead of “the Son” of God. (ESV footnote)