John 3:1-10

Pastor Todd BuurstraYe must be born again! cried the barnstorming preacher in Abraham DuMont’s barn. It was 1821 and the preacher was conducting a revival. That night on the outskirts of North Branch it was estimated that 1000 souls were crammed into every nook and cranny of this barn. Men in farmer’s jeans and bonneted women in long dresses jammed the floor and hayloft. Around that time historians estimate that only 5% of the population went to church (85% less than today!). History says “morals were crude.” Does that mean a lot of cursing the horses? An extra finger on the scale at the store, and that things happened in the hayloft that polite society didn’t talk about? History says “education was low.” Our Surveyors had more education than that preacher.

He went on: Like Nicodemus who snuck off to investigate Jesus at night, tonight you’ve come to check out this revival preacher. While you test me it’s Jesus who is putting the candle up to your soul to see if you’re born again! And does he find that you whip your slaves and caress another man’s wife… Come to Jesus for forgiveness!

The usual Saturday night fiddler at the village square dances began one of those new-fangled songs, a mournful hymn, written during the Second Great Awakening… The evangelist paused to pray. He prayed that many would be reborn in this barn. That they would experience what the greatest revivalist preacher of that generation, Charles Finney, experienced as liquid love. So he commanded: Stand up if you want to receive Jesus. 100s stood: young and old, men and women, black and white, all born again.

From that meeting we know that God’s Spirit birthed three great things in NBRC:

  1. A new church. In 1825 this land was deeded for $1 in Jun; in Sep the Refomed Dutch Church of North Branch was organized, and by Dec Rev. G. Fisher arrived.
  2. A welcoming congregation. Even a quick look at the charter members of NBRC shows that the church’s arms stretched as wide as Christ’s by welcoming Dutch, French Hugenot, German, Irish, Scots, and English folk. All were received.
  3. A church who cared about its community. We know that two great social move-ments came out of the Second Great Awakening: abolition of slavery and the temperance movement. To what degree our farmers were active in freeing slaves and throwing away the bottle, I don’t know, but I do know that Alberta DuMont, ancestor of Abraham, and great grandmother of Ricky was still anti-drink in 1980.

So how does being born in a barn effect NBRC today? I believe that it means that
the Holy Spirit is always making us new. Born again and again and again. We can say: Rebirth is our birthrite. (Birthrite means that we have a right from birth to be renewed by God daily.) Indeed that’s the way God is. Like spring grass the Holy Spirit always keeps things growing. Like the wind that we can feel, but not see, the Holy Spirit is always moving us. And so, if we’re not growing, not being moved, not changing; we’re dying. As with the whole congregation, Confirmation isn’t the end of growing in God through church school, worship and youth group; it’s the beginning because rebirth is…

Surveyors, if you’re a little bored with the sermon now note that a 5 year old asked the preacher why he always bowed his head before he started preaching. Pleased that she had noticed the preacher said, Honey, I’m asking the Lord to help me preach a good sermon. The little girl replied, How come He doesn’t answer it? You’re not alone.

How does the Spirit birth NBRC anew 183 years after the barn? In similar ways:

  1. As the renewing Spirit started a church back then so is the Holy Spirit starting a church now. Ignite! meets in 3 cell groups of about 15-20 different people. Yet it seems that God is leading them to start worshiping together in June; maybe here, maybe at United Reformed, to provide one more entry point for folks. But mama NBRC is not done tying shoes and wiping noses: God is calling some of us to be more involved in helping that new worship as greeters, warm bodies, 6 month core group members, AND through contributing financially through the Special Gifts Fund. Don’t even need to be between 18-39, but you need to know: Rebirth is…
  2. As the Holy Spirit welcomed Dutch and French into that first church so the Holy Spirit welcomes everyone today. I particularly felt this wind of the Spirit blowing when you guys did your youth service, and in your Credos today. Did you know that when Anna preached that she was the 10th generation from Abraham DuMont? Old Abe might have rolled over in his grave that his great- great- great-… granddaughter preached. Girls and guys, men and women, young and old, hymns and praise, Asians, Latinos, Africans are included because rebirth.
  3. As the Holy Spirit renewed that first group to care about their community, so the Holy Spirit is renewing us to love our neighbors. This past Tuesday we had our first, official meeting to discern God’s will for the use of the Lawrence House property. I am inspired by the possibilities! A couple of the ideas that we’re researching are: home for young adults too old for the foster system… or a ministry center to house Christian professionals that might offer programs on parenting, or groups dealing with addictions, or finding your career calling… etc. Wow! New ways to win people to Christ in line with Kirkside, the Preschool, and Sunrise! All because we were born in a barn where rebirth is…

Folks, your heritage from Abraham on down to Ricky, Sara, Taylor, Max… is
that by God you are born again, and again, and again. For, let’s say it one last time,…

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