Today’s gospel contains a short but extremely powerful verse. The verse is so well-known in Christian communities that most recognize it by his biblical reference—John 3:16. Yes, God so loved the world. And what a comfort that small verse is. Yet, the remaining assigned scriptures have power meanings as well. In the old testament, our patriarch Abraham sets off with his brother Lot to find the land and face the adventures that God has promised—because God loved Abraham and the children of Israel. The psalm reminds us that God watches over us throughout our lives. The epistle from Romans reminds us that Abraham’s action were founded in faith—that God loves us and watches over us. And in the gospel from John, the earlier verses tell of Nicodemus, a man seeking clarification of what Jesus and his disciples have been saying. Jesus admonishes by saying if Nicodemus won’t believe the witness of things past then he will surely not believe the promise of things heavenly. So, God cares for us, protects us, shelters us, and loves us so much that he would sacrifice his only son.
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There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, . . . [who] said to him [Jesus], “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. . . .Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. . . . The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” . . . “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
sermons4kids: “Jesus went on to explain to Nicodemus that a person is “born again” when the Spirit of God enters into his heart. Humans can reproduce human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. And that’s what it means to be born again.”
Collect: O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
- Adults: What difference does your faith in Jesus Christ make in your life?
Children: What does it mean to you to be a holy person?
- Consider a time when you felt uncertain. Can you see how God was at work in your life at that time?
- What from Abraham and Sarai’s story, or from Nicodemus’s story, is a help to you as you look for evidence of God’s presence in your own life?
Saint Focus: Having just watched the movie “Harriet”, naturally I’m drawn to looking at the life of Harriet Ross Tubman. Her faith led her to believe that God wanted to deliver the American slaves from bondage and it was her job to make that happen. She single-handedly delivered many slaves and continued her good works after the Civil War. [from the Calendar of the church year according to the Episcopal Church.]
This week, the saints under consideration were :
The whole round world, in Greek the total cosmos, / Is all encompassed in this loving word;
Not just the righteous, right on, and religious, / But every one of whom you’ve ever heard,
And all the throng you don’t know or ignore, / For everyone is precious in his sight,
Chosen and cherished, loved, redeemed before / The circling cosmos ever saw the light.
He set us in the world that we might flourish / That His beloved world might live through us
We chose instead that all of this should perish / And turned his every blessing to a curse.
And now he gives himself, as Life and Light / That we might choose in Him to set things right.
Movies/Videos: “Harriet” (2019), a courageous and charismatic freedom fighter; “Greatest Showman” (2017), spiritual practice of inclusiveness; “A Hidden Life” (2019), a conscientious objector during World War II.
image Father Abraham in Smurfland, created by Pierre Kartner. Learn more.
Preparing for Lent: Here’s one activity for Lent you may wish to participate in. Set a bag to hold your “things”. Each day of Lent, find something that you no longer use and put it in the bag. Then during Holy week, give your bag of things to a local charity. And for the 2nd activity, participate in Lent Madness (Facebook page) or website. Lent Madness is a fun way to learn about the saints of our church. Each day you select one of two saints who you believe is more “worthy” to be a saint. Near Palm Sunday, one of the selected saints will earn the “golden halo”. And “you helped”!
Imagine how much faith and trust Abram must have had to follow God’s direction to leave his country and go into a foreign land. Even our faith is a gift of God—certainly not of our own doing. Our faith finds fullness and expression when we gather together for worship, to share stories, and to encourage one another. Through Abraham’s faith we have been blessed, and now we are called to share God’s gifts of faith, mercy, forgiveness, love, and salvation with others.
Excerpted from So It Is website.
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Today’s readings focus on the theme of journey. Whenever we travel, we undergo the pain of leaving behind familiar things and the uncertainty of a new future. In Lent, Christians remember that they are life-long “pilgrims in a strange land,” people on a journey into the future that God has prepared for us.
The Old Testament reading tells of the story of Abraham’s calling by God, and the beginning of his journey into the Promised Land. In this new and unknown place, God opened up new rivers of grace for Abraham and Sarah. In the second reading, Paul expounds on Abraham as the father of faith and as our ancestor in the faith. The journey begun by Abraham and Sarah is a journey that continues in our lives and a journey begun this Lent by all those among us who seek baptism at Easter.
Nicodemus is also interested in a journey—the journey into God’s Kingdom. Here a leading rabbi comes to discuss God’s Word with Jesus, whom he recognizes as a fellow rabbi. John tells us this was Passover season and it was accounted specially blessed for rabbis to discuss God’s Word through the night during that season. Jesus reveals the way into God’s Kingdom to be a new birth, a birth from heaven (the original text means both) through water and the Holy Spirit.
We gather to support each other in our journey, to pray for those who will be baptized, and to be nourished by Christ in his Word and Sacraments—they are our food for the journey.
From The Rite Light: Reflections on the Sunday Readings and Seasons of the Church Year. Copyright © 2007 by Michael W. Merriman. Church Publishing Incorporated, New York.