Year B – Trinity Sunday – John 3:1-17

John 3:1–17 NRSV –    Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 3:2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 3:4 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?” 3:5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 3:6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 3:7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 3:8 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.” 3:9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 3:10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 3:11 “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. 3:12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 3:13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 3:14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 3:15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 3:16 “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. 3:17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Summary – John 3 is the famous passage of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, an inquiring Pharisee. It is famous because the language of being “born again” comes from this text. In this version (NRSV) this phrase is more properly translated being “born from above,” since the Greek word “anothen” can be either born “again” or “from above.” In the context Jesus is speaking about a new creation birth by the Spirit that will come from heaven, just as Jesus Himself came from heaven. The Kingdom that Nicodemus (and all the Pharisees) were looking for would be a Kingdom that must be entered through the water of Baptism and the Baptism of the Spirit. This Spiritual Cleansing of Israel is what the Prophets spoke of in the times associated with the coming of Messiah (such as last week’s reading in Ez. 37). Jesus explains that God gave His Son for the world, not in condemnation, but that the world would be saved through believing in Him.

Insight – Have you come to the place in your life where you know that you have peace with God? Have you had a spiritual change in your life? Here’s a question that may help you to discern your spiritual condition: If you died today and were standing before God the Judge of All and He asked you why you should go to heaven, what would you say? The best answer to this question is found in verse 16: “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.” We are all responsible to trust that Jesus makes us acceptable to God the Father.

Catechism – What does John 3:16 teach? That 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.

Discussion – If  Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world then what did He come to do? How does your life fit with God’s purpose for sending Jesus?

Prayer – Almighty Father we thank you for sending Jesus our only Savior into the world so that we might be saved through Him who was lifted up on the cross, taking our sins, taking our judgment and giving us His life. We believe in Him and ask that you would grant to us the grace to continue steadfastly in that faith through out our lives, in Christ’s Name. Amen.

 

 

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Year B – Easter 2 – Psalm 133

1 How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! 2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes. 3   It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion.  For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore.

Summary:  Whether working or playing together, both can be rewarding experiences when everything goes well–and I’m sure you can think of times when it hasn’t.  More often then not, our worst fights are with those closest to us.  Nevertheless, it is a beautiful thing when we live in peace and harmony.  This is what David’s Psalm pictures.  The first image he uses is that of the anointing oil flowing down Aaron’s body, setting him wholly apart part for his unique task as high priest (Ex 29:7; Lev 8:12).  The second speaks of the life giving dew upon Mount Hermon, which is the mountains only source of water for vegetation.  God is the one who has set apart and blessed this unity; so that it may provide life and refreshment to a barren world.

Insight:  God has set us apart, in Christ and as Christ’s body, the royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9-10).  The unity that comes with being identified with Christ can been heard in Paul’s repetition of ‘one’ in Ephesians 4:  There is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God.  Equally as powerful is Paul’s appeal that we must live according to–that is in unity with–our own anointing that once ran down our heads.  Do to this, we must live in conformity to all those mentioned above.  This is the resurrected life even now, a great blessing indeed.

Child Catechism:  What is unity compared with?  The anointing oil which covered Aaron and the refreshing dew covering Mount Hermon.

Discussion:  [ref.  Galatins 5:16-26]  What are some of the ways disunity comes about?  How does that compare with the fruits of the Spirit?  What does being led by the unity of Spirit look like?

Father,

So often, we live in conflict within ourselves and with others

filled with bitterness and hatred, with no end to the fight

Bless us with that resurrected life, in peace and with unity

which can only come from you

So that together, with our fellow man and with you

we may life in this good and pleasing unity

Lead by Your Spirit and it is in Christ’s Name we pray. Amen.

Contributed by M. West

Year B – Lent 1 – 1 Peter 3:18-22

For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. 3:18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 3:19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 3:20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 3:21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 3:22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him. 4:1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin),

Summary – The book of 1 Peter is all about suffering. Peter wants his hearers to endure suffering for doing good, not for doing evil. In this rich passage he summarizes the sufferings of Christ. “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.” He explains that Christ proclaimed His work to those imprisoned spirits who were disobedient in the time of Noah. The disobedient in that day suffered (in the flood) but deserved judgment. Just as Noah and his household were saved in the ark, now baptism is the ark of salvation from judgment. So baptism like other covenant signs refers to blessing and cursing. The first baptism of the world was a judgment, but now baptism is the way we are united with Jesus in His resurrection. If we are in Christ, then we should be like righteous Noah, not disobedient like those who mocked Noah, but perished.

Insight – When is the last time you were punished? Did you do it? Were you guilty? There is a kind of suffering when you are found guilty and must be punished. But this kind of suffering is deserved. Suffering for doing what is right and good, being punished for something you did not do, that is very hard. But how much harder if you were to be punished or hurt simply because you believe in Jesus! This was the context of 1 Peter. Believers received harsh treatment and persecution because they confessed through their baptisms that Jesus was Lord. Today we can see the same thing  in the Islamic world. Talking about Jesus is one thing, but if a Muslim is baptized then it may mean (in many Islamic countries) that he or she will be killed or imprisoned. Suffering for our faith is, however, preparation for glory. After Christ suffered He went “into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.” He promises that we too will reign with Him if we suffer with Him.

Child Catechism – Why did Christ suffer? Christ suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.

Discussion – Have you ever been hurt because you were doing what was right?

Prayer – Almighty God, we come to you in Christ’s name asking that you would relieve the suffering and persecution of Christians in the world. We pray that you would bring gospel peace to countries where Christians are persecuted. Open the eyes of those that would harm baptized Christians for their faith and grant them forgiveness. Give us strength to be bold in our faith. In the name of the Lord Jesus who ascended to Your right hand. Amen.