Year A – Lent 2 – John 3:1-17

John 3:1–17  – Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 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 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 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?” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 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.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 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. 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? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 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. 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 –  Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews discusses Christ’s Messianic ministry (v. 2) and the “kingdom of God” (vv. 3, 5) with Jesus. Many hearers are stuck in wooden and dumb literalisms (e.g., “destroy this temple,” ch. 2). Here Nicodemus misunderstands this “new birth” as a literal natural birth. Jesus is describing a spiritual renewal. The word in“again” (v3) in the popular phrase “born again” in Greek is anothen. It often means “from above” rather than “again.” Hence the NRSV has it as born from “above,” just as John 19:11 – “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above” (anothen, 19:11). We have new life from Spirit of heaven “above.” a) The cross as the basis of our kingdom acceptance (v15); b) God’s love is the motivation for kingdom salvation (v16); c) God’s kingdom purpose is that the world might be saved (v17).

Insight – Jesus came to bring a new age. Being “born again” relates to the Messianic kingdom of God. Elsewhere it is called the “regeneration,” or the new world (palingenesia, lit. “rebirth,” Matt. 19:28). Here the same idea is in “born again/from above.” Nicodemus should have known this (v. 10). This was not “new revelation” (e.g., Ezek. 36:26, Jer. 31:33). In Isaiah 59:19–60:4ff, the essential terms and concepts of this dialogue are found: “For He will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the LORD drives. And a Redeemer will come to Zion. . . . My Spirit which is upon you. . . . Nations will come to your light.” Jesus calls for faith in Himself because He is the unique (only-begotten) Son of God (vv. 16-18). God’s action in sending Christ was “that the world might be saved through Him.” God’s purpose and intention is expressed as world salvation (1Jn 2). Like many kingdom promises, this can only be fulfilled progressively. Like the mustard seed, the leaven, the growth of the waters covering the sea and entrance of nations into the new Jerusalem, this is best understood as the cumulative outcome of all salvation history.

Child’s Catechism – Can your recite John 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.

Discussion – Do you believe that God is good and that good will be ultimately seen in the world?

Prayer – God of wilderness and water, your Son was baptized and tempted as we are. Guide us through this season, that we may not avoid struggle, but open ourselves to blessing, through the cleansing depths of repentance and the heaven-rending words of the Spirit. Amen.

Year A – Second Sunday of Easter – 1 Peter 1:3-9

Second Sunday of Easter
1 Peter 1:3-9: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith-being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Summary – The apostle Peter writes that we have the blessing of new birth through the resurrection of Jesus. Because of this, we have an inheritance that is kept by the power of God. Through faith we lay claim to  this. Now we can endure trials and suffering for a “little while.” Trials and suffering bring out the preciousness and purity of our faith. It is like refining gold which will result in greater glory. Peter is writing to those as an eyewitness of the resurrection, but the people he’s writing to did not see Jesus themselves. Therefore he encourages them they that can share in the love, faith and joy of the eyewitnesses since they now share in the life of the resurrection.

Insight – The Epistle through Eastertide is from Peter’s first Epistle. He was an eyewitness to the resurrection of Jesus, despite the fact that Mary Magdalene was the first witness. In 1 Peter’s and indeed every recorded word from Peter (in Acts), he remembers the resurrection.  He summarizes the gospel this way: God “has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” This is because new spiritual life comes as an installment of resurrection life. Christ’s resurrection brought this life into the world as the first fruits of the harvest. Believers are born of God, first, and then resurrected bodily at the Last Day. Christ’s resurrection made this possible. The fruits of a resurrection hope include perseverance in trials – “you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor.” Peter was also mindful, like Christ’s words to Thomas (John 20:29), that not everyone could be an eyewitness to the resurrection. But everyone could still believe in the resurrection based upon credible witnesses, like Peter, John, and even Mary. He says, “though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.”

Child’s Catechism – How does new life come to us? Through the resurrection of Jesus applied in our lives by faith.

Question to Consider – How does believing in the resurrection of Jesus help you deal with troubles, trials and problems?

Prayer – [Collect for Purity] Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Year A – Lent 2 – John 3:1-17

John 3:1–17 1   Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 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 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 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?” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 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.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 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. 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? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 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. 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 –  Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews discusses Christ’s Messianic ministry (v. 2) and the “kingdom of God” (vv. 3, 5) with Jesus. Many hearers are stuck in wooden and dumb literalisms (e.g., “destroy this temple,” ch. 2). Here Nicodemus misunderstands this “new birth” as a literal natural birth. Jesus is describing a spiritual renewal. The word in“again” (v3) in the popular phrase “born again” in Greek is anothen. It often means “from above” rather than “again.” Hence the NRSV has it as born from “above,” just as John 19:11 – “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above” (anothen, 19:11). We have new life from Spirit of heaven “above.” a) The cross as the basis of our kingdom acceptance (v15); b) God’s love is the motivation for kingdom salvation (v16); c) God’s kingdom purpose is that the world might be saved (v17).  

Insight – Jesus came to bring a new age. Being “born again” relates to the Messianic kingdom of God. Elsewhere it is called the “regeneration,” or the new world (palingenesia, lit. “rebirth,” Matt. 19:28). Here the same idea is in “born again/from above.” Nicodemus should have known this (v. 10). This was not “new revelation” (e.g., Ezek. 36:26, Jer. 31:33). In Isaiah 59:19–60:4ff, the essential terms and concepts of this dialogue are found: “For He will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the LORD drives. And a Redeemer will come to Zion. . . . My Spirit which is upon you. . . . Nations will come to your light.” Jesus calls for faith in Himself because He is the unique (only-begotten) Son of God (vv. 16-18). God’s action in sending Christ was “that the world might be saved through Him.” God’s purpose and intention is expressed as world salvation (1Jn 2). Like many kingdom promises, this can only be fulfilled progressively. Like the mustard seed, the leaven, the growth of the waters covering the sea and entrance of nations into the new Jerusalem, this is best understood as the cumulative outcome of all salvation history.

Child’s Catechism – Can your recite John 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.

Discussion – Do you believe that God is good and that good will be ultimately seen in the world?

Prayer – God of wilderness and water, your Son was baptized and tempted as we are. Guide us through this season, that we may not avoid struggle, but open ourselves to blessing, through the cleansing depths of repentance and the heaven-rending words of the Spirit. Amen.

Year C – Seventeenth Sunday in Pentecost – 1 Timothy 1:12-17

1 Timothy 1:12-17 NRSV

12 I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. 16 But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Summary – In this passage Paul praises God for being gracious and merciful to him, the chief of sinners. Paul’s past sin of persecuting the church and blaspheming God did not make him unworthy of salvation, he testifies. For the whole reason Jesus Christ came into this world was to save sinners, even the foremost! And Paul says that it was for that very reason that he in fact did receive mercy – because he was the worst of all sinners, and Jesus Christ wanted to use him to show other sinners that their sins do not disqualify them from receiving eternal life.

 Insight – How many people have you heard say something like, “Oh, I can’t come to God yet, I need to get my life right first, and then I’ll come.” Or, “God would never want me in heaven, I am too much of a sinner.” Or, “My sins are way too great, I’m already going to hell, I know it.”  Well, the one thing that is true about such statement is that the person is a sinner. This is true. And yes, it is true that sin separates us from God. But to think that God does not desire a persons salvation because of their sin is completely backwards. God desires to save people who are sinners! “This is a trustworthy statement, deserving of full acceptance,  that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” God is not in the business of helping those who have it all together. God desires more than anything to save sinners. Your sin is not a hindrance from you obtaining eternal life, in fact, being a sinner is a prerequisite! And God demonstrates His patience in saving sinners by showing us in Paul’s life, that if God saved the worst of sinners, He desires to save you as well.

Catechism – Q. For who did Christ Jesus came into the world to save? A. Sinners.

Discussion – Does your sin ever make you think that God no longer wants you? If you were a sinner before God saved you and chose to show His love for you, how much more so does God love you and want you to be saved now that you are reconciled to Him by His grace and mercy?

Prayer – To the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, honor and glory be your name forever and ever. For in your infinite and everlasting patience, you came to this world to save sinful humans. Our sins is not a stumbling block for you saving us. Thank you God that you you save sinners totally and completely, even the worst. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Year C – The Fourth Week of Lent – Luke 151-3,11-32

Gospel Lesson – Luke 15:1-3,11-32 NRSV

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable:

11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on.27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends.30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

Summary – This classic story is known to us as “The Prodigal Son.” While most of the narrative is fixed on the wayward son, the real “moral of the story” has to do more with the father’s forgiveness than with the younger son’s repentance. In the story the father symbolizes God. The prodigal son symbolizes the tax collectors and sinners of verse 1 specifically, and generally all who are lost in sin. The elder brother symbolizes the self righteous Scribes and Pharisees of verse 1, or anyone for that matter who claims to serve God, while resenting the fact that God forgives sinners. Jesus’ teaching is simple and powerful – through God’s gracious and unmerited forgiveness, those who are lost in sin and not worthy to be considered sons, are restored to son-ship and made heirs of the kingdom. We should rejoice.

Insight – While rummaging through the pig slop looking for food, the lost son realizes his self inflicted predicament. He comes to his senses, and goes home and tells his father, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your slaves.” The younger son was an heir, but he spurned that blessing, and lost it. He repented, and was content to being only a slave in his Father’s house. His father was not content with him being a slave though, and restores him to his status as a son and an heir. The older son, though externally faithful, was an heir, and yet did not recognize the blessings he had. Rather he considered himself a slave (v. 29). Through anger, un-thankfulness, resentment, and self-righteousness, the older son that was an heir found himself not on the inside feasting with his long lost brother and his father, but rather on the outside (v. 28). He had refused to go into the feast, and thus he had disinherited himself from the blessings of his father.

This Lenten season, let us be reminded once again what Galatians 4 says, “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Gal. 4:6-7). True sons repent. True sons are thankful. True sons count their blessings and do not consider their service to God as slavery. Therefore be encouraged that you are an heir of God, and that you have the Spirit of His Son given to you at your baptism. But take heed, lest your heart becomes deceitful and wicked and unthankful and resentful at God’s goodness toward you and towards others. If not checked now, you might not have opportunity to check it later. Then you might just find yourself on that final day, just like the older son, on the outside of the feast looking in. Take the time now and confess your sins, be thankful that you are one of God’s children, and that you have other brothers and sisters to feast with in the kingdom of God, especially your Big Brother, Jesus who purchased the feast, and your adoption, with his own blood.

Catechism – Why is the Lord’s Supper a celebratory meal? Because we were once dead, but have come to life, we were lost, and have been found.

Discussion – Discuss the importance of repentance and thankfulness, and the relationship that has to being a son and an heir of God.

Prayer – O Lord, our Father, we give you thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We were dead, and your Spirit made us to live. We were lost, and you found us. We were hungry, and you feed us with the spiritual food of the most precious body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. You prepare a feast for us when we deserve to eat with the pigs. You embrace us anew with love and joy, even after we rejected you and spurned our inheritance. Thank you so much Father for loving us, and giving us the Spirit of your Son Jesus, that we might cry to you, Abba, Father. In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

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.