7th June 2020
Good morning folks,
Well here we are, week 11 of isolation, things are slowly getting better but there is still a while to go before this awful pandemic is under control I am sure.
I don’t now about you but I would much rather be safe than sorry, even if it does mean another wee while in the house.
How have you used the time ? I was going to start a ‘Learn the Bagpipes’ for beginners online course – but my wife Jo, objected!! And so, I guess, would the neighbours! J
I know some have used it to ‘Spring Clean’, taken up a new hobby, learned a new skill, perhaps an online course – or maybe you have chosen to make use of this ‘down time’ to relax, chill out and take a much needed rest from an otherwise busy life – using it as a time of restoration, rejuvenation and renewal.
Our lesson for today is the narrative of Nicodemus, the Pharisee who called in on Jesus one night, seeking wisdom and understanding.
This passage also talks about the need for restoration, rejuvenation and renewal.
But before that – let us pray ~
Living, loving and Holy God,
once more we bring you our praise and worship.
We acknowledge you as our God.
We recognise your greatness and power.
We marvel at your love and compassion.
We come before you with awe and wonder.
You are Lord of heaven and earth, of space and time, of this world and all of the universe, of life and death.
Living, loving and Holy God, draw near to us
and help us to draw near to you.
Come to us through your Holy Spirit
and help us to open our hearts to the risen Christ.
Speak to us through the worship we offer this day,
and through it all, deepen our faith.
Living, loving and Holy God,
we praise you that there is so much that speaks to us of your love and purpose —so much in our lives, in our daily experience, in the world around us, in the vastness of the universe, in the fellowship we share with one another, and in the relationship we enjoy with you, through which you teach and guide and challenge us.
Forgive us that we do not always hear your voice, that often we do not want to hear it.
Forgive us that sometimes we refuse to listen, that often we are closed to anything but our own words.
Living, loving and Holy God,
Open our hearts
to all the ways you are at work.
Open our eyes
so that we may glimpse your purpose more fully.
Open our ears
so that we may hear your voice more clearly.
Open our minds
to receive your truth more completely.
Open our hands Lord – in your service – working, loving, caring, soothing and healing – all in Jesus’ name.
And speak through us as we work and witness for you, that others may come to know you for themselves – our living, loving and Holy God ~ Father – Son and Holy Spirit – 3 in 1.
Listening Lord, hear us now as we sit for a few moments to clear our minds of the events of the past week or so – as we recall the ups and downs in our lives and bring all our worries and concerns to you in prayer – we bring too – our personal prayer of confession as we think of the things we have said, done and thought which have hurt or upset others – hurt and upset you………….. we are sorry Lord – and we pray for your forgiveness in Jesus’ name……… so be with us now Lord – as we silently pray – in the peace of our silence……………
……..think of the things that you would like to confess/apologize for……… and ask for God’s forgiveness……….He hears you words…………
Listening Lord – as undeserving as we are – we pray that you will forgive us and bless us with your mercy and your Grace.
Lord we know that you hear us when we pray in faith – so hear us now as we say together – the prayer which brings us together as one family – the family prayer – the Lord’s prayer ~
OUR FATHER.. WHO ART IN HEAVEN.. HALLOWED BE THY NAME.. THY KINGDOM COME.. THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN….. GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD.. AND FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS AS WE FORGIVE OUR DEBTORS.. LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION.. BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL .. FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM.. THE POWER AND THE GLORY FOREVER…. AMEN.
This morning we have 2 Readings ~
Proverbs 3 : 1 – 6 & John 3 : 1 – 17
Our first reading talks about a need to trust in God – even although we many not fully understand His ways.
“lean not on your own understanding” – it tells us – and the word ‘leaning’ has the sense of putting your whole weight on to something – or someone – that someone – is God.
Our second reading is taken from the New Testament – and in it we hear of a Jewish religious leader coming to see Jesus in the night, looking for advice, guidance and understanding.
He knew what it said in the Holy Scriptures – but wanted to find out what it meant – first hand – from Jesus himself.
He had come seeking the secret of eternal life – “It’s no secret” Jesus said to him – “but it will mean you changing your life and your way of thinking…”
It’s a difficult reading for us to understand at first reading – but all will be revealed, read on…. and you will see that there’s a whole lot more to this passage than first meets the eye.
So let’s read these passages for ourselves ~
Proverbs 3 : 1 – 6 from the Modern English Version (MEV)
The Rewards of Wisdom
3 v1 My son, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments;
2 for length of days and long life
and peace will they add to you.
3 Do not let mercy and truth forsake you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart,
4 so you will find favor and good understanding
in the sight of God and man.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will direct your paths.
John 3 : 1 – 17 from the Revised Geneva Translation (RGT)
Jesus Teaches Nicodemus
3 There was now a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus – a ruler of the Jews.
2 This man came to Jesus by night, and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher from God; for no one could do these miracles that You do, except God were with Him.”
3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born who is old? Can he enter into his mother’s womb again, and be born?”
5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.
6 “That which is born of the flesh, is flesh. And that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit.
7 “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’
8 “The wind blows where it will, and you hear the sound thereof, but cannot tell from where it comes, and where it goes. So is every man who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus answered, and said to Him, “How can these things be?”
10 Jesus answered, and said to him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and know not these things?
11 “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak that we know, and testify that we have seen. But you do not receive our witness.
12 “If when I tell you earthly things you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you of Heavenly things?
13 “For no one ascends up to Heaven, except he who descended from Heaven – the Son of man, who is in Heaven.
14 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up;
15 “that whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have eternal life.
16 “For God so loves the world, that He has given His only begotten Son; that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
17 “For God did not send his Son into the world that He should condemn the world, but that the world, through Him, might be saved.
This is the Word of the Lord – thanks be to God.
Here’s a topical question for you ~
Are you proud to be British ? – perhaps you’re proud to be Scottish – English or Welsh – perhaps Irish.
My Paternal Grandfather was an orphan from York.
My Maternal Grandfather came from Newtownards, County Down in Northern Ireland. And my maternal Grandmother came from Kinlochleven in Argyll.
My mum and I are from Kinlochleven too – and so I suppose I’m just glad to be here, irrespective of my roots!
The only dilemma will be when I’m called up to play football for the national team – is which team will I play for ?? J
But national pride is not a new thing of course. Even in the time of Jesus – there were people who were fervent about their nationality – and their faith.
And the Pharisees were one such group.
They were the ‘heavy squad’ of the Jewish faith – who dedicated their lives to the strict observance of God’s sacred Law – as written in the first 5 books of the Old Testament – aka the Pentateuch – and made sure everyone else did too !!
Their number was restricted and they were known as the ‘Chaburaah’ or “Brotherhood” (the da Vinci Code hadn’t a look in !”).
If you were a particularly dedicated and enthusiastic Pharisee – you could make your way up to be part of the ruling body – the Sanhedrin.
That’s what the “stranger who came in the night”, Nicodemus, was, a Pharisee – a member of the ruling council of Jews – as verse 1 of our New Testament reading tells us.
So Nicodemus was no fool.
You don’t get to be a member of the Jewish ruling council without some pretty serious religious credentials.
Yet here He was – coming to Jesus for help and advice.
He was acknowledging Jesus as an authority – he even said “We know you are a teacher who has come from God” – see verse 2.
A bold statement for a Pharisee – the very group who were undermining Jesus at every turn and were eventually to bring about his downfall.
But Nicodemus came to Jesus – genuinely trying to understand – earnestly seeking answers – and he got them – but for all his knowledge – he didn’t understand what Jesus meant when He said –
“You can only see the kingdom of God if you are born again ?” (v3).
How can we be born again !?” – it didn’t make sense to him.
How can you enter your mothers womb and be born again ?? – but of course – that’s not what Jesus meant.
Nicodemus was thinking in earthly and human terms – Jesus was thinking of a more Spiritual re-birth.
And you can almost see Jesus smile as He says to this religious leader “…you – one of the great Jewish teachers – and you don’t understand that !?”…(v10)
And if Nicodemus, that learnéd religious scholar didn’t understand – perhaps it’s okay if we struggle to understand too.
So let’s take a closer look at this narrative of Nicodemus – and see what we can make of it ~
But before we do – let me say that today is what the church calls – ‘Trinity Sunday’ – the day when we think more particularly about who God really is – the God we call ~ Father – Son and Holy Spirit – the Holy Trinity, three in one.
We hear a lot about God the all loving Father – the creator of all life –
We hear about Jesus – the Son of God – God’s physical presence in the world…. And last week – was the day of Pentecost – the day when God’s Holy Spirit came to earth.
It can be a difficult concept to get our heads around.
It tells us that there are 3 sides to God – three facets to God if you like.
One God – 3 persons – Father – Son and Holy Spirit.
It can be pretty confusing – even for those who spend their lives studying such things.
What hope is there for us then !?
But if we think of a Clover leaf – with three leaves, yet still one plant.
Or a triangle – 3 corners, yet still one shape.
3 persons – one God.
However, there are some denominations who simply do not accept the belief or Doctrine of the Trinity – “tell me where in Bible it talks of God being three….” – they say…….. And that’s true, nowhere in the Bible does it mention “one God – Three Persons.”
However, if we read between the lines – if we see the trail of clues left for us – such as in the story of Nicodemus, our New Testament reading for this morning, we can see that God is expressed in three ways…….. Yet still remains one God.
Confused ? – don’t worry – so are most people!
But let’s have a look at this story of Nicodemus – the man who came to Jesus in the night – and see what we can learn about this mysterious ‘Trinity of God’.
During the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, we hear mention of God – Jesus, the Son of God – and then of the Holy Spirit….
“The wind blows where it will,” Jesus says (v8)
And so it is with the Spirit.
Just as we can’t control the wind, but can feel it’s presence – so it is with God’s Holy Spirit – it’s in God’s hands and it will go where He directs.
But we can feel its presence in us when we believe in God – and have Jesus – God’s Son – in our hearts. Then we are filled with the Holy spirit – as we heard last week at Pentecost.
Father – Son and Holy Spirit – three in one.
And so – in this well known story of Nicodemus – we meet the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit – we meet all three – yet we are only meeting one God.
We can’t fully explain or understand it – but then – why should we expect to ?
God is so immense – so beyond anything our human minds can comprehend.
All we can do – is try to make some sense of it all……
And you know – that’s what Nicodemus was doing – trying to make sense of it all.
He knew the Book of the Law – perhaps he even knew God too – but he couldn’t grasp what Jesus was saying – “ it’s not just the book you need to know – but what the book is actually saying – what it means for us” – that is important!
In other words, it’s no use being able to quote chapter and verse, if you don’t live according to it principles and teachings.
“You need to take a look at yourself, see the way you live and how you treat others – you need to realise that it’s not what or who you know – or how high a position you may hold in society but what’s in your heart that’s important.
If you have any hope of entering Heaven then you need to re-asses – re-adjust – re-invent – re-create – and in doing so, you will become like a different, a new person – just as you would if you were to be re-born.”
“Do that” – Jesus says – and you will see the kingdom of heaven when you pass from this life to the next.
For me it’s a wonderful story of hope for each one of us – that through God’s love for us – no matter what our past – we can start a new life – be a new, better person – with a new, better future. And that’s why they call it the “Good News.”
But it’s also a message of hope for the world.
In a world with all its’ turmoil – strife and division – where poor people starve while others gorge themselves. In a world where the rich get richer and the poor are getting poorer; a world where greed and materialism and a turning away from God seems to be the trend – then this story of Nicodemus – gives us the hope that things don’t need to be like they are – things can change – we can change – and so – though us and our faith – the world doesn’t need to continue on a downward slope to eventual self destruction.
Life can change – people can change – we can change – you can change – if you listen to the words of Jesus – reassess your life and make the changes that are necessary for you to become a ‘new person.’
That’s what Nicodemus did – for we hear later that he defended Jesus when the other Pharisees tried to arrest Him (look up John 7 : 50-52) – and again – after the death of Christ – Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’ body, anointed it with oils and perfumes and laid Him in the tomb (look up John 19 : 38 – 42).
We know that Joseph of Arimathea was a follower of Jesus – and so too, it seems, was Nicodemus by that time.
That meeting with Jesus – that ‘encounter in the night’ – must have profoundly changed his life.
Perhaps the penny finally dropped for him.
He came in the darkness of night – and left enlightened.
Perhaps he went away and mulled over all that Jesus had told him – and out of his darkness – came the light of understanding – like a light being switched on in a darkened room – now he could see what Jesus had been getting at.
And that is true for us too.
If we want things to change for the better – then we first have to change ourselves – change our lifves – and then our eternal future will be changed too – for the better and for ever.
There is a well known ‘wisdom saying’ in which an elderly wise man to his students – ‘when I was young I wanted to change the world – but then I I realized that before I could change the world, first I had to change myself…”
It’s a challenge for us all right – change.
No-one likes change – unless it’s the kind which jingles in your pocket !! – but change we must – if we are to know the Father’s healing hand – the Son’s love and the constant friendship – guidance and companionship of the Holy Spirit.
Change we must if we are to know those blessings in this life – and in the eternal life in the next.
Think for a wee moment – “what in your life do you think needs to change ?” – are you short tempered – even although the bible says “it is better to be a patient person who controls their temper – than one who causes trouble”……..
Do you talk about others – even although the Bible says that we must “keep our tongues from evil and deceitful speech !” –
Do we see ourselves more important than others ? Even although the Bible says “do not to consider ourselves better than others” ?
Do you get angry with people who don’t agree with your way of thinking? Even although the bible tells us to “love one another as God loves us?”
There are so many things that all of us are guilty of at some time or another.
“Sort that stuff out first” Jesus says to us – “and then you might be considered for greater things”.
Or as he said to Nicodemus – “how can you expect to understand heavenly things – if you can’t understand everyday earthly things !?”
Jesus said that we must be ‘lifted up to obtain eternal life’ – but how can we be lifted up with all that kind of baggage holding us down ??
Let it go – like a child releases a balloon. Unshackle it – like a prisoner casts of his ball and chain.
Only then will we be free and able to be ‘lifted up’ – only then will we be able to receive those blessings in this life – and in the eternal life hereafter, the hope which we have through God’s amazing love – and the promises He makes to us when we turn our lives around and make Christ the very foundation of our lives.
Blessings – hope and promises – sounds good to me – how about you ?
Will you – take up that challenge – or will you leave it lying and so lose out on all that positive power.
The power of God – Father – Son and Holy Spirit – 3 in one.
Well – that – is in your hands!
It’s your life – your choice – but it seems too good to pass up to me – don’t you think?
I hope you do – and so come to know all these wonderful promises and blessings for yourself…
…and in Jesus’ precious name.
And may God bless this preaching of His Holy word – and may all the glory and the praise – be His.
Let us pray ~
we thank you that you value each one of us,
that we are all important in your eyes.
We thank you that everyone matters to you,
none more than others and none less.
Hear now our prayers – for those who have lost that sense of perspective.
We pray for those who fall into the error of pride, thinking of themselves more highly than they should, looking down on others, trusting in themselves rather than in you.
Help them to recognize their weaknesses as well as their strengths, their need to receive as well as to give.
We pray for those who have no sense of worth,
who feel they are unimportant, unvalued, or unloved.
Victims of broken homes and broken relationships, the powerless and the poor, homeless and refugees, shy and depressed, lonely and rejected.
Grant them the assurance that, whatever their circumstances, they are precious to you,
each one your unique creation.
give to all a proper sense of their own value, a true appreciation of the worth of others, and, above all, help them to see your greatness, to whom we cannot compare,
yet you love us enough to call us as your children – and we can call you “Our Father’.
Lord today we think of the many places around the world where people are suffering – in so many ways – we think particularly of the ongoing wars around the world – and ask that your love and peace will be with those who have lost loved ones.
Give to those serving, both courage and strength and the knowledge that you are watching over them.
Bless those at home who are anxious – and we pray for a speedy end to all conflict and for the participants to be brought safely home to their loved ones.
Bless all who suffer through mans inhumanity to their fellow man – bring to them a justice and a love as they have never known – and may they feel the peace of Jesus in their hearts.
Watch over those who are on the ‘frontline’, and those behind the scenes, who continue work for our good even although it means putting themselves in danger . Bless them Father, bless their families and loved ones who fear for their safety.
Bless those who have lost loved ones to this dreadful virus, hold them in the palm of your hand, we pray.
Lord hear us now as we sit for a few silent moments – separated by distance but united in prayer – each with our own thoughts – each with our own prayer for those we know and love-
………..think of someone you know who needs a prayer – whisper their name – God will hear……
Be with them all dear Lord, for we bring them before you in the name of the one who carries all our burdens and gives us His amazing gift of love – our dear Jesus – your only Son, our only hope.
A wee thought for you to ponder this week ~
‘THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK’
A man called 999 and spoke frantically into the phone, “My wife is expecting our child any minute !! – her contradictions are only two minutes apart!” (I think he meant ‘contractions’).
The operator on the other and of the line said – “Is this her first child?”
“Don’t be daft !!” the man shouted. “This is her husband!”
Picking things up the wrong way – not understanding things that are said – that’s what Nicodemus did – it’s what many of us do too.
And so to save any misunderstanding – here’s the Gospel message in just a few words ~
Like a good and loving father – God loves each of us and He offers us un-numbered blessings – but He loves us too much to leave as we are.
He wants better for us.
All we have to do is believe in Him – through his Son Jesus Christ – give our lives to Him – live His way – and we will receive His life giving Holy Spirit – now and for all time. That’s a promise.
So here’s a thought –
You know – all this is there for you – promised and delivered when you open your heart to His loving Son and Saviour – Jesus Christ.
So here’s a thought – what will your response be ?
Will you respond??……
I pray that you will –
And I pray for you in Jesus’ precious name.
And may the love of Jesus go before you –
The Lord Almighty watch over you –
and the Holy Spirit be with you –
guiding and protecting you in all you say and do ….
May He be with your families and friends and all who you know and love – and ought to love – this day and everyday.
Take care and may God Bless you and those you love.