Links of Interest/Bibliography:
Words of Welcome
“We begin by acknowledging that we are in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. This territory is covered by the peace and friendship treaties which Mi’kmaq and Maliseet peoples first signed with the British crown in 1725. These treatiesdid not deal with surrender of lands or resources, but in fact recognized Mi’kmaq title and established rules for what was to be an ongoing relationship between nations.” May we honour the friendship, support and spirit of peace which was offered to our settler ancestors.
Lighting the Candle & Ringing the Singing Bowl
Hymn There’s a Spirit in the Air VU 582
Call to Worship
One: The Spirit calls us to set aside our work and come to worship.
All: The Spirit calls us to set aside our everyday to join in worship.
One: The Spirit calls us to lift our voices
All: and share our hearts.
One: The Spirit calls us to worship
All: so we pray:
Holy Spirit, we pray that our worship today brings us to new understandings of your love in this world. May it be so.
Hymn I Feel the Winds of God VU 625
Theme Conversation Searching for Answers
Hymn Jesus, Friend of Little Children VU 340
Readings John 3:1-17
Musical Response I Know Your Word MV 108
Sermon The Most Important Part
So many times, I’ve read this and gotten caught up in the last part that I’ve missed the whole point of this story. I’ll go over the main points again.
Nicodemus is a teacher in the Hebrew faith. He has a particular denomination – he’s a Pharisee. Jesus is not a Pharisee, yet many who hear Jesus, like what he has to say. Many Pharisee leaders try to stump Jesus or catch him up in his own arguments while he’s preaching. He’s not one of them, so he can’t be right and it’s up to them to save these poor, stupid people from being sucked in to the Jesus following. Nicodemus is one of the Pharisee teachers. He’s impressed by what he hears from Jesus. But if he shows this desire to hear more, the others – his own people – will reject him. So he goes to visit Jesus after dark, when no one can see him. Jesus answers all of Nicodemus’ questions, but it is hard for Nicodemus to understand what Jesus is telling him. Jesus’ response seems so simple, that it becomes cryptic.
The answer is all around you. Change your life so much you feel like you are beginning again. Forget that past life. Follow my teachings, and the way will become clear.
This is a character story. It’s a story about a person whose relationship to Jesus we can learn something from. So yes, it’s a bit symbolic and cryptic. Nicodemus is embarrassed by so much. He was a teacher, learning from this crazy, new methods, but methods that seemed to be working. Nicodemus would likely have been embarrassed to even feel the need to improve his methods and then to have to admit to Jesus that he didn’t understand what it was that Jesus was telling him. Sometimes it’s hard to admit when you don’t know something.
I bet you are wondering at this point, if this passage is all about Nicodemus not knowing the obvious answers, where does the only begotten son come in?
This is one of those times when language really bothers me. I’m sure If I ask you to recite John 3:16, many of you, can – in the King James version. Anybody?
But we didn’t hear that verse in today’s passage. We’ve gotten better at translating Ancient Greek, Latin and Hebrew in the last 500 or so years. Not to mention the evolution of our own language.
I enjoy listening to the evolution of my nephew’s language. This time last year, he could hardly talk. A few months ago my name was “Bob!! Bob!!” A few weeks ago my name was “Ka Ka” and currently I’m “Ah ka”. If he follows a similar progression as his older sister, I’ll likely be “Aunt Ka” for a bit then a really choppy version of Annika then a year or so later it’ll finally be Aunt Annika.
My point is that language evolves, as does our understanding of both God and Jesus. Barrett knew my name wasn’t Bob, but it was a name associated with me when he couldn’t say the right name. He did the best he could with what he had to work with. We do the same. The more science helps us to understand God, the more we feel compelled to moved away from terminology that doesn’t fit anymore. The more we learn about power, control, politics, mutuality and right-relationships, even more words and terms don’t really fit.
The phrase from the reading that did jump out at me this time around was about the wind. “The wind blows where it will. You hear the sound it makes, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus wanted to know how to have the kind of life that Jesus had. And Jesus answered “The wind blows where it will.” There is no one answer, the many answers are all around us.
This is one of the many reasons I love the United Church. Not only do we have ongoing discussions and relationships with many Christian traditions such as the Methodist and Anglican churches, but we also worked in the late 1990s and early 2000 with representatives from the Islamic and Hebrew faith traditions, simply to understand each other. In the end the official conversations became papers and studies for congregations. Recognizing that there are many ways to God is not just a United Church thing, it’s a Jesus thing. Jesus and Nicodemus were both Hebrew, but in the same way that the United Church and the Anglican Church are both Christian. Jesus didn’t keep his teachings or his worship only to people who practiced and believed the exact same things as him. Jesus spent time with many different kinds of people. People of the Spirit come from the Spirit.
It’s doesn’t matter what path you follow, people who live in Love offer Love. People who are happy, do things that make others happy. People who feel a sense of Peace, people who feel the Sacred offer Sacred moments.
We have many opportunities to offer those sacred moments in our everyday life: compassion filled hugs, words of hope, actions of dignity and respect. We do this because we believe that these all contribute to building the kin-dom of God, and in the kin-dom of God the wind blows where it will. We hear the sound it makes, but we don’t know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.
Holy Spirit, with no beginning and no end, we pray that our understanding of who we are strengthens our commitment to building your realm in this place. We pray for courage in the moments we cannot feel your wind. In your name we pray.
Music Minstry Blowin’ in the Wind Bob Dylan
Minute for Mission
Offering Invitation Thank you for your generosity. This lent we are going to participate in a community building practice. This program was devloped by The Prayer Bench, a Maritime United Church company that focuses on creating resources for small groups and individuals to deepen their spiritual practices. This company could not exist, nor could we participate in their rich resources without your generosity.
Offertory What Can I Do? MV 191
May these gifts, those given through PAR and our commitment to give be seen as the gifts they truly are. Amen.
Prayer Music Lord, Listen to Children Praying VU 400
Prayers of the People & the Prayer of Jesus
Ending with the sung Prayer of Jesus. During the Prayer of Jesus, you are invited to use the translation and language of your choice. A variety of translations and expressions of the Prayer of Jesus (also known as The Lord’s Prayer) can be found in Voices United pages 916-927.
Hymn Spirit God, Be Our Breath MV 150
Commissioning & Benediction
Musical Blessing May The Love Of Our God MV 218