CALL TO WORSHIP: ONE: The pathway is just beginning.
ALL: We have encountered the wilderness.
ONE: Now we are moving rapidly toward Jerusalem.
ALL: Along the way we will witness astonishing acts of
mercy and justice.
Lord of presence and power, be with us on our Lenten
journey to trie cross. Help us to make a commitment of
our lives, our spirits and our hearts. Even though we might
hesitate on this journey, we promise to come with You
through all the trials and fears You will encounter. In this
broken world, so tragically pulled apart and fragmented,
we seek to serve You and do Your work in the world.
Forgive us, we pray, when we insist on our own way above
Your way. Unite us as we can be united in worship or in
service. This we ask in Your name who prayed that we
might be one, as You and He are One. Amen.
You stop us in our tracks, 0 Lord, with Your reminder that
discipleship is not a `sometime' thing. We are called to place our
whole lives in Your care; to follow You; to serve You by caring
for others, not just once in a while, but always. We admit that
we're not always ready to do this. The demand is great; our
energies are limited. Help us to place our trust and our lives in
Your care. You will give us the strength and courage that we will
need for this step of our Lenten journey. Be with us, Lord. Help
us to remember that Your love is poured out for all Your people;
You are never far away. It is in Your name, we pray. Amen
CHILDREN'S TIME with Nancy
Have any of you ever read the book "The Very Hungry Caterpillar?" I really love this story. It begins with a tiny egg on a leaf. On a Sunday morning, the warm sun came up and POP! out of the egg came a very small and very hungry caterpillar. He began to eat, and eat, and eat — but he was still very hungry. Finally he had eaten up so much that he got a stomach ache! Now the next day was Sunday again. The caterpillar ate through a nice green leaf and his stomach felt better again. He built a nice house around himself. Do you know what that house is called? That's right! A cocoon. Well the caterpillar stayed in his cocoon for two weeks. Then he nibbled a hole in the cocoon and pushed his way out. Guess what!
He wasn't a caterpillar any more, he was now a beautiful butterfly!
The story of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" reminds me of a story in the Bible about a man named Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a very religious man. He spent a lot of time studying the Scriptures, but there was still a lot he didn't understand.
So late one night, Nicodemus went to see Jesus because he was hungry. He wasn't looking for a midnight snack, but he was hungry for the truth about the kingdom of God. He had questions and he knew Jesus would have all the answers.
Nicodemus said, "Teacher, we all know that God has sent you to teach us. No one could perform the miracles that you do without God's help. And Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you can't see the kingdom of God."
Nicodemus was confused and asked Jesus, "How can a man be born again?" Jesus told him that a person is born again when the Spirit of God enters into his heart, saying that the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. And Nicodemus left, scratching his head, and saying
"How are these things possible?"
Think about the story of "The Hungry Caterpillar" again. When he came out of his cocoon, he was an improved caterpillar, wasn't he? He was a totally new creation — a butterfly! That's the way it is when we let Jesus into our heart. He doesn't just make us a better person. He makes us a new creation!
Let's pray together: Heavenly Father, we praise you that in Christ Jesus we are a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! In Jesus name we pray, Amen.
A Ruler Came By Night by Nancy
John 3:17 — "Make them ready for your service through your truth. Your
teaching is truth." (ICB)
This verse follows the very well known "For God so loved the world" verse in the third chapter of John. Jesus was talking to Nicodemus, telling him that God didn't send Him into the world to condemn it, but to save it through Him.
We'll start with the beginning of the story of Nicodemus and Jesus.
Nicodemus was a good man. He was a nationally known religious leader. He was rich, well educated and he was a Pharisee. He had a place in the highest council of the Jews, being a member of the body of the seventy rulers called the Sanhedrin. Nicodemus began to believe in Jesus because of the works He did and the lessons He taught.
However, Nicodemus was afraid to confess his faith before others, because he might be put out of the Sanhedrin and be condemned by his fellow Pharisees. So he decided to go to see Jesus at night, when no one would see him. Nicodemus was a teacher in Israel, very highly regarded, and he thought he would have a friendly visit with this young Man from Galilee who showed such promise of becoming a prophet.
Nicodemus thought he might be able to teach Jesus something, so he
opened the conversation with a compliment. He said, "Master, we know that You are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can show the signs that You do unless God is with him." But Jesus wasn't flattered. He wasn't about to give compliment for compliment. He looked beyond this Pharisee's pride and fear, and He saw a poor soul who was really reaching out for truth. Jesus went right to the point and He said to Nicodemus: :I tell you, no one can get into the kingdom of God unless he is born again."
Jesus knew that Nicodemus understood what He meant, at least, partly,
and He just put it more strongly, with a little explanation: "I tell you, a man must be born again, through baptism by water and by the Spirit of God, or he cannot get into the kingdom of God. There is a natural birth and there is a spiritual birth. Do not wonder at My telling you that you must be born again from above. Listen! You hear the wind blow, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. That is the way with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
What Jesus meant was that just as we can't see the wind, or call it up, or stop it, we are able to see how it waves the grass and rustle the leaves, and how it turns windmills and pushes against the sails of ships, and sometimes cools us and sometimes warms us, and does many other wonderful things beyond our power. Likewise, we can't see the Spirit of God, or control it, but we can see and feel how it moves us and makes us over, and lifts burdens and comforts the sorrowing, and opens minds to the light of truth. We should think of this every time we hear the wind or see what it does. It's through the influence of the Holy Spirit that a man is born again.
Nicodemus was very serious now. Jesus had been telling him things that he ought to have already learned from his teachings and from nature, and he felt humble. But Nicodemus wasn't used to thinking like that and it sounded a little strange to him and he asked, "How can these things be?"
Jesus answered, "You are a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not know
these things I have taught you. I have taught the things I know about, and I have seen the things I teach; but your class turn away from it. No one has been in heaven and come down to teach except the Son of man; but He must be lifted up, as Moses in the wilderness lifted up the brazen serpent. And everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life."
Jesus' reference to Moses referred to when the children of Israel,
journeying through the wilderness, were attacked by fiery serpents, whose bite was poisonous, and many of the people died. God told Moses to make a serpent of brass and lift it up on a pole. Then everyone who looked at it, with faith in God, would be cured of the serpent's bite.
The usual symbol of the Redeemer, the sacrifice for sin, was a lamb, and
that lamb represented Christ's innocence. His freedom from sin. But the brazen serpent represented the Saviour as well. Jesus was made in the likeness of sinful men, yet He was without sin. The brazen serpent was made in the likeness of poisonous snakes which had bitten the people, yet it never bit anyone, and looking upon it in faith cured them.
Here was something for Nicodemus to think about and he went away
thinking very deeply. Still, he didn't have the courage to tell anyone that he believed in Jesus. He just kept it to himself. But twice, in the Sanhedrin, he defended Jesus, and after the Lord was crucified, Nicodemus came forward and helped to bury Him.
Remember the verse, "For God sent not the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through Him." Most people don't like to talk about unpleasant things, and unfortunately, there are plenty of unpleasant things going on in the world today: terrorism, hate crimes, missile threats, kidnappings, rape, theft and so much more. But there is one unpleasantness that I will talk about today. It's the sad fact that there so many car accidents, pile-ups and wrecks on roads all over the world. There's hardly a day that passes in which there isn't an accident mentioned in the news. Accidents don't just happen — something or someone is generally to blame. Sometimes we blame Mother Nature, but is it, in reality, carelessness or recklessness or ignorance. It doesn't make much difference what the cause of an
accident is — if things are smashed and broken, they're smashed and broken up, aren't they?
If I had my arm broken in a car accident, it wouldn't heal any faster
whether the accident was caused by carelessness or by ignorance. Even if the person who caused the accident were sorry, that wouldn't make my arm heal any faster. However, I might not feel as angry if they were sorry, but my arm would still hurt just as long.
What would be a good cure for accidents? How could we prevent them? If every person did the right thing, then would there be fewer accidents? Before a person can do the right thing, he must learn what is the right thing to do!
There are people who are wrecks. Have you heard the expression, "He's an
accident waiting to happen?" These peoples' lives have been all smashed to pieces because someone has been careless or reckless or ignorant. It may be that they themselves are to blame, or it may be that someone else is to blame, but it is our business to help prevent these accidents.
Christ came to teach us how to run this earth without wrecking it. He was with God in making it so He should know how to run it. Jesus wants to show us how to run our lives so we don't make a wreck of it. He doesn't want us to be careless or reckless or just plain ignorant. He wants us to use our life in the right way, because once a life is broken or scarred, it can never be repaired so that the mark won't show. Christ knows the safe way to drive; let's learn from Him!
The encounter Nicodemus had with Jesus had a profound effect on him. It changed his life. He became a disciple of Jesus and learned to drive along the road of life using Christ's rules. He acknowledged the work of Jesus and realized that his soul could be awakened with new life by allowing the Holy Spirit into his life.
To be reborn is not allowing ourselves to be careless, reckless or ignorant.
To be reborn is to accept the realities and truths of Christ, follow His ways, and accept the Holy Spirit into our hearts and lives. So today, let's accept the reality of a spirit, a Holy Spirit, who surrounds us and immerses us in love, in God and in Christ.
Let us pray: Father, all the riches of life in Your kingdom are ours if we will but open up our lives, our hearts and our souls to the new life that You would have us live. Open our eyes to the truth of Your Word and our hearts to the need of renewal and rebirth. Amen.