WORSHIP AT HOME
Welcome to this Act of Worship at Home for Sunday 28 February, the Second Sunday in Lent. Here are some well known words from John’s Gospel chapter 3, the set reading for the day:
God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
And we pray together:
Thank you, Lord, that we can come together, not in the same place, perhaps not even at the same time, but we still are together as a community of your people, united with one another and with Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Reading John 3 vv 1-8, 16-17
The set reading this morning is from that third chapter of John’s Gospel, verses 1-8, and 16-17.
Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.’
3 Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.’
4 ‘How can someone be born when they are old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!’
5 Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, “You must be born again.” 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
That’s a well known passage, but it does make you think. It made Nicodemus think! ‘You must be born again.’ What did Jesus mean? Did he mean that we must go through a Damascus Road experience, like St Paul? [which the man Jesus knew nothing about – that was quite a few years later.] But many Christians think that it does mean that. Many have experienced it. But quite a few of us haven’t. Like Nicodemus, we are puzzled…
In my native Suffolk there used to be – perhaps still is – a summer village tent mission that went round the villages, preaching with the aim that people should have that sort of experience. Some as a result did, and they were then baptised, often in a local river. The organisers were Strict Baptist. I never went but I knew about it. It was only later that I discovered from personal experience, when I was minister of a church in Essex, how moving and inspiring such a service of believers’ baptism is. It is not only so for the person being baptised, but also for all those witnessing it, and certainly for the person actually doing the baptism.
We may envy people who have had that experience, and realise that for some of us it has not been ours. So what does ‘being born again’ mean for us? First, it does not need to be an instantaneous experience. It may happen over many years, a whole lifetime even. It is something that God the Holy Spirit does to us and within us, often unperceptively. And let it happen; don’t resist it. And thank God that it has happened and still is happening. Amen.
Today’s hymn is ‘Born by the Holy Spirit’s breath (Hymns and Psalms 279).
Born by the Holy Spirit’s breath,
loosed from the law of sin and death,
now cleared in Christ from every claim
no judgment stands against our name.
In us the Spirit makes his home
that we in him may overcome;
Christ’s risen life, in all its powers,
its all-prevailing strength, is ours.
Children and heirs of God most high,
we by his Spirit `Father’ cry;
that Spirit with our spirit shares
to frame and breathe our wordless prayers.
One is his love, his purpose one:
to form the likeness of his Son
in all who, called and justified,
shall reign in glory at his side.
Nor death nor life, nor powers unseen,
nor height nor depth can come between;
we know through peril, pain and sword,
the love of God in Christ our Lord.
We come to our intercessions. We pray together…
We pray, Lord, first of all for those who unsure of their faith. We may compare ourselves unfavourably with other Christians, and think we could do better. We may doubt your love because of what has happened to us or those close to us. We may feel our faith is slipping away. Dear, Lord, wherever we are on our faith journey, reassure us that you are with us, supporting us, holding us in the arms of your love. And help us to step out into the days ahead. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We look out, Lord, onto our uncertain world… The covid pandemic, the vaccine supply, our hospitals under pressure. Be, Lord with all involved – doctors, porters, administrators, nurses, vaccinating staff and volunteers, so many of them. Give them strength and resilience, we pray, Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We observe, Lord, our changing weather:.. heat waves, unseasonable snow falls, floods, rising sea levels. We thank you that for most of us most of time these changes are manageable. But, Lord, help us all to tread gently on the earth and so make our contribution to mitigating it. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
And we pray, Lord, for those we love, any bereaved, or ill, or awaiting results, or in hospital, or worried about their future… (pause) …Bless them, may your healing hand be upon them. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
And a Lenten collect:
Remember, O Lord, what you have wrought in us,
and not what we deserve;
and as you have called us to your service,
make us worthy of our calling;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
We say the Lord’s prayer together: “Our Father who art in heaven…”
And we say the Grace. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore. Amen.”