Preparing for Sunday, January 28: Jesus and Nicodemus

About the Story at Home

With Bishop John’s blessing, the parishes of Ascension and Epiphany use a narrative lectionary. As the year unfolds, our weekly readings trace the arc of salvation history, one story at a time. And each week, resources for home support reading, reflecting, and praying with the Bible (email office@churchoftheascension.ca to subscribe).

Our worship is participatory: In addition to a sermon,
we take a few minutes to work through our response to the word of God, communally and in our own hearts in other ways.

No matter what is happening, sitting quietly in prayer, private journaling, or colouring will always be an option!

Preparing for Sunday, January 28
John 3:1-21
Jesus and Nicodemus

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 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.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’ 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?’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.” 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.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

‘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. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

‘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. 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. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.’

 

Something to do in response to God’s word.

“…Nicodemus came to Jesus by night and said to him…”|
Imagine you could pay a visit to Jesus one night.  What would you ask him?  Write down your question and sit with it a little while.  Can you imagine what Jesus might say in response?  Perhaps you would like to write out your conversation.

“For God so loved the world…”
What’s the biggest thing you can think of?  The highest?  The deepest?  The longest?  God’s love is bigger than any of those things.  Cut out a heart shaped frame and put it up on your mirror (to remind you that God loves you) or on your mirror (to remind you that God loves the world).

“…all who do evil hate the light…but those who do what is true come to the light…”
When we do something we aren’t proud of, we often want to keep it a secret. Sometimes, we might tell a lie.  Sometimes, we might feel like we don’t deserve good things because of the bad things we have done.  Sometimes, we might even try to hide ourselves from people and not only hide our secret.  But Jesus invites us to stop hiding and come into the light.  We can trust that God loves us and will always forgive us and that facing the truth will bring us closer to God.

This week, every time you turn on a light, say a prayer of thanksgiving to God who calls us into the light of Jesus.

Something to Wonder—Conversation or Contemplation starters

There are many interesting words in this passage that deserve a closer look:

  • Spirit/Wind – these are the same word in both Greek and Hebrew (breath is the same word, too)
  • From above/again – these are also the same word in Greek; is Jesus being funny or deliberately difficult?  Or is Nicodemus?
  • World – the Greek word used here is cosmos; the world in it’s biggest sense
  • Save – “save” can be translated as “make whole” or “heal”

Do any of these ways of thinking about the words change the way you hear these familiar lines? If so, how?

“How can anyone be born a second time?”
The idea of being “born again” has become an important idea in Christian thought.  What does it mean to you?

Nicodemus was clearly confused even after his talk with Jesus (or maybe especially after it!).  I can sympathize – I’m always confused by this conversation!  Do you feel that way, too?

If you do, is there one part that’s more confusing than the rest?  What about it is so confusing?

If you don’t feel confused – come and explain it to me!

Something to Learn—Ideas, articles, and stories that will take you a bit deeper …

“born of the Spirit and of water…”
Baptism and the Eucharist are the core rituals of the Christian faith.  Is it no surprise, therefore, that Christians have spent a lot of time fighting about what they mean and how they should be done.  In 1982, the World Council of Churches adopted a document called “Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry” which explores the ways in which different churches agree on these central aspects of the faith.  It is probably the most studied ecumenical document and has been used to support deeper understanding and relationships between different denominations.

Something to Pray—A prayer in response to the word of God.

God of love,
We thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit
you have bestowed upon me your servant
the forgiveness of sin,
and have raised me to the new life of grace.
Sustain me, O God, in your Holy Spirit.|
Give me an inquiring and discerning heart,
the courage to will and to persevere
a spirit to know and to love you,
and the gift of joy and wonder
in all your works.  Amen.

—Prayer for the Newly Baptized (adapted)
Book of Alternative Services, Anglican Church of Canada

 

The Story at Home: Reflections on the Narrative Lectionary
is a ministry of Church of the Ascension and Church of the Epiphany
in the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa.

This week’s reflection was prepared by The Rev’d Rhonda Waters

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