Blessings Cooksville Family!
Here is the link to this week’s service:
As always, If you have problems with viewing the video, I have included the full text , of most of the service, below.
And remember, please try to keep in touch with each other, particularly those you know who are forced to spend so much time alone.
And feel free to call or email me personally if you want to connect or if there is anything I can do.
Rev. Brian Vickers
Cell – 905-802-4081
Email – email@example.com
May 30, 2021 Sunday Worship Service
May 30, 2021
Sunday Worship Service
Prelude: God So Loved the World – John Stainer; arr. for organ and piano duet by Janet Gieck
Opening Video: Doxology
Welcome & Greeting:
Lighting the Christ Candle
Hymn: “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise”
Call to Worship and Opening Prayer:
The Lords Prayer
John 3:1-17 New International Version (NIV))
3:1 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.”
9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?
11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.
12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?
13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.
14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,
15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
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.
Solo: Witness! – spiritual based on John 3 and Judges 13-16
John 3:1-17 Holy Trinity, Series B
There are times when life seems to get a little – stale – maybe boring or empty – when you do the same things over and over and over and over again. You go through the motions – but that inner motivation is not there.
You’re probably feeling that now – with all our restrictions – you might not feel there are a lot of options to keep us motivated. But it doesn’t take a pandemic to make us feel that way.
It happens to us at so many different times and in so many different aspects of our lives.
Take our jobs for example. Sometimes – we go through the motions. We often go through parts of our jobs over and over and over again – for one year – two years – twenty years – forty years. In the beginning – the job was quite exciting – but time has gone by and the inner enthusiasm isn’t quite there. Jobs can become stale. We become washed out – worn out – burnt out. We all know that feeling.
Or it can happen with a marriage. Sometimes – the excitement seems to be missing. The marriage becomes a little stale – a little repetitious. Within two minutes of the start of a conversation – you know where it is going – you’ve been there before. Or you find yourself saying – not again – we’ve had this same argument hundreds of times before. So – you go through the motions – but the inner motivation is lacking.
And – the same thing can happen in your spiritual life – in your relationship with God. You worship on Sunday morning – and you experience the same old routines – and the same old prayers – and the same old hymns – and the same old sermons – said by the same old pastor – it’s the same old same old – Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. And so there comes a time in your spiritual life where you begin going through the motions – but the inner motivation is no longer there and the inner heart is not quite alive.
It’s with these images of so many aspects of our lives – job – marriage – spirit –becoming repetitious – stale and boring – with the same old thing over and over again – that we’re going to approach the story of Nicodemus.
Nicodemus himself – was a man who was going through the motions of religion without the inner motivation of God. Let’s briefly recall the story of Nicodemus.
Now, I imagine that Nicodemus was a man in his mid fifties or mid sixties – successful in his work – he was a teacher of the law – a professor of religion at the temple in Jerusalem.
According to scriptures – he is – older in life – an older man. Back then – that meant he probably had about twelve children – all gone from home. He probably had fifty grandchildren and a bunch of great grand children. More than likely – when hearing about the birth of another great grand child – he’d be thinking – another one – I can’t remember the names of all the ones running around now. Nicodemus was probably a man who had pretty much seen it all.
But – in his relationship with God – Nicodemus was a man who was going through the motions. He knew the law – he was a teacher of the law – but his inner enthusiasm for God wasn’t there anymore. He’d lost his motivation – and things weren’t quite right in his relationship with God..
So – Jesus of Nazareth showed up in town – and Nicodemus had gone to hear Jesus preach in the temple. Nicodemus sensed that Jesus had something inside of him that Nicodemus no longer had. Nicodemus was encouraged by Jesus’ preaching and decided to talk to Jesus.
So quietly – in the middle of the night – Nicodemus went over to the home of Jesus – not wanting his fellow religious professors to know. He knocks on Jesus’ door – and the conversation goes something like this.
I know it is late – but my name is Nicodemus. I’m a professor of religious law down at the temple – and I’d like to speak with you if you’ve got a minute.
OK – Jesus says – Shall we go out for a walk?
I’d rather not be seen with you – would you mind if I would come in?
Nicodemus went in – and Jesus – being always welcoming – invites him up to the roof of the house where it’s cooler – and maybe offered him a glass of wine. Jesus asks – How can I help you?
Nicodemus say – Things aren’t quite right with me. They aren’t quite right inside of me. I sense that you have something that I don’t have anymore. I’m tired – my lectures are stale. I’m getting old and slow. I’m wondering what advice you’d have for me.
Jesus – of course – had this uncanny ability to look right into a person’s heart – and he responds – I know the problem that you are having Nicodemus. It’s not that you’re old – it’s not that you’re tired – it’s not that you’re worn out. The problem is this – you are no longer close to God – you have drifted away from God – God is no longer living in the center of your heart. – – – Nicodemus – you need to be born again.”
Nicodemus replies – Born again – push me back into my mother’s womb – Come on now – I can’t be born again.
You don’t understand Nicodemus. You need to be born anew – to experience a rebirth in your relationship with God – Jesus says – You need to be born of the water – the cleansing waters of God. You need to be born of the Spirit – you need to be born from a above – you need to experience rebirth.
I’m fairly sure that this didn’t really clear things up for Nicodemus – and the rest of the conversation didn’t help much either – I’m not sure if I understand all this – I’ll have to think about it – It’s time for me to go – thanks for the wine – he says on the way out.
So how does this story end – did Nicodemus become born again – was Nicodemus born anew – did he experience a rebirth? How does the story end? We lose track of Nicodemus – we have to go seventeen chapters forward in the Gospel of John to hear the very end of the story – when we read about the events of Good Friday – after Jesus had been crucified.
It’s a story about a rich man by the name of Joseph of Arimathea – and another wealthy man by the name of Nicodemus – who came to prepare Jesus’ body for burial.
These two older men asked to prepare Jesus for burial – so they got one hundred pounds of perfumes and spices – put Jesus’ body on a table – and wrapped his body in a linen shroud – folding the spices into the linen folds.
That’s our Nicodemus – he was there – for this most sacred ritual – our Nicodemus – who had asked Jesus how to get out of his spiritual rut – he was there attending the dead body of Jesus.
I believe that this Good Friday story about Nicodemus – reveals that he had truly become a disciple of Jesus Christ. That he had been born again – born anew – born from above. Nicodemus was reborn in his relationship with God.
So – what does it mean to be born again? What does it mean to be born anew? What is God’s lesson for us in the Gospel story for today?
Well – far too often in life – we drift away from God. In our relationship with God – we start going through the motions – without the inner motivation.
You can be a person who is fifteen – thirty-five – sixty-five – or eighty-five – and you have drifted away from God. Things aren’t quite right. You can go stale – like Nicodemus – at any age.
You start to have the habits of faith – without the heart of faith. You have structures – without the Spirit. You are going through the rituals – but you don’t have the real thing. You are going through the patterns of faith – but you no longer have the power of faith.
And if you have ever come to that time in your life – when things aren’t quite right – when your belief has become more of a ritual than a real thing – then you need to go to where Jesus is – rap on his door and say – Jesus, I need some help – I’ve got a problem – here – in my heart – it ‘s not quite right.”
And Jesus would say to any of us – You need to be born anew – born from above – to experience a rebirth of God’s love in your heart. You need to be born of the water and the Spirit.
Jesus said that there were two parts of being born anew. To be born anew – is to be born of the water and be born of the Spirit – two parts.
Just as no living thing can survive without water – you and I cannot live without the water of God inside of us – and around us – giving us life.
In order to be spiritually alive – you must be cleansed by the waters of God. During our baptism – we proclaim – or someone proclaims for us – that we will be loyal to God.
But we often forget that promise – instead – being loyal to the religion – and not to God – for whom we have the religion in the first place.
Jesus understood the dangers of hypocrisy in religion – he blasted the Pharisees and Sadducees repeatedly because they followed the letter of the law – but managed to do so without honouring God’s intention – without showing the LOVE of God.
So – I think part of being born anew – is to constantly be remembering and renewing our baptismal pledge to serve God – in love.
But there is a second part to being born anew. Jesus said there’s a need to be born of water – and – the spirit. What does that mean – to be born of the Spirit?
Some people think that being born in the Spirit is just having some type of religious high – kind of like having religious champagne – becoming all spiritually bubbly inside. But think about it – what does an open bottle of champagne taste like the next day – it’s flat. And yesterday’s spiritual highs – are often flat tomorrow.
Someone once told me – I went to church one day – and I was filled with unspeakable joy. It was an incredible experience. I know I was filled with the Holy Spirit – with the unspeakable joy of the Holy Spirit inside of me. He paused for a moment – then said – it was gone in a couple of days – You can’t build your life on it.
Today’s religious experiences – like bubbly champagne – will be flat tomorrow.
On a few occasions – as a chaperone – I’ve taken groups of youth to various Christian Festivals – or to concerts featuring Contemporary Christian bands.
They often tell me how intense and emotional those experiences are – they tell me they really could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit at work. As a result – they feel more connected to God – their prayer life deepens – they explore ways to serve and honour God.
Unfortunately – more often than not – after time has passed – and the memory of those experiences has faded – they have dropped out of a consistent worship life. The spiritual highs from their youth aren’t enough to sustain a spiritual connection.
So then – what does it mean to be born of the Spirit? If it doesn’t mean to experience religious highs at great festivals or concerts – experiences that undoubtably fade – what does it mean to be born of the Spirit?
To be born of the Spirit means to have the Spirit of Jesus Christ living inside of you. Not just for a short time – not just because of some special event – it means that God’s gracious love comes and lives inside of your heart.
And what is this gracious love of God that comes and lives in your heart? It’s the Holy Spirit – the spirit of Christ – or if you prefer – the essence of Christ – coming and living in your heart.
Christ’s Spirit in your heart – in your mind – in your hands – in your feet – in you. It’s a way of loving – a way of forgiving – a way of caring – a way of prayer – a way of worship – a way of thanksgiving and praise – a way of being in tune with the Spirit of Jesus.
It’s loving other people in their uniqueness – no longer trying to change anyone to meet your expectations – but to truly love them in their individuality.
And feeling that Spirit within you grow daily – constantly being renewed – that’s being born in the Spirit. That is grace – that is gracious love – that is the Spirit of Jesus.
Born of the water. Born of the Spirit. Two births. A birth of water. A birth of Spirit. That is what it means to be born anew.
If you come to that point in your life where you say – I’m going through the motions – but I don’t have that inner motivation any longer. I have the patterns of religion – but not the power of belief. I have the rituals of faith – but not the essence of Jesus. I have the structures – but not the Spirit.
If you have come to that point in your relationship with God – whether you are fifteen or fifty-five – and you sense that something is wrong with your life. One night – you may come up to the home of Jesus and knock on his door and say – Jesus – things aren’t right in here. Things aren’t right here in my heart.
Jesus will reply – I know. It happens to people all the time. You need to be born anew. You need to experience a rebirth. Maybe even experience that rebirth – again – for the second – or third – or tenth time. You need to be born of the water and born of the Spirit.
Thank heavens – it happened to Nicodemus. Thank heavens – it happens to you and me as well.
Hymn: “Beautiful Things”
Hymn: “Amazing Grace”
Benediction and Commissioning
Postlude: Only Trust Him – Stockton, arr. Robert Hughes