Sunday, June 13, 2021 Worship Service

Blessings Cooksville Family!

Below 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.

Blessings,

Rev. Brian

Rev. Brian Vickers
Cell – 905-802-4081
Email – b_d_vickers@hotmail.ca



Prelude: Close to Thee – Silas Vail, arr. for duet by Larry Shackley. Played with Esther Ke

Opening Video: Change The World

Welcome & Greeting:

Lighting the Christ Candle

Hymn: “Revive Us”

Call to Worship and Opening Prayer:

The Lords Prayer

Scripture:

Scripture: 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 New International Version (NIV)

15:34 Then Samuel left for Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul. 35 Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.
16:1 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” 2 But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.” The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.” 4 Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?” 5 Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. 6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” 9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” 12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” 13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.

Solo: Hark to the Still, Small Voice – George Handel

Message:

A Heart For God, A Heart Like God

Our emotions have had a tough few weeks. It’s been a roller coaster of ups and downs. On the plus side – it looks like things are starting to open up again. Patio dining – some stores re-opening for in store shopping – more services restarting. And second doses of the vaccine are becoming available sooner.

But the downside – 215 children found buried near a residential school. It wasn’t a recent crime – and it wasn’t an unexpected find – but it has re-opened old wounds – no that’s wrong – it’s re-exposed wounds that that have still needed more healing.

And a family was cut down – murdered – while out for a walk. They were chosen at random – for no reason – other than that someone disagreed with their religion.

How do these things happen – whether it’s events that seem diluted by history – or something that happened just last week – the motivation is often the same – people are judged by appearance – by where they come from – the way they look – talk – dress.

That’s not the way it’s supposed to be!

No one – no one – should ever feel threatened because they are different. And of course – I guess you could even raise the question of – different from who – what’s the standard.

In our scripture story today – Samuel – one of the bible greats – could be accused of this same pigeonholing. But then God sets Samuel straight. God says – Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

The heart – that’s where the Lord looks – not the colour of your skin – or where you are from – or how you worship. God looks at your heart – and so should we.

But what kind of a heart is God looking for – what is it that would make God look at someone and say – I choose him – or her.

Most people know the familiar story of David and Goliath. We know David as the young shepherd boy who slew a giant with one stone and a simple slingshot. We know that this brave shepherd boy grew up to be a great king of Israel. But there’s much more to David’s life than just slaying giants.

More has been written about David than any other person in the Bible – other than Jesus himself. In the Old Testament there are sixty-six chapters written about David – and in the New Testament – there are fifty-nine references to this great man.

And we can also gain insight into what he thought and felt by reading the Psalms he wrote – seventy-three Psalms are attributed to David.

Shepherd boy – king – mighty warrior – musician – poet – sinner – saint. These words all describe David – but perhaps the most important words about David were spoken by God himself.

In the book of Acts is found these words of God – I have found David – son of Jesse – a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.

David’s life was a portrait of success and failure – he was far from perfect – yet God calls him a man after my own heart. So – what was there about David’s heart that distinguished him from those around him – setting him apart as God’s man – someone God chose to confide in?

What did God see when He looked at David’s heart? How do we become a man or woman after God’s own heart? Let’s take some time looking at those questions – getting to know the heart of David – and maybe – in the process we’ll get to know the heart of God as well.

David’s story begins – not on the battlefield with Goliath – but on the ancient hillsides of Israel. Before we get to the story – let me provide a little background.

King Saul – Israel’s first King – isn’t the king he used to be. He’s grown ever more prideful and arrogant. He’s openly defied and disobeyed God. Saul’s downward spiral from saint to sinner has left Samuel – prophet and priest – heartbroken.

So – God decides it’s time for a change. The Lord says to Samuel – You have mourned long enough for Saul. I have rejected him as king of Israel, so fill your flask with olive oil and go to Bethlehem. Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be my king.

So Samuel walks the trail to Bethlehem. His arrival turns the heads of the townsfolk. There were problems in the palace – genuine fear stretched across the land at that time. You can see it reflected in the immediate reaction of Bethlehem’s inhabitants – What’s Samuel doing here? – What’s wrong? They don’t know why Samuel is there – so they ask – Do you come in peace?

Samuel replies – Yes, in peace – I have come to sacrifice to the Lord – then he invites these locals – including a man named Jesse and his sons – to join him.

Jesse brings seven sons with him to participate in the sacrifice and the following feast. Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought – Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!

He didn’t say it out loud – but that’s what he was thinking – Why? Because Eliab looked like the type you’d normally choose for a king. No doubt he was tall and impressive – a real warrior. Samuel is impressed – but God isn’t.

Then Jesse told his son Abinadab to step forward and walk in front of Samuel. But now Samuel had caught on and said – nope – not this one – or this one either – or the next – till all seven of Jesse’s present sons were rejected.

Seven sons strut their stuff – but all seven fall short. Keep in mind – none of these guys even know what the prize is that they’re competing for.

In the midst of this parade of possibilities – God whispers a reminder to Samuel – Do not consider his appearance or his height…The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. Aren’t you glad God says this?

Aren’t you weary of society’s surface-level system – of being graded according to the inches of our waist – the square footage of our house – the color of our skin – the make of our car – the cut of our clothes – the presence of diplomas – where your grandparents were born – Aren’t you tired of being judged by our outward appearance?

Hard work ignored. Devotion unrewarded. The boss chooses background over character. The teacher picks pet students instead of prepared ones. Parents show off their favorite sons and leave the runts out in the field. At least – that’s what happened to David.

Samuel takes a quick headcount and asks Jesse – Are these all the sons you have? The question likely caused Jesse to squirm a bit – but then he responds – I still have the youngest son. He is out taking care of the sheep

That’s where we find David – in the pasture with the flock. Eventually – David will go on to slay giants and conquer kingdoms. The Son of God will be called the Son of David. The greatest psalms – many of which we sing and love today – will flow from his pen.

But on this day – he wasn’t even invited to dinner with the family – he’s just a forgotten – inconsequential kid – performing a menial task in a small town.

Maybe you can relate. Lucky for us – God doesn’t see what we see – God doesn’t judge by outward appearances – God looks at the heart.

When Jesse sent for David – Samuel saw a gangly teenager enter the house – smelling like sheep – and looking like he needed a bath. But God saw something more. And so – the Lord whispered to Samuel – This is the one – anoint him!

David didn’t understand it at the time – but his life was forever changed in that moment. And it’s because God saw what no one else saw. So – what did God see? Scripture doesn’t say for sure – but it hints.

As I look at this story I see three qualities of David’s heart that God certainly saw as well. First – David had a hardworking heart.

Although Jesse had seven other sons – David was the only one out in the fields that day. Being low man on the totem pole meant that David was expected to do the jobs the rest of the family didn’t want to do. That’s just what David did – and without complaint.

The Bible is full of commands to work. God views work worthy of its own engraved commandment – Six days you shall labor – but on the seventh day you shall rest.

We’re more inclined to pay attention to the second half of that commandment. Most people would love to work less and rest more. But emphasis on the one day of rest may cause us to miss the command to work – Six days you shall labor – God said. Whether you work at home or in the marketplace – your work matters to God.

And it matters to society. One reason I think God commands us to work is that we need each other. Sheep need a shepherd. Cities need plumbers. Nations need soldiers. Stoplights break. Bones break. We need people to repair the first and set the second.

Another reason I think God wants us to work is because He is a worker! Jesus once said – My Father is always at his work to this very day – and I too am working. (John 5:17).

God is always working. So – however you work – you imitate God when you do. God saw that David had a heart for hard work.

And God saw that David had a humble heart. After Samuel anointed David’s head with oil – the spirit descended on him – and his life changed. I’m fairly sure this meant that he knew he was the chosen – that he would be the next king

What do you do in a situation like that? What did David do? Well – I’m happy to report – he did not go down to the nearest department store and try on royal crowns. He didn’t order a new set of business cards – telling the printer to Change it from shepherd to king-elect. He didn’t shine up a chariot and race through the streets of Bethlehem yelling – I’m God’s choice . . . you’re looking at Saul’s replacement!

This is what David did after he was anointed to be king – and it tells us a lot about why God chose him. As the story continues, King Saul seeks out an assistant and someone recommends David. So – Saul sent a message to Jesse that said – Send me your son David – who is with the sheep

Don’t miss those last three words. David went right back to the sheep – even after being anointed king. Then in the next chapter – even after being going to work for the King – we find that – David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem – He’s still tending his father’s flock!?

Well, when you have a heart like David’s, that’s what you do. That was his job – and he was faithful to do it. It made no difference that Samuel had anointed him – or that Saul appointed him as his personal attendant. He didn’t expect special treatment from others. He didn’t demand respect or brag about his position.

No – he just went back humbly to his sheep.

I think that’s one of the reasons he was a man after God’s heart. He was always approachable – always faithful in the little things. David had a humble heart – and we should too. Finally – David had a hallelujah-filled heart.

Do you know what David was doing out in the fields all day – when he wasn’t tending to the sheep – he was making music. David spent his days gazing up into the clouds writing worship songs. That’s actually why Saul sent for David in the first place.

Saul wrestled with depression and anger. In fact – the Bible says he was being tormented by an evil spirit. But – as was written in Victorian times – Music has charms to soothe the savage breast. Saul wanted a musician to play soothing music for him whenever he felt troubled – so one of Saul’s attendants told him that – One of Jesse’s sons from Bethlehem is a talented harp player – and the Lord is with him”

David’s passion for praise and worship earned him a place in the palace. Of course – we’re not all harpist or psalm writers like David. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a heart for worship.

The longer I continue my walk with God – the more I appreciate the importance of music in ministry. I think Martin Luther was exactly right when he wrote – Next to the Word of God – music deserves the highest praise.

God seems to have cast His vote in favor of music too. In His Book – the Bible – the longest of all the sixty-six books is the one dedicated to the hymns of the Hebrews—the book of Psalms.

When was the last time you sang your heart out for God – was it the last time you sat in a church pew – or alone in your car – or maybe even the shower? Never mind how beautiful or how pitiful you may sound. Sing out – you’re making melody with your heart to the Lord! God loves a heart brimming with hallelujahs!

David, for all his foibles was a man after God’s own heart. Others may measure your waist size or wallet. Not God. He examines hearts. When God looked at David’s heart that day – He saw what no one else saw – a hardworking – humble – hallelujah-filled heart – a God-seeking heart. What does he see when he looks at yours – and what do you see – when you look at others.

Amen.

Hymn: “I See A New Heaven”

Video: If Jesus Returned Today

Pastoral Prayer

Hymn: “10,000 Reasons”

Benediction and Commissioning

Postlude: Salvation Has Come to Us – anonymous

Sunday, June 6, 2021 Worship Service

Blessings Cooksville Family!

Below 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.

Blessings,

Rev. Brian

Rev. Brian Vickers
Cell – 905-802-4081
Email – b_d_vickers@hotmail.ca


Prelude: Plenty Good Room – spiritual, arr. Lloyd Larson

Opening Video: Let Us Worship

Welcome & Greeting:

Lighting the Christ Candle

Hymn: “Here I Am To Worship”

Call to Worship and Opening Prayer:

The Lords Prayer

Scripture:

Mark 3:20-35 New International Version (NIV)

3:20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” 22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.” 23 So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.” 30 He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.” 31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” 33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. 34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

Solo: The Lord Is My Shepherd – text from Psalm 23; music by Samuel Liddle

Message:

Family Matters
Mark 3:31 – 35

There’s just my mom and I left now – and she’s deep into Alzheimer’s – so sometimes it feels like I’m really the only one left – but when I was growing up – we were a family of four. My mom and dad – my sister – and me.

Generally – I was happy with my family – at least considering the old saying – you can pick your friends – but you don’t get to pick your family. But there were times.

My mom was an accomplished sewer – dresses for her and my sister – shirts placemats – doilies – toilet paper covers that looked like mice in dresses – and at one point – the latest craze was t-shirts. So – when we would go out as a family group – we all had matching – patterned – t-shirts.

Well – I was at that age when that sort of thing just wasn’t cool – is there ever an age when it is? So – I’d spend as much effort as possible trying to convince people that those people over there were not my family.

“Your mother and your brothers are outside waiting on you, calling for you,” one of the disciples said to Jesus.

“Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” Jesus replied. “Anyone who does my will, anybody who gets on board with my movement, that’s my family,” said Jesus.

Jesus has some strange ideas about family too.

When you join some clubs – they give you a pin and a secret handshake. But when you join on with Jesus and join the church – you get thrown into the pool – washed – maybe dunked a few times – half drowned – and encouraged to see what it’s like to be born again. Now what does that tell you?

To those who took comfort in the old order – maybe boasting of their memberships in God’s chosen people by saying – My family founded this church – or – I’m not very religious but I’m really – really – spiritual – John the Baptist would have scolded you – saying – Don’t say to yourselves – I’m a dues-paying member! I’ve got Abraham and Sarah as my parents! – God can raise up a family from the stones in this river if God’s people won’t turn, return, be washed, and get with the revolution!

God is determined to have a family. But in order to join a new family – you first have to separate yourself from the old one. Membership in God’s kingdom – is – a joyful thing – but it also involves giving some things up.

Look – I love my family. I mean – why shouldn’t I? They all look just like me – especially when wearing matching t-shirts – but – I’m sorry to tell you that – family matters – was not really a Jesus’ thing.

We know next to nothing about the family of Jesus. Mark says that Jesus had a number of brothers and sisters – but what do we know about them? Jesus’ family plays a remarkably negligible role in His story.

And in His ministry – Jesus thought nothing of destroying a family business with a simple command of – Follow me – demanding that these fishermen abandon their aging father in the boat and join Jesus as He wandered about with His buddies.

Jesus’ invitation to hit the road broke the hearts of many first-century parents who were counting on the kids for help in their old age.

I have come to set a man against his father – and a daughter against her mother – Jesus threatened. He also said – Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother – and wife and children – and brothers and sisters – yes – and even life itself – can’t be my disciple. Now that’s a text that you wouldn’t hear preached on – Christian family Sunday.

Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside asking for you – someone said. Jesus replied – Who? Anyone who does my will is my family.

I’ll follow you – a man said to him – only first let me go give my recently deceased father a decent burial. Let the dead bury the dead – replied Jesus – Follow me and let somebody else do the funeral!

Wow! Talk about family issues! But – to be fair – Jesus seems no more hostile toward family than He is toward – money – or success – or government officials or religious authorities.

For Jesus – everything comes second to His mission – nothing is more important than doing God’s will. Still – isn’t it interesting that Jesus appears to devalue that which we consider so valuable?

I still remember when almost every Christmas greeting card had a picture of the baby Jesus in the manger and Joseph and Mary standing close by. Now – our Christmas cards are more likely to customized – featuring our own smiling families – dressed in tacky matching sweaters. The family has become the center of our celebrations – the most important of all human gatherings.

Why Jesus? Why were you so cold toward family – sexuality – romantic attachments – things which seem to preoccupy us?

The gospels tell us that one of Jesus’ chief missions was the reunion of the scattered lost sheep of Israel. Jesus left His biological family in order to form a new family – based not on genetic kinship – the way we make family – but rather upon the gracious – barrier-breaking call of God.

Jesus got into trouble for practicing a scandalously open-handed table fellowship – calling the lost and orphaned back home. This man eats and drinks with SINNERS! That’s one of the earliest and most persistent claims against Jesus.

Even as He was dying in agony on the cross – Jesus invited an outcast – a somewhat repentant thief – to join Him and His family in paradise.

In all these actions – and in His stories of seeking the Lost Sheep – and seeking the Lost Coin – and the Lost Boy – Jesus is forming a new family composed of those who had difficulty fitting in with their human families.

Your human family – regardless of all it’s virtues – is just too small – too closely defined – to handle all the problems you may face. In fact – family may actually add to those problems – how much of the time people spend in counselling is spent dealing with the damage done to them by family.

That’s why – when someone steps up and answers Jesus’ call to follow him – the church says – among other things – that the person has been reborn – started over – and has been adopted into a new God-formed family.

It’s as if the person gets a new name – Christian – that takes precedence over that person’s family name. It’s as if the person has already died to old attachments and former relationships – and has already been raised to new life.

And the church is that – fresh – new – family that is composed of those who have heard Jesus’ – Follow me – and have stepped forward and said – Yes.

The chief act of Christian worship – isn’t some mysterious – dark – obscure rite. It’s a family meal – with everyone around the table – the Sunday dinner that we call the Lord’s Supper – family as God intended family to be.

That’s why – when parents bring a child forward for baptism – the minister takes the child from them and says – in effect – You are two wonderful people – but you are not knowledgeable enough – not skilled enough on your own – to raise a Christian. So – we’ll adopt your child – we’ll take responsibility for this baby – we will help you raise a Christian.

In a world of grandparents without grandchildren close by – and single-parent families – and families that spread across the world – and aunts and uncles that you may never meet – you need a bigger family than the one you were born into.

You must be taken into a new – far flung family – a family as large as the love of God in Jesus Christ.

What do you have to do to be credibly called a Christian – a contemporary follower of Jesus? Well – you must be willing to be adopted by a new barrier-breaking family – the church.

You must be prepared to let go of your natural – secular inspired – individualism – and be included in a family that’s bigger and more demanding than the one into which you were born.

You’re invited to join us at the table – where you are asked to call some of the most sinful – often difficult-to-bear individuals – as – brother – or – sister – just because Jesus loves them – just as much as He loves you.

You can see why – when the Jesus movement got going as the church – baptism became the – radical – rite of Christian initiation. Baptism not only signified everything that water means – cleansing and birth – and refreshment and renewal – life – but baptism also meant adoption.

As John the Baptist said – God is going to have a family – even if God has to raise a people out of the rocks in this river.

To become a Christian – to have your life taken over by Jesus – is to be joined into a family – a people joined by – water and the Spirit – a family bigger and better than your biological family – a worldwide – barrier-breaking family that goes by the name – body of Christ.

I feel pleased whenever our church helps out in our neighbourhood – when our salvation army food bin is full to overflowing – or one of our groups donates money or blankets and mittens to our neighbours in need. But of course – we would do that – we see those people every day – most of them are just like us.

But I’ll tell you – I’m even more delighted that when the earth shakes – or the waters rise – when buildings fall – and people need food – somewhere on the other side of the planet – we rally even harder.

Why? Because Jesus has made them part of God’s family too – and because of His love – we have been changed from being strangers – into being – sisters and brothers.

On Good Friday – as Jesus hung on the cross – He performed an amazing last act of invitation and adoption. Having been deserted by most of His family – the crucified Jesus – in a last – wild – desperate act of inclusion – invited a thief to join him in paradise – a stunningly defiant criticism to the ways the world gathers people.

Only a Savior like Jesus would parade into Paradise arm-in-arm with a criminal. Well – today – every time the family of God gathers for Holy Communion – the Eucharist – the Lord’s Supper – a potluck fellowship meal – or serves up soup to the homeless on the street corner – the world looks at this odd family and says – Jesus is hanging out with the same troublemakers that got him crucified.

And we say – Thank God that He does.

Let’s pray – Jesus – by your grace – bring us into your big family. Help us to feel part of the family. Help us to see all people as brothers and sisters in your family. In the name of the one who was crucified for hanging out with people like us – we pray.

Amen.

Hymn: “Would You Bless Our Homes and Families”

Holy Communion

Pastoral Prayer

Hymn: “Rejoice The Lord Is King”

Benediction and Commissioning

Postlude: Fugue in A major BWV 888 – Bach Played by Eddy Zheng

Sunday, May 30, 2021 Worship Service

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.

Blessings,

Rev. Brian

Rev. Brian Vickers
Cell – 905-802-4081
Email – b_d_vickers@hotmail.ca

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

Scripture:

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

Message:

Born Anew
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.

Amen.

Hymn: “Beautiful Things”

Video: Trinity

Pastoral Prayer

Hymn: “Amazing Grace”

Benediction and Commissioning

Postlude: Only Trust Him – Stockton, arr. Robert Hughes

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