In John 20:19-29, Jesus appears to the disciples twice following his resurrection from the dead. The first time, Thomas isn’t there. Maybe he’s out getting supplies. Maybe he’s seeing other disciples who are hiding in another location. Maybe he’s gathering information or caring for someone or the only one brave enough to head out into the streets knowing the danger. We simply don’t know Thomas’ reasons or motivation.
When he returns, there’s great excitement about Jesus’ appearance. That’s understandable. Thomas’ response is also understandable. He wants what the other disciples now have. He wants to see Jesus, too.
Imagine what Thomas is thinking that long week between appearances. I imagine Thomas doubting himself far more than Jesus.
Why didn’t Jesus wait till we were all here?
Is Jesus mad at me or disappointed in me?
Did he abandon me as I abandoned him?
Was I not worthy of seeing him?
Will he come again?
Jesus does come again and gives Thomas what he needs. Jesus does the same for us as well. – Lisa <><
Jesus, you give me what I need
What I need to believe
What I need to live
Like my brother Thomas,
I lay the doubting down
You come for me
You want me as well
You want us all
The gift of your presence is for me
The gift of your peace is for me
So too the power of your Spirit
The very Breath of Life
Abundant Life in your name
Jesus, you give me what I need
Oh My Jesus
My Lord and My God
Sermon Series: There’s More to Life
Message 1 of 5: Nicodemus
Scripture: John 3:1-17
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/24/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.
It would make sense that you get to a point where you’ve been studying and training in something and you feel you don’t need a coach or teacher anymore. You have mastered the topic or skill.
But the truth is we always need teachers, mentors, and coaches. I have a masters of divinity, but I in no way have mastered divinity.
Who pastors the pastor? I have a spiritual director named Pam. A spiritual director is different from a counselor or teacher. A spiritual director asks, “How is your soul?” and then recommends spiritual practices to keep me connected to God and spiritually healthy.
In January, Pam reminded me of this promise: The fullness of Christ is ours. What would it be like to continue to ask for more and more? There’s always more!
That took us to Ephesians 3:16-21. This Lent, we’re using this beautiful prayer to pray for the fullness of Christ to be made real in the lives of others. (individuals or groups of people)
Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen ___________. Fill ___________’s soul with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Anointed One will reside in his/her heart. May love be the rich soil where ________’s life takes root. May it be the bedrock where ___________’s life is founded, so that together with all of Your people, he/she will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. God may Your fullness flood through __________’s entire being. Now to the God who can do so many awe-inspiring things, immeasurable things, things greater than we ever could ask or imagine through the power at work in us, to Him be all glory in the church and in Jesus the Anointed from this generation to the next, forever and ever. Amen.
The theme of power is repeated 3 times in this prayer:
Power for strength
Power to know Christ and understand the depth of his infinite love
Power at work in us to do awe-inspiring things
This is what I long for, what I’m seeking, more and more of the Spirit, Savior, and the Father. Maybe you do, too. Would you pray this prayer for me sometime this Lenten season? I know I can’t receive the infinite gifts of God in my own strength. What would it be like for you to walk up to someone and say, “Would you insert my name this week in the prayer?” Anyone would be delighted to do that for you.
Nicodemus was longing for and seeking this as well. He appears 3 times in the Gospel of John. The beginning of Jesus’ ministry, in the middle defending Jesus, and at Jesus’ burial. A person who grows in his faith and the infinite love of God.
John 3:1-2, Nicodemus is introduced
Pharisee- literally “Separated One”
Separated himself out for God, distinguished himself, by strict discipline in the study of God’s Word and applying the lessons of the Scriptures through rituals that he might lead a pure, holy, clean life
No separation between what he does for a living and who he is as a follower of the One True Living God, integrated life
Seeker of truth, Seeker of God, dedicated his entire life to this
Rabbi, Teacher of Israel, maybe even THE teacher
Pharisee of Pharisees
One of the best minds in Israel and it has served him well as he rose to an elite position
We don’t know if he was born into a family of advantage or if he worked his way up to his position of power, influence, respect, prosperity, security
Member of the Sanhedrin – the Great Sanhedrin of 71 judges in Jerusalem, the ruling council of all Israel
Nic at Night
Did Nicodemus come on his own to see Jesus?
Did the Sanhedrin send him in an official capacity?
“We know you are a teacher who has come from God”
They heard of the miracles
They heard his teaching
Turned over the tables in the temple
Sanhedrin sends Nicodemus, their brightest, best, most respected to check out Jesus
Root out people pretending to be the Messiah to maintain the fragile peace with Rome
Go at night. This is how the Sanhedrin does things, sneaky things – under the cover of darkness. Don’t go in the daytime, it might legitimize Jesus.
He’s come to find out who Jesus is- and Jesus tells him. But Jesus is also going to tell Nicodemus about Nicodemus. Jesus is going to look into his soul and see his seeking and trying and how it’s falling short. Nicodemus, there is more. Nicodemus, even after all you have earned, learned and achieved there is more.
Quote from Moments with the Savior by Ken Gire A lifetime of studying and teaching the word, and now Nicodemus is face to face with the Word incarnate. He comes in darkness, now he stands in the glowing presence of the Light of the World.
Reading John 3:1-10
If religious training were enough then Nicodemus would have all he needs for the fullness of God. If self-discipline were enough… If power and position were enough…
How many times do we strive after the things of God like Nicodemus? We pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and put on our big girl pants and we stand and we learn, learn, learn and practice, practice, practice.
Jesus says you can’t have the Kingdom of God in your own strength. There is more and it is available to you.
Nicodemus is baffled because this is what he thought would work and it hasn’t. It won’t. He’s baffled to find what does work in this poor, homeless, uncredentialed rabbi from nowhere.
Imagine yourself listening to Jesus alongside Nicodemus.
The cool of the night, the quiet of no modern noises, wind
Where are you? In old Jerusalem? On the Mount of Olives?
You must be born from above. You must be born again. You must be born of water and Spirit.
Sence of openness and delight and invitation.
Come, sit at my feet. Let me be your rabbi, your master. Come, let me be your Messiah, Savior. You do not need to strive this way to save yourself.
Come and know me, and know true power- the life-transforming power of the Spirit
Come and know me, and receive the power to understand that God’s divine love is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced
Come and know me for I am Love
John 3:16-17 16 “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. 17 “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.”
The life of a Pharisee was a life of struggle and condemnation. Jesus was offering Nicodemus life. Just as Jesus is offering us life. ‘
You must be born from above. You must be born again. You must be born of water and Spirit.
Many of us do not remember our baptism. We were carried into the arms of the church by a loved one. Baptism is always about recognizing God’s grace more than recognizing our work.
But there must be many moments, when we say, “Yes, I’ve been born of water. I’ve been named and claimed by God in my baptism. But God I desire to be born of Spirit as well. Your holy presence alive in me, awakening me, saving me from me trying to save myself.”
Invitation to be baptized for the first time or reaffirm your baptism and to ask God to be born of water and Spirit.
Pentecost is one of my favorite holy-days. Through story, song, and lots of red, Christians celebrate the new birth and empowerment of Jesus’ followers by the Holy Spirit. Our remembering raises up a prayer for God’s fire to fall on us as well, that we too would share the Good News with boldness, welcome, and joy. – Lisa <><
Reader’s Theater: The Promises of Pentecost
This short, simple script begins with the Jesus’ promises concerning the Holy Spirit at the Last Supper, journeys through Jesus’ promise before his ascension, and on to the fulfillment of those promises on the day of Pentecost. Scriptures include: John 14: 16, 17, 26; 16:13; Acts 1:5-8; Acts 2:1-21
Prayer for Pentecost- You Are
Mighty God, we bow before your Holy Presence
You are Dove: name us and claim us for your purposes
You are Breath of Life: make us alive in Christ
You are Light: brighten our thoughts with your wisdom
You are Counselor: encourage us, remind us, guide our steps
You are Wind: disperse the clouds of injustice
You are Tongue: teach us to honor you with our words
You are Fire: ignite your holy love in us
You are Divine Spirit: give us courage against all evil
Save us and the world in your infinite mercy
So we may ever bless you, praise you, and serve you
First during this life on earth, and then in heaven for all eternity. Amen.
Prayer for Pentecost
This prayer (or song lyric) was born out a hunger for revival. Each verse was inspired by scriptures relating the work of the Holy Spirit.
Adapted from the Prayer of St. Alphonsus Liguori to the Holy Spirit
How do we stay looking forward, especially when the pull to the past is so strong? How do we look forward when we’re feeling stuck in our present reality? How do we run the race of faith with perseverance and finish well? How do we stay open, expectant and eager for God’s next step for us?
We duly celebrated at his birth… with the star we ran, with the magi we worshiped, with the shepherds we were enlightened, with the angels we glorified him, with Simeon we took him up in our arms, and with the chaste and aged Anna we made our responsive confession. – Gregory of Nazianzus
Who are Simeon and Anna? We meet them between Jesus’ birth and the arrival of the Wise Ones. Jesus is about 6 weeks old. Mary and Joseph bring him to Jerusalem for the traditional sacrifices/rituals associated with the birth of a firstborn son and the purification of a new mother. While there, the family encounters two senior citizens, let’s call them seasoned saints. They’re Biblical models of persevering faith and looking forward. Their trust in God and attention to spiritual practices kept them open, expectant, and longing for the promised Messiah.
Anna and Simeon 1. Are Righteous and Devout
Righteous = Right relationship with God, others, themselves, earth. They live a cross-shaped life long before the cross. Righteous describes their being.
Devout = Devoted. This describes their doing. They are intentional about staying open to the presence of God. You prioritize what you’re devoted to. What are you devoted to? If you want to know just check your calendar and your checkbook.
Martin Luther put it this way, “Show me where a man spends his time & money, and I’ll show you his god.”
Persevering/Long-Haul faith doesn’t just happen. It takes intentionality and consistency, like preparing for the Olympics. Consistent spiritual practices keep us open to God’s presence, strengthen our resolve, keep us looking forward.
Anna and Simeon are looking for God and looking forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises.
2. The Holy Spirit rests on them
This is a result of their faith and practices. It’s so clear it’s repeated three times in the passage. (verses 25-27)
What spiritual practices are you using to stay open to God’s presence, so the Holy Spirit will rest on you? (prayer, scripture reading, fasting, Sabbath, tithing, serving, etc.) These practices are timeless. They’re the same practices used by Anna and Simeon.
3. Looking forward
As a result of their faith and practices, Anna and Simeon anticipate and expect God to move and act. They have tremendous faith and trust in God. They have perspective, keeping a right proportion between looking forward and looking back like a car’s windshield and rearview mirror.
4. Looking forward to the consolation of Israel
Anna and Simeon move beyond “what’s in it for me” faith to a bigger picture. Me to We. (Again consider a car’s windshield) They’ve embraced the very heart of God, that the Messiah would bring salvation for all people. This helps them to finish well.
Simeons’s Song, Luke 2:29-32
Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.
All of this is available for us as well.
Holy Spirit, as you rested on Simeon and Anna, so rest on me
Keep me expectant and open to your appearing
Make me a model of your compassion and wisdom
Make me a sign of your persevering grace and transforming power
Holy Spirit, rest on me
Keep my eyes clear, open, looking forward
Fill me with anticipation of you fulfilling your promises
Keep me trusting in your goodness and victory for the world
Save me from despair and falsehood
Grant me true perspective and faith
Keep me looking forward
Not just for myself, but for the greater good, for all
Take me beyond me to the fullness of your heart and plan
For you prepare salvation for all people,
The Jews and the Gentiles
The insiders and the outsiders
We all need you and we can all be saved. Hallelujah!
Holy Spirit touch me
Reveal to me
Rest on me
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9am Sundays, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.
When Jesus is just a few weeks old, Mary and Joseph bring him to Jerusalem for the traditional sacrifices and rituals associated with the arrival of a firstborn son. While there, the family encounters two seasoned saints. Their persevering faith kept them open, expectant, and longing for the promised Messiah. Their names are Simeon and Anna.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon;
this man was righteous and devout,
looking forward to the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit rested on him.
– Luke 2:25
Prayer: Rest on Me
as you rested on Simeon and Anna,
so rest on me
Keep me expectant and open to your appearing
Fill my speech with stories of your praise and glory
You reveal salvation to every person
reveal it again to me
Shine your light on every motivation,
on every hidden thing
Pierce my soul
so nothing I say or do opposes you
as you guided so many that first Nativity,
so guide me
Continue to point me forward
eyes open, steady and true
Lead me to a faithful end,
so I may rest in peace forever with you
and with my true self
I trust and pray in the name of the Promised One
my Savior and Savior of the World
Yes that we are enough just as we are
Where we are
Yes to your calling
and the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon us to fulfill it
Yes to bearing and birthing
Your Word and your Promises and your Kingdom
in this time and place
Yes to all things being possible with you
Like our sister Mary we say
Here I am, the Lord’s humble servant
As you have said, let it be done to me
Like our sister Mary we sing and celebrate you
Our God, Our Liberator
For though we are your humble servants
You have noticed us
This affirmation is offered for all, but especially for those who lead God’s people during the holy-days of Christmas. It can be an weary and stressful time. It’s easy to miss the wonder and grace of God’s intimate presence with so much responsibility. The stakes feel sky high. Breathe, trust, receive brothers and sisters. The promises are for you as well.