SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT + MARCH 5, 2023
PRAYER OF THE DAY
O God, you call to us and welcome us in the midst of our doubts and fears.
May your abiding Presence fill us with new life and new hope as we lift up
your life to all the world through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
A Reading from the book of Genesis
The LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him.
We will pray Psalm 121 responsively
I lift up my eyes to the hills; from where is my help to come?
My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.
The LORD will not let your foot be moved nor will the one who watches over you fall asleep.
Behold, the keeper of Israel will neither slumber nor sleep;
the LORD watches over you; the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will preserve you from all evil and will keep your life.
The LORD will watch over your going out and your coming in, from this time forth forevermore.
A Reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans
What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.
For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”) — in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.
The Holy Gospel according to John, the third chapter
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.”
Nothing gives me more peaceful pleasure than returning to my home after a long day, and finding everything in order, a place for everything and everything in its place. With my surroundings predictably calm and serene, the evening ahead issure to be relaxing and restorative. Itseems to me that this external well-ordered atmosphere is both a reflection of, and a gateway to my inner well-being.
So it was with Nicodemus. His whole life revolved around the Law. The logical, reasonable, orderly, sacred Law. He could rest assured in that sphere of perfection, well versed in the correct application for any circumstance or situation. His decades of faithful and prayerful scholastic pursuit of the Law were a mantle of honor and prestige encircling his being, and presenting him, so gracefully draped and elegant, to the people of God, who depended on his intellectual acumen in interpreting every last stroke and dot of the Law. Nicodemus was a righteous man. Almost as righteous as I feel when my world is in order, without and within. What’s the line from that hymn? “No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that rock I’m clinging”. Nicodemus and I share a rock you see, and we fully expect that we are entitled to all the privilege that faithful unmovable rock clingers deserve!
But then, just as our comfortable, carefully constructed and maintained life became secure and uneventful, came an inner itch, a disquieting disturbance, an undeniable, unstoppable, unceasing desire to pursue the one who we began to realize was pursuing us all along: Jesus! Nicodemus just couldn’t deny or ignore, or resist any longer. He had to know. And after all his careful questions and honest inquiries, he found that he had indeed been found, that the one thing he had never suspected was at the heart of the Law, and at the heart of this Jesus: Love. Surprise Nicodemus! Life will never be the same! From now and till forever, it is Love that directs you, Love that guides you, Love that insists and persists and never lets you go. It is Love that gives you life! Nicodemus, you are born again! …and so are we. Amen
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