As we continue in our Lenten journey, we will be entering into the Gospel according to John. This week, we meet Nicodemus, a respected religious leader who has a secret passion for a new faith: a faith he finds in Jesus. Unfortunately, he isn't yet ready to make a public declaration. Instead, he goes to Jesus at night, hoping no one sees him in the camp talking to this man. Jesus was not exactly someone Nicodemus wanted to be seen chumming it up with right now; after all, Jesus had just had his memorable encounter with the money-changers and said he would rebuild the temple in three days. However, he confesses to Jesus that they (and possibly other leaders) know Jesus comes from God because these signs are only possible through God. But Jesus doesn't let him off the hook! Instead, he throws metaphors and exaggerations at Nicodemus, confusing him.
And we still get confused with Jesus' language today! So many people believe in a "born again" movement, without realizing this passage is about being born anew, or being born from above! It isn't about making a personal change, but about allowing God to change you as you come to understand the depth of his love. This love is expressed famously in John 3:16, but we often ignore where we best see that love--the cross! Lastly, even though Nicodemus doesn't exactly shine in his first interaction with Jesus, he is still the one where we find our hope for this morning!
The Gospel lectionary reading for the First Sunday of Lent finds us out in the wilderness, witnessing Jesus being tempted by the devil. It's a text that is as misunderstood as it is well-known. We have all heard preachers offer sermons that tell us that the devil is among us and we must avoid all the evil temptations satan throws our way! And because of that--we've long included any possible temptation as coming directly from the devil. But you know, that seems to be taking a concise message about our faith and stretching it to the extremes. I've also heard that the temptations have nothing to do with us, and this story is only about Jesus. That idea goes too far in the other direction. You see, the temptations weren't new to Jesus, and they aren't new to us. The Israelites faced the same situation after leaving Egypt. The temptations found in this reading are only about being tempted to be someone other than who God calls us to be--it's about denying our identity as children of God--and disciples of Christ! Those are the temptations we must watch for in life!
Rev. CHRIS HOUTZ
Welcome to the pastor’s blog! This page will have sermons uploaded so you can listen to them whenever you want, and I will add a brief reflection on the text, the sermon, or a little bit of both. My hope is that you will be able to see that the Bible can still speak to our world today, and that we can always find a note of God’s grace in any passage, whether it is one of the most well-known and beloved passages, or one of the most difficult readings to grasp.
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We are a friendly, multi-cultural congregation that welcomes all to worship with us as we glorify our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; sing praises to God, the Father; and let the Holy Spirit guide our footsteps. As faithful witnesses to our Christian beliefs, we dedicate ourselves to worship, stewardship and discipleship. We will always endeavor to nurture the youth in our congregation to grow in their commitment to God and the Church and to become active participants in the life and work of the Church.
We commit ourselves to evangelism and mission to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to all people in a variety of ways in our community and beyond.
We will continue to be open to God’s presence, leading us into new pathways of ministry and service for the betterment of the community and to the glory of Jesus Christ our Savior. -
-ratified by congregational vote, January 27, 2008
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