Genesis 12:1-4a Now 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. [NRSV]
Psalm 121 I lift up my eyes to the hills– from where will my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore. [NRSV]
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 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. [NRSV]
John 3:1-17 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. [NRSV]
- The context of this lenten message is a collective voice of ‘faith’.
- The nutshell is faith is possible because God’s love is so great we are compelled to trust and believe.
- The “so what” is a compelling reflection to answer honestly do we believe because we dare not or because we dare to love.
Preacher Joke of the week: Angels were talking with God about the current state of the earth. God says, “I think only about 5% of true believers. The other 95% prefer to the ride in the hand-basket.” The angel says, “Do want us to go shake things up?” God says not send our letters of appreciation and thanksgiving to the 5%.” So as your pastor, I ask you: What did you letter say? What? you didn’t get one either..
- The Genesis text tells of father Abraham trusting God’s call to go where he is send. Methodist Preachers understand that one pretty well. Look where God sent us, to be in this moment together to worship, support and rejoice together. Hallelujah!
- Abram sets off on a journey of faith and is given God’s blessing for getting off his duff and taking steps of faith in God’s direction. That is faith in action.
- The Psalmist reminds us to remember God’s presence surrounds us. God is on his holy mountain and God is also by our side. We can take courage to be people of faith because we have both a calling, a mission, a purpose as well as the power and support to make the journey. Both gifts are from God.
- Paul teaches about Abram to the church at Romans pointing out that from the beginning God is with those God calls. God is with Abram, with Roman and Paul and God is with us in Jackson and beyond.
- In the gospel lesson we find the midnight debate between two teachers: Jesus and Nicodemus. Nick comes to Jesus in an act of faith. He is putting his life and livelihood on the line to find out more about Jesus and his teaching.
Some people exchange teaching, lessons and knowledge with the life experience our education prepares us to life. I am appreciative for every teacher and mentor that taught, challenged and sparked interest in my thinking. But if I too all that knowledge and never built upon it, never test it, never put those lessons and thoughts to work then I would only have grand ideas.
- Abram takes God’s word and allows them to change the direction of his life.
- The Psalmist uses words to step outside of ourselves and see God is ahead calling us and beside us to encourage and save us.
- Paul draw back on lessons in history to challenge the current church to step beyond the rules, laws and traditions to see God present in our present reality. God is with us here and now.
- And, it is John’s gospel that retells us just how much God loves us, just how much God wants us to believe, just how much God wants us to be drawn together… so much that he gave his only son, exchanging that life for the broken life we have to offer.
And to claim this gift, we are called to think? no more think. ?We are called to remember? no more than remember. We are called to know the right answer?
Are we called to do the live the perfect life?
No its not just the answers and it’s not how good a manager we manage to be.
The key is belief that God loves us just as much as Jesus reveals to us.
The heart is that we believe enough to change the direction of our lives toward the life God desires for us.
God wants us to walk with, talk with and journey together.
When we take what we know and act on God’s love for us, THEN we believe.
Do you believe God or just know about God?
Do you believe Jesus or just know about Jesus?
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, or knows about the wind?
God desires belief witnessed in the action of our lives.
For God has already given us what our spirit hungers for, will we believe it is within our grasp and take it?