Inverted Kingdom of God: The Greatest

Hebrews 5:1-10 (NRSV)

Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness; 3 and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. 4 And one does not presume to take this honor, but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was. 5 So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; 6 as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever,   according to the order of Melchizedek.” 7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9 and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, 10 having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

 

Mark 10:35-45 (NRSV)

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39 They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

MORNING SERMON:

Over the last few weeks we have been reflecting on the Kingdom of God and how it is so very different than that of the kingdoms of our world. And we began this series by understanding first that the Church, us, the people of God are called and not only called but are commanded to be the first fruits of God’s inaugurated Kingdom. And as those who are commanded to such a place, we first must recognize that this entrance, this acceptance into the Church is not something that we have earned or by any means something we have done to gain, but it is a gift from God. Just as a child wholly and fully must rely on that of a parent for life and sustenance, so we too must rely on God for our salvation, wholeness, acceptance, and place within the Kingdom of God.

To have a bit of comparison and contrast learning today, last week we discussed The Least in the KOG are the wealthy, the privileged, those who are more likely to place their trust in themselves than in God. And today, we are going to cover now the Greatest in the KOG.

Today’s Gospel passage begins with James and John coming up to Jesus. Now, to get the picture in our head, this story is a continuation of the past two weeks. Jesus teaching about divorce and the little children come up to him, then last week Jesus sets out on a journey, on his way to Jerusalem, and the Rich Young Ruler comes up to him to ask him about what he must do to inherit eternal life. And then after that teaching, there are a few verses between last weeks lesson and todays. And those verses have to do with Jesus speaking to the disciples about what is to come concerning himself. He tells them that he is going to be handed over to Chief priests, they’ll condemn him to death, ridicule him, spit on him, torture him, kill him and three days later he’ll rise again. It is with this in mind, as they are heading to Jerusalem for all of this to take place, and after being told this is what will happen does James and John come to Jesus and asks that when Jesus comes into his glory, when Jesus has gone through all of this and has inaugurated the KOG here on earth, that they sit on the right and the left of Jesus. Jesus responds with the whole you don’t know what your asking for bit. But sure enough Jesus says, you will go through the trials that will be required of you if you follow me, but to the giving of those places of honor, he could not. This left a very sour taste in the mouth of the other disciples as I am sure we can all imagine. Who does James and John think they are to have the places of honor above me? I have left my house, my wife, my children, my job, my home to follow Jesus just as they have done. And as Jesus heard the grumbling, Jesus comes and teaches this powerful lesson about the greatest in the Kingdom of God.  “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Jesus sets the bar for what it means to be great. And to understand what it means to be great is not to be the person in charge, it’s not to be the one who calls all the shots, but it is to be the servant leader Jesus was, is, AND continues to be. In Hebrews, it speaks of Jesus being the High Priest, the one who serves the needs of all by making sacrifice on behalf of others. And there is a really neat understanding that also comes from this letter, that Jesus still to this day, as he sits on the right hand of God, continues to intercede on our behalf. And not only that, I recently heard a friend of mine, Jason Micheli speak about the early church father Augustine, that when Jesus was on the cross in Jerusalem, the place to which he and the disciples are currently travelling towards, when Jesus cries out, “My God My God Why have you forsaken me.” Jesus wasn’t speaking about himself, but Jesus still in so much love for the other that Jesus was crying out that prayer on behalf of all those of us who have ever cried out that prayer of Where ARE YOU GOD? Jesus is SO much a servant, that at his death on the cross, Jesus was not crying out on behalf of himself, but on behalf of all of us who have ever felt alone. This is the model of servanthood in the KOG that we are to imitate, the suffering Christ who became a slave of all.

So how do we become that servant? What must we do? At Bethany, our pathway, our strategy for making disciples of Jesus Christ who are life long learners, influencing others to serve is that we are Seeking God in Worship, Connecting with community through Small Groups, which leads us to be CALLED and PREPARED to serving the world by sharing God’s love. Because you see, it is not JUST the pastor who is called to share God’s love. It is not JUST the staff of a church who is called to shared God’s love. But it is GOD’s people, it is the CHURCH, it is the Laity and clergy together who are called to serve the world by sharing God’s love. Today is Laity Sunday by the way. This is a day in which the church celebrates the ministries of the Laity. For those who are unfamiliar with that word, you as a member of the Body of Christ are either a member of the clergy or the laity. Clergy are your pastors, your deacons and elders, licensed local pastors, etc. And the laity are the body of Christ and both together are called to serve in the Kingdom of God. The ways we serve may be a little different, but we indeed ALL are called to serve in the KOG.

So as we begin to think about serving the Kingdom of God, finding servants is not always easy in the life of the church. There are many many reasons as to why people may be hesitant to serve through the Church. Actually, I came across a list of 29 reasons why people don’t serve in the Church. But let me share with you the top ones that I found that summed up many of the others. 1) I’m too busy, I don’t have time. 2) I am afraid to serve, afraid of not knowing how, afraid of messing it up, afraid of not knowing the Bible well enough. And 3), I don’t know how to serve, I don’t know what is needed or know the opportunities to serve.

So with that list in mind, let me try and approach each of these respectively.

I don’t have time to serve, I’m too busy. To get us going this morning on this point, let me share with you this quote.

“Too busy to serve at your local church? FYI: Every Sunday you attend your local church you are served by very busy people. Get involved!” – Andy Stanley

That’s the not beating around the bush kind of way of responding. But seriously, everyone has the same amount of hours in the day. When we say, “Yes” to one thing, we often say “No” to another thing. And what serving really comes down to, it also comes down to attendance at worship or bible studies or anything else for that matter, is what priority have I made this to be? How important is this to me? And that really is the only response to being too busy for serving. It really is a question about what do I place more value in? Jesus even shares a parable about this, the parable of the wedding feast where the people are invited but they all come up with excuses for not attending, I have just bought a field and must go see it, I just got married so I cannot come. There are many things in life that we can place more priority in over the KOG.

The next reason for not serving, I may have a bit more compassion with. That is the fear aspect of serving. Even Jesus shares in this fear of serving at least unto death part as Jesus cries out in the garden of gethsemane. But many people may not serve because of fear. Fear of not knowing how, or fear of being put into an uncomfortable place, or even fear of something that is new and different. I too can share in that understanding of fear. When I went to China I was too naïve to be afraid, but I remember not too long after graduating seminary I was serving Red Valley UMC and the SPRC Chair invited me to go and be a part of a KAIROS Team. For those of you who do not know what KAIROS is, KAIROS is first a word that means God’s time. Chronos is the time of the world, KAIROS is the time of God’s time. And KAIROS is a ministry that is much like the walk to Emmaus and Chrysalis. It is a retreat for deepening Christian faith. Anyway, the only difference from Emmaus and KAIROS is, is that KAIROS take place in prison. And I remember my first time walking into the compound, home of 1033 inmates or residents as we call them. And I’ll be honest, it is…intimidating to be behind bars, even with the guards among us. But because I went, I experienced God in that place like I would have never expected. At my table I met a young man who went by the name T Dog. I’m not really sure what Tdog had done to get himself into the place he was in, but over the course of that week I really got to know him. And in that place, tears were shed, people from AROUND the WORLD were praying for these guys, and forgiveness and healing was found. And I ask myself, what if I had let my fear consume me? What if I would have never went into this place…I would’ve missed out one of the MOST influential experiences of seeing God’s grace at work happen before my eyes. Today, I brought a poster with me that was made that week by TDog. Sometimes, we must let the call of God outweigh our fear.

And what about fear of not knowing the bible well enough? To that, my experience says the remedy is to get to know the bible. Start reading it every day, join a small study group to learn and discuss it. My number 1 way of overcoming that fear is by stepping up to lead a small group myself. I have personally learned MORE about my faith and the bible through teaching it. And trust me it does not take a seminary trained education to teach. I remember being in this church as a teenager, and because there was no class for me, I assisted teaching the younger classes. And from that I learned more than I would have had I been in a class.

Finally, the last reason many people do not serve is that they do not know how to serve, they do not know the needs for serving. Well after today, that excuse will not work. There are these slips of paper in the back that says “Opportunities to Serve”. I spoke about them during the announcements. We really are in need of most all of these things. Most of all right now, we are in need of people willing to work with our children in Children’s church and children’s sermons. And also, just because you are not signed up to serve that week doesn’t mean you cannot do other things like holding doors for guests, introducing yourself and sharing with them information about the facilities like where the bathroom is. On a rainy day, you do not have to be signed up to take an umbrella and meet people, the elderly and disabled primarily, and walk them in to the building. Here at Bethany you can serve by becoming a volunteer with HW Club which meets every Wednesday afternoon, or serve on a TOP team…that is the Teens Opposing Poverty where every last Sunday of the month we bring food and supplies to people living out of an abandoned motel. By the way, we will be sending a team next week after worship, see Ken Spellman if you are interested. If you don’t know Ken, come talk to me. Next Saturday we are hoping to go gleaning for apples with Society of St. Andrews. A great way to serve right now is by signing up in the back that you are interested in going. You can serve as a small group leader, as a Sunday School teacher, assistant or another small group leader.

And well, many of us are not here today, because they have been out serving all week this past week and are serving this morning at the Rummage Sale. The Ladies Board of Inova Loudoun hospital has been holding an annual Rummage Sale for 80 years. It has grown into a major event for the mid Atlantic region. More than 500 volunteers usually help for the 2 day event!  Proceeds benefit Inova Loudoun Hospital and helps to fund nursing scholarships. This last spring 51 scholarships were awarded for a total of $110, 500. These scholarships are for nurses who either work or live in Loudoun County. In addition, the Ladies Board gave $115,000 towards their one million pledge to the Cornwall Care Campaign for the establishment for the Cornwall Medical Campus and the ladies have almost paid off the pledge! Also, the Board voted $49,000 to fund 5 greatest impact grants for a variety of needs within the hospital. Ten thousand dollars was donated to update the hospital chapel…a chapel for all faiths. It is truly amazing the generosity as the donors as all is donated for the Sale.

PS: The Board operates a thrift shop in Leesburg, the gift shop at the hospital and sponsors a Lights of Love program in December which profits help with all these gifts to the hospital. And many of our members here help out with that ministry.

Today in closing, we serve because well we have been served by God. And in being served by God, loved by God, saved by God, we are God’s. Today, I’d like to close with a prayer that was adapted by John Wesley. It is called the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer and is often used by Christians at watch night services recommitting themselves on New Year’s Eve worship services.  I am going to read it first, and then if you feel that you can make that prayer be your prayer, I would invite you to pray it with me.

“I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.”

Ordination and Putting To Death…

This year, Bishop Lewis of the Virginia United Methodist Church has placed before her conference the second consecutive challenge of reading through the Bible in one year. Last year, they read it from cover to cover, and this year we are reading the Chronological plan offered by biblegateway.com. This morning’s text caught me off guard a bit. It was the text of Exodus 30-32.

At the beginning of this text is Moses up on the mountain talking with God about all that God wants Moses to do to set up the Tabernacle. From how to make the Ark of the Covenant, to the incense to be used only for tabernacle worship, to the anointing oil that everything in the Tabernacle was to be anointed with. But as the story goes, as Moses was up on the mountain the Israelites become…restless. They ask of Aaron to create for them a new god to worship, and Aaron obliges. He takes all the gold from their earrings, melts it down in the fire, and creates the idol of the golden calf to which the people begin offering sacrifices. Ironically, God in his temper wants to destroy the people, but Moses intercesses on their behalf, and then Moses goes down to address Aaron and the people of God. And this is really what caught me off guard. Read here Exodus 32:25-29.

 25 When Moses saw that the people were running wild (for Aaron had let them run wild, to the derision of their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. 27 He said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side, each of you! Go back and forth from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill your brother, your friend, and your neighbor.’” 28 The sons of Levi did as Moses commanded, and about three thousand of the people fell on that day. 29 Moses said, “Today you have ordained yourselves[c] for the service of the Lord, each one at the cost of a son or a brother, and so have brought a blessing on yourselves this day.”

In this text, Moses calls up those who are with Yahweh to kill and destroy their brothers, friends, or neighbors if they were against God. And for this act, they were ordained. As one who has been ordained in the church for the service of God, this is a tough scripture to swallow. Could God really have ordained a people, set aside a people, for such an act as this?

But the more I sit with these verses, the more I come to realize the similarity in this act of service to God. No. I don’ t mean by going around and killing my brother, friend and neighbors against God.  But rather to speak out and eradicate the things that are not of God. To speak out and act against forces of evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. These are the vows that not only have our clergy taken, but ALL Christians in their baptism. All of us have been ordained, set aside from the world, as a holy priesthood to speak and act out against all things contrary to the principles of the Kingdom of God.

Joy to the World

This afternoon I was listening to some music on Spotify when one of those commercials came on (I am too cheap to buy the full edition). And it was a Christmas holiday commercial for “Wine and More.” Now please, don’t get me wrong here, I know that wine, beer, and spirits are very much a part of the cultural US holiday traditions. I too will enjoy a glass of wine with my Thanksgiving dinner. But as I listened to this commercial they added the jingaling of “Joy to the World” to the end of the commercial.

Now, I may be over stepping what the original maker of this commercial intended, but to my ears, it sounded as though it was implying, “Joy to the World, the alcohol has come.” When in reality, there is more to this wonderful song than a time to celebrate holidays, more than a time with family and friends, and there’s certainly more to it than the occasion for drinking. This is the time of the year when the cosmos cries out, “Joy to the World, the LORD has come!” The  Great I AM has come in flesh, the one who created the heavens and the earth, the author and maker of life itself.

I am sure that the creator of this commercial did not intend for it to say, “Joy to the world for alcohol is here,” But we must be careful to what we attach a song just because it gives the holiday feel to it. This is a song which is worthy of so much more than to be attached to a silly alcohol commercial.

Hope you all have a great Thanksgiving and a joyful merry Christmas!

 

Christogram Tattoo

Meaning: The crown and cross at top is obvious. King of kings Lord of lords. The X and P are in Greek the the Chi and Rho or the first two letters of the word Christ. These two letters known as a Christogram is used throughout church history since the early 3rd and 4th centuries. The Alpha and Omega are the first and last Greek letters of the alphabet. Meaning that Christ, who is the Word is the beginning and the end of all that is or ever will be. The circle around this is representative of the eternity of God. The two birds on top are to represent the sparrows. Reminding the onlooker of Jesus’ words that says if God will take care of the sparrows surely he’d take care of those made in his image.The Olive branches are representative of Christ Jesus who is the prince of peace. And the heart at the bottom is the foundation of Christ Jesus, that is the love of God at the cross.

Recently I had decided to get my 4th tattoo (See Left). For some I have had great reflections about what it all means. For others, they were not too impressed. Why? Well because I am a pastor of course. And clearly in Leviticus it says that we should not cut our bodies or tattoo them.
“You shall not make any gashes in your flesh for the dead or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord.” – Leviticus 19: 28
I recently came across a blog post linked here that I thought was in alignment with my own experiences. But I was all the more interested in the comments section where the author has conversation with another Christian brother who is questioning the orthodoxy of Christians getting tattoos because of what it says in Leviticus. I have known this for a while, but felt this pastor did a great job capturing it. So let me share the quote here:
 
“I know that “tattoo” is a Polynesian word that entered the English language long after Levitucus [sic] was written. English for that matter didn’t exist. So marking and cutting would be better translations. And that cutting and marking flesh rituals were pagan activities associated with mourning. And that objections to paganism were the concern of that passage of Leviticus. It is a leap to suggest that modern tattoos were what was going on with cutting and marking.”
If you are so intrigued as I was, the conversation continues between this pastor and fellow christian and certainly is informational as to the cultural understanding of why we now eat meat with blood in it and are so allowed to shave our beards and cut our hair. (All of which Leviticus command us not to).
My synopsis and addition of those comments follow: 
                    As I look to those commandments of the Old Testament, we must understand the context for which they were written. God was more concerned about our actions that were in praise or alignment with other gods/beliefs than the action of tattooing or cutting our hair itself.  Today’s context of why we cut our hair, shave our beards, or receive tattoos are not for the purpose of pagan worship or grieving, as they were in the days of the Hebrews in Leviticus. In those days, they would cut the body “presumably to appease the demons from tormenting the corpse when they saw the blood shed.”And also too would cut their hair in grieving that the pagan gods would give favor to them. Though even by the time of Jeremiah, they already began permitting the cutting of hair for grieving, but it was not to a pagan god or to procure favor from one. (Jer. 16:6; 41:5). Today, instead of mourning the dead or attempting gain favor from false gods, these changes to our physical appearance are expressions of ourselves that often carry with it a lot of meaning. Well maybe not cutting you hair, but many of the tattoo symbols. If you are piercing your body, cutting your hair, drinking blood because you believe the foreign gods will give you power; then yes, we have a sin problem.
But as this author has suggested, it is really been an awesome experience of speaking to individuals who opened up to me because of both the collar and yes, my tattoo(s).
– Rev. Joshua King
Ordained Elder of the UMC
 

Grace Overcomes Arrogance

Date:  3-26-2017

Epistle Lesson: Ephesians 5:8-14

8 For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— 9 for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. 10 Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; 13 but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Gospel Lesson: John 9:1-41

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

Grace Overcomes Blindness

Date:  3/12/2017

Scripture Reading – 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. 2 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. 3 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.”

4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

Opening Hymn: The God of Abraham Praise UMH 116

Epistle Lesson: Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. 5 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. 14 If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. 16 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, 17 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.

Gospel Lesson: John 3:1-17

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 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.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4 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?” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8 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.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

11 “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. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 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.

Date:  3/19/2017

Epistle Lesson: Romans 5:1-11

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. 9 Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11 But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Gospel Lesson: John 4:5-42

5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” 28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” 30 They left the city and were on their way to him.

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

Grace Overcomes Adversity