April 19, 2020

“This is The Day”

Passage: John 3:1-8

Live Stream
4-19-20
Second Sunday of Easter “Hear the Call – Follow the Dance”
CCLI: 2734287
CVLI: 504214253

Introit: “This is The Day”

Greeting and opening prayer:

Hymn: #338

  1. I can hear my Savior calling,
    I can hear my Savior calling,
    I can hear my Savior calling,
    "Take thy cross and follow, follow me."

Refrain:
Where he leads me I will follow,
where he leads me I will follow,
where he leads me I will follow;
I'll go with him, with him all the way.

  1. I'll go with him through the garden,
    I'll go with him through the garden,
    I'll go with him through the garden,
    I'll go with him, with him all the way.
    (Refrain)
  2. I'll go with him through the judgment,
    I'll go with him through the judgment,
    I'll go with him through the judgment,
    I'll go with him, with him all the way.
    (Refrain)
  3. He will give me grace and glory,
    he will give me grace and glory,
    he will give me grace and glory,
    and go with me, with me all the way.
    (Refrain)

Hymn: #261 “Lord of the Dance”

[Refrain:]
Dance, then, wherever you may be;
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.
And I’ll lead you all wherever you may be,
and I’ll lead you all in the dance, said he

1 I danced in the morning when the world was begun,
and I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun,
and I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth.
At Bethlehem I had my birth.

[Refrain:]
Dance, then, wherever you may be;
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.
And I’ll lead you all wherever you may be,
and I’ll lead you all in the dance, said he.

John 3:1-8 English Standard Version (ESV)

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus[a] by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again[b] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.[c] Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You[d] must be born again.’ The wind[e] blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, 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 did not understand. Nicodemus did not understand that the one who was there at the beginning was changing the steps of the dance. Only the Lord of the Dance can change the step. Our lives and our circumstances may change the music, but only the Lord of the Dance can change the step. Only the Lord of the Dance can add or take away the steps we must use to keep time to the music.

Please, allow me to explain what I mean. In Genesis 12 God made a promise to Abraham.

12 Now the Lord said[a] to Abram, “Go from your country[b] and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And 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 him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”[c]

To Abram and his wife Sarai who were well advanced in years and had no children this promise seemed too good to be true. They would have children and a family of their own if they would just obey God’s promise. Abram and Sarai did the best they could and God did bless them. They had a son, Isaac. Isaac had a son, Jacob. Jacob had four wives and twelve sons. Each of these sons became a head of a tribe of Israel. When Israel exited Egypt Abraham’s descendants are estimated to have numbered 200,000 people. Fast forward through history a bit further and we see the Israelites returning from Babylonian exile and now they are referred to as the Jews. By the time of Christ the Jews could be found in Babylon, ancient Assyria, down into Egypt and as far as Greece and even Rome. This was the people whom God said God would bless if they would only obey God’s command. The command to the Jews started off as something simple – be a blessing to all the families of the earth. How were they to be a blessing? They were to be a blessing by loving God with all of their heart, mind, soul and strength. They were to love their neighbors regardless of their race, creed or religion and to love them as themselves. By doing this their neighbors would come to know the power of their God, and perhaps even repent and turn away from their religions for a deeper relationship with God. This was the plan.

Over thousands of years the music would change. Abram and Sarai’s children were not always obedient. Some would say they were not often obedient. God would allow their neighbors to punish Abraham and Sarah’s children, Israel for their lack of obedience. Then Jesus came to be God with us, the King of kings and Lord of lords. The Lord of the Dance changed the step. Now instead of a focus on obedience through the Law of Moses, the Lord of the Dance was challenging the way the Jews understood God’s intent for Israel to be a blessing to the nations. It was no longer about rules and regulations it was about relationship. Jesus told Nicodemus in the middle of the night, “You must be born again.”

Nicodemus was a Pharisee; a member of the Jewish ruling council in Jerusalem. The Jewish ruling council was called the Sanhedrin. Nicodemus did not understand. What did Jesus mean we must be born again? What did Jesus mean we must be born again through water and the Spirit? Jesus meant all of this rule following for the sake of rule following, or for avoiding punishment is just not good enough. We cannot earn our way into heaven. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can come into a close relationship with God. The relationship Adam and Eve had in the Garden of Eden was not just about obedience to a rule. It was the relationship an adult has with a parent when the relationship is good and right. When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil the relationship was broken and creation was broken with it. We were no longer Father God and grown child. We became lost child and God the Father in another country. This is the distance and division sin put in our relationship. God has been working to put all of the broken bits of our relationship back together ever since the Fall. God has been drawing us back to God, and shouting for us to come home. Now through Jesus Christ, God had come to us. The Lord of the Dance had finally arrived and when He came, Jesus changed the steps of the dance. The work we do in the flesh is important, but not enough. We must be born again. We must be born by water and the Spirit.

When we have been born again; when we have been be born of water and the Spirit we will experience a deep and abiding relationship with God the Father through God the Son Jesus Christ which is made possible by God the Holy Spirit. Out of this relationship with come the love of God the Father, and the love of our neighbor as ourselves. If, in our selfishness, other people didn’t matter before, they will now. Serving and looking after our neighbors will become vitally important. What kinds of changes will we see?

Well, for starters, Christians do not hoard food, toilet paper, diapers, or formula. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. This means we might consider buying our groceries on the fourth of the month instead of the first of the month so those on WIC and Foodstamps have a chance to shop without the fear of the necessities they need being gone. Christians look for ways to feed the hungry when there is a food shortage like the way Central UMC provided lunches and breakfasts for 250 children on Spring Break this week. A recent need has come to my attention in that the residents of the Mt. Vista nursing home have not been eating their meals well. They have not been able to eat together in the dining room, and the loss of community has led many residents to stop eating as much. However, they will snack. I wonder what it might look like for Central UMC to partner with other churches that Central might provide snacks for Mt. Vista’s 120 resident and 100 staff. If we are to love our neighbors as ourselves then the weak and the marginalized have to matter in the life of the church. My sisters and brothers, born again Christians are not content to simply come to church once a week and sit in their pretty sanctuaries and listen to the uplifting songs of God. Born again Christians are the soldiers of the faith. Born again Christians understand that when a great need arises in the community the body of Christ will not sit and fret idly in their sanctuaries. We will be deployed like soldiers to be sent to foreign shores to do battle. Only the wars we fight are called to fight today are against disease, hunger and loneliness. Our weapons are not machine guns, air planes, tanks or grenades. Our weapons are a plastic grocery bag filled with simple food and snacks for children and the elderly in need. Our weapon is a postcard lovingly sent in the mail to a shut in or church member we have missed seeing in worship. Our weapon is a phone call to a shut in, or someone with a long standing illness. My brothers and sisters our weapon is the same weapon God deployed when God sent Jesus to the cross. It is a weapon which cannot be bought or earned. The weapon must be born in us through the power of the Holy Spirit made possible in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is risen! Christ is risen indeed. If we haven’t already, I pray we may all be born again in the power of the Holy Spirit. The harvest is indeed plentiful, and my sisters and brothers there is work to be done that we too might be a blessing for God to our neighbors in need.

In the name of Jesus Christ,
Amen

 

[Refrain:] x2
Dance, then, wherever you may be;
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.
And I’ll lead you all wherever you may be,
and I’ll lead you all in the dance, said he

Benediction:

As it was in the beginning
It is now and ever shall be
world without end
Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

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