I have a complicated relationship with this Sunday’s lectionary gospel text, John 3:1-17. John 3 is a beautiful story of Jesus speaking with Nicodemus in the night. It is a witness to Christ’s invitation into communion with God, and it is a story that has been reduced to a catchphrase.
In worship at Central Presbyterian this week, we will reframe our thinking about John 3:16 and its surrounding story with words of love, invitation, and hope. Perhaps these words will resonate with you, too.
Nicodemus by Henry Ossawa Tanner
This Call to Worship draws from scriptures about love, including quotes from 1 John 4:7, Leviticus 19:18, 1 Corinthians 13:8, Romans 13:10, Matthew 22:37, and John 3:16.
Hear these words from Scripture:
“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God.”
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
“Love never ends.”
“Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
“God so loved the world.”
God so loves the world.
Let us worship the God of love and life.
Prayer of Confession
Holy one, holy three,
The winds of your Spirit beckon us to follow,
but we cannot hear the wind over the noise we have created.
Again and again, you call us to believe.
Again and again, we look the other way.
You offer us freedom, but we choose independence,
Pretending that we have ultimate control.
You offer us life, but we find ourselves perishing,
Buried under the weight of our own self-interest.
Forgive us, God of life.
Heal us, and bring us peace.
Silence and kyrie
Assurance of Pardon
God so loved the world that God would come among us,
Become one of us, live with us, and suffer for us,
That we might have life and have it abundantly.
Hear this good news:
God loves us, God forgives us, and God calls us to try again.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Affirmation of Faith Excerpts Adapted from the Heidelberg Catechism (1562)
What is your only comfort in life and in death?
That I am not my own,
but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—
to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
What is true faith?
True faith is not only a sure knowledge by which I hold as true
all that God has revealed to us in Scripture;
it is also a wholehearted trust,
which the Holy Spirit creates in me by the gospel,
that God has freely granted,
not only to others but to me also, forgiveness of sins,
eternal righteousness, and salvation.
These are gifts of sheer grace,
granted solely by Christ’s merit.
But why are you called a Christian?
Because by faith I am a member of Christ
and so I share in his anointing.
I am anointed to confess his name,
to present myself to him as a living sacrifice of thanks,
to strive with a free conscience against sin and evil in this life,
and afterward to reign with Christ over all creation for eternity.
Since we have been delivered from our misery by grace through Christ without any merit of our own,
why then should we do good works?
Because Christ, having redeemed us,
is also restoring us by his Spirit into his image,
so that with our whole lives
we may show that we are thankful to God for God’s benefits,
so that God may be praised through us.