Genesis 12:1-4a, Psalm 121, Romans 4:1-5, 13-17, John 3:1-17
- "So Abram went" - ah, I can't imagine just up and going like Abram did. What courage he must have had.
- Why did he go? God laid out a vision and a promise to him, which Abram found compelling enough to take risks for. As a church, perhaps that is also what we need to do: lay out a compelling vision for where we are going. Then, perhaps, people will have the courage to go with us as we seek to follow God.
- "I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse." Not sure how I feel about this. But God is protecting God's promise here, however you look at it. Protecting the vision God wants to see come into fullness.
- "I lift up my eyes to the hills." This is one of the best known psalms, next to the 23rd. Indeed, just hearing the first line makes me want to chime in with the rest. I find it most comforting, more so, perhaps, than the 23rd. God's constant, non-stop care. Nothing we can do to be outside of God's reach. Outside of God's love. That is comfort.
- I think this Psalm speaks to a basic human need: we desire so much to be protected and to know that we are going to be safe. In some ways, we know that this psalm can't mean no harm will ever come to us; we know that we are not safe from anything bad ever happening to us - that's not how life works. But we can know that God is always with us. In a lonely world, that's a pretty powerful comfort. "[God] will keep your life."
- This was a text I studied carefully when I was writing a paper my freshman year of college on sola fide. Ah, how enlightened I was. But the texts I used still bring me straight back to the paper I was working on: are we saved by faith or works? We answer faith with our lips, but sometimes works with our actions and attitudes. "It depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace."
- Paul is good at emphasizing the heart of saving faith: God's grace. It is not our faith but better stated God's grace alone that saves us. Paul argues that Abraham was justified not by works but by faith, which was credited to him as "righteousness."
- "and calls into existence the things that do not exist." God is calling us into existence - I like that, a very process-theology sort of statement. Who is God calling you to be?
- This passage includes perhaps the most famous and most memorized Bible verse in all the world. When I was little, I had one of those little New Testament Bibles that had John 3:16 in the front in about 20 different languages. Many consider "for God so loved the world" the verse to know if you're going to know any.
- However, I find the rest of this passage much more meaningful. We throw around the phrase "born again" a lot in the Christian community, sometimes as a state to be desired, sometimes with a roll of the eyes for the implication the word has come to have. But what is Jesus really saying here when he says we must be born again, born of water and the Spirit? Actually, I think we are all constantly being born-again. We're always renewing and remaking ourselves as we grow. The question is not whether we are born-again, but how we are born-again. Are we born again through water and Spirit, as Jesus says we must be, or something else?
- If you didn't do a renewal of baptismal vows on Baptism of the Lord Sunday, this is another good day to do this as a congregation. I've always found it very meaningful.
- :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." This is an important verse, and I think it helps us ground verse :16, instead of using verse :16 as an exclusive litmus test type verse.
- I admire Nicodemus, even if he didn't get exactly what Jesus was talking about. He was willing to ask questions that would set him at odds, no doubt, with some of the other religious leaders. He had to take risks, and taking risks means having some faith. How are you or can you be like Nicodemus?