On Sunday March 16th our worship at Wesley Chapel was led by our minister Trevor Dixon. We began worship with the Lenten Candle Liturgy with the second verse of the Tree of life being sung. The meditation was focussed on the parable of the sower and we were encouraged to think of the season of Lent as being the time when seeds of faith are thrown with special intensity, as a time when God calls to us in a low, urgent voice. Listen. Jesus is being drawn to Jerusalem. Where is God calling us to? What is God calling you to do? A candle is extinguished as we acknowledge the darkness and pain of injury done to the Earth and its ecosystems. The prayer we say together prays for us to have strength to make the necessary changes in our lives and the courage to take on transforming the world.
We then sang ‘To God be the glory, great things he has done’ before Trevor lead the prayers of adoration, confession and thanksgiving. We then sang a favourite hymn of the new hymns, ‘Longing for light, we wait in darkness,’ with the chorus ‘Christ be our light! Shine in our hearts. Shine through the darkness. Christ be our light! Shine in your church gathered today,’ written by Bernadette Farrell. Then the reading from Genesis 13v1-4a was read and I read Romans 4v1-5, 13-17. We then sang ‘Dear Lord and Father of mankind.’ Then Trevor read John 3v1-17.
Trevor began his sermon saying that he found the program, ‘In our time’ by Melvin Bragg very interesting and informative and wide ranging; he was particularly interested in the discussion on popular thinking by ordinary people about the Trinity. Followers of the Islamic faith believe that God cannot be involved in human life so find it unreasonable to think of a human Son of God. How can the Holy Spirit be involved as the third party of Trinity also was discussed? Trevor can reconcile the 3 parts of the Trinity, but others struggle with that issue of equal status for each part. Trevor saw the reference to Jesus being lifted higher mentioned in John 3 did not mean elevation for worship but elevation on the cross! Others saw the authority of God in Jesus but he called himself the son of man, although he was described by others as son of God. The son of man had to be lifted up on the cross not to glory. What did Jesus mean by the son of man? Stephen Thornton explained that the origin of the term, son of man was found in the Old Testament tradition. Son of man meant a human being as he was created to be. John and the other gospel writers saw Jesus as son of man, even when he was crucified on the cross which was his throne as king of Israel. His crucifixion was the hour of his glorification. He was son of man, not to glorify and praise himself, but to be a suffering servant of God.
Nicodemus was a man but Jesus was the son of man; Nicodemus came face to face with humanity as humanity was meant to be, when he met Jesus, God’s model for what humanity should be. Nicodemus came to visit Jesus at night. Was the night time the only time he could spare to meet this sought after Rabbi Jesus? Could it be that this Rabbi of considerable stature, Nicodemus, was embarrassed to be going to meet the despicable Rabbi Jesus? Would it have affected his reputation if he had been seen talking to Jesus? John saw the struggle between darkness and light; the picture of human kind coming under cover of darkness to meet the Light of Light, who would lead Nicodemus into all truth. Nicodemus and others like him can be transformed through meeting Jesus from mere humanity into becoming daughters and sons of God.
We are born of flesh into the world then we are born again of the spirit, through Jesus who accepted us and rescued us by giving his life for all. Whoever believes in him will have eternal life. We can be lifted up by and through Jesus to be sons of God. When Nicodemus was searching for the truth he came to Jesus, the source of truth. Why did God come to us as Jesus? Did he come to judge and blame us? No! Did he come so Jesus could be praised in glory? No! Why did he come? God so loved the world that he gave his only son, not to condemn the world but to save the world, so that we too can be raised up as sons and daughters of the most high. That raising up is not automatic, because we still have the choice whether to respond or not. Some prefer darkness to conceal their wrong actions; burglars work at night; people prefer darkness if their deeds are evil. We have free will to come into the light Jesus brings or to run away from the light.
The key word is love – self giving love in action. God has the loving desire that no one should perish but that all should have life in all its abundance. We have the choice to love light or cling to darkness. Trevor said that the Jesus he knew did not want to be raised up in glory above us as he loves us more. The son of man, the son of God wants to in the middle of us and alongside us in our daily lives. Incarnation is God with us. Trevor concluded his sermon when he said, ‘Thanks be to God, thanks be to Jesus, son of man and thanks be to the Holy Spirit who speaks through our hearts and lives.’ After the sermon we sang ‘Meekness and Majesty’ which summed up what Trevor had been preaching on. Trevor led the intercessions followed by the Lord’s Prayer, before we sang ‘We give immortal praise’ as the concluding hymn. It was a worshipful service.