On Sunday May 31st I led worship at Woodlands Chapel. It was Trinity Sunday. The introit was ‘New every morning is the love.’ The next hymn we sang before opening prayers was ‘Thou whose almighty word’. Ann, one of the worship leaders led the opening prayers before I read Romans 8v12-17. I then gave a talk to the children about how we cannot describe God as he is far above our understanding so he sent Jesus to show us how much he loved us and how important it was to care for the vulnerable and outcasts. Jesus taught his disciples all about his father and how to interpret the scriptures. After Jesus returned to heaven he sent his Holy Spirit to teach the disciples and remind them of all they had learnt. I said that when they ask Jesus to be their friend and they would be adopted into his family; his Holy Spirit would show them how to be like Jesus. We sang ‘Father, we love you,’ before the children collected the offering and they left for their groups. A church member read the Old Testament reading from Isaiah 6v1-8. I then was the narrator in a dramatised reading based on John 3v1-17 with Ann and Florence two of the worship leaders. We sang ‘O Thou who camest from above,’ before I preached.
I described how intimidating I found worship as a child growing up at the High Anglican St Wilfred’s Church Harrogate. We were surrounded by incense and the priest and choir were separated from us in the congregation by the Rood Screen. I was taught to genuflect as I left a pew. God always seemed way above me and ready to punish me for my failings. When I was prepared for confirmation at the age of 12 I went to confession as I did not feel worthy enough to be confirmed. Isaiah got his call to be a prophet when he was worshipping in the temple on a special festal occasion to celebrate Yahweh as King. As the songs of the massed choirs sounded through the temple amid the swirling incense he suddenly saw the unapproachable God and felt terror at his sinfulness. He was sure now he had seen the glory of God he would die until a seraph flew towards him with a burning coal and touched his lips and his sin was cleansed. Now he felt able to stand in God’s presence without fear and was ready to answer God’s call to take His word to his people.
Nicodemus was a prominent and wealthy Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest court of justice. At some time he must have become curious about this young prophet Jesus and he just had to talk to him. So he sneaked out in the dark to see Jesus; he valued his high status and would have been afraid of public opinion. Jesus told him that no one could properly understand the Kingdom of God unless he was born again or born from above. Nicodemus did not understand what Jesus meant, but Jesus said he needed to be born of water and the Spirit. Although Nicodemus was an expert in scriptures and an influential leader he still needed to be born again. His mind was not open to this new teaching of the Spirit free like the wind to move where it willed and Jesus wondered how Nicodemus would ever understand heavenly things if he didn’t understand earthly matters. Jesus reminded Nicodemus of how Moses held up the serpent in the desert and those bitten by the snakes would live if they looked at the serpent; He said he would be lifted up so all who believed in him would not die. His death would be the healing of our sins, guilt and failure. Jesus reminded Nicodemus that ‘God so loved the world that everyone who believes in him may not die but have everlasting life. When we choose to believe in Jesus we receive abundant life which does not end in death.
Paul described the new relationship with God through Jesus as being like being adopted into God’s family. When the Romans adopted children their previous debts were wiped out and they became a new person with a clean slate; the adoption was witnessed by 7 people; they were heirs or joint heirs of their adoptive father. In the same way the Holy Spirit is the witness to our adoption into God’s family through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Our past debts and failings are wiped out and we begin a new life in relationship with Jesus through his Holy Spirit in God’s family.
We sang, ‘Be still for the presence of the Lord, the Holy One, is here;’ before the worship leader Florence led the prayers of intercessions. Our closing hymn was ‘Behold the servant of the Lord!’