O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
for whom no door is locked, no entrance barred:
open the doors of our hearts,
that we may seek the good of others
and walk the joyful road of sacrifice and peace,
to the praise of God the Father.
Why are the nations in tumult,
and why do the peoples devise a vain plot?
The kings of the earth rise up,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his anointed:
‘Let us break their bonds asunder
and cast away their cords from us.’
He who dwells in heaven shall laugh them to scorn;
the Lord shall have them in derision.
Then shall he speak to them in his wrath
and terrify them in his fury:
‘Yet have I set my king
upon my holy hill of Zion.’
I will proclaim the decree of the Lord;
he said to me: ‘You are my Son; this day have I begotten you.
‘Ask of me and I will give you the nations for your inheritance
and the ends of the earth for your possession.
‘You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.” The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’
He came to Jesus by night.
Nicodemus, a Pharisee, appears three times in the gospel narrative: in today’s reading; defending Jesus in the Sanhedrin (the Jewish Council); and assisting Joseph of Arimathea in the burial of Jesus’ crucified body. Despite the obvious significance of his later appearances, there is an important lesson for us to learn from Nicodemus’ first encounter with Jesus.
John begins by telling us of a conversation between the inquisitive Pharisee and Jesus. However, that conversation soon develops into something different: a discourse on the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of true disciples. John does not record Nicodemus’ reaction to Jesus’ teaching at this point in his gospel, but we do come to see the power of its impact as he more publicly supported Jesus towards the close of his earthly ministry.
As a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus was a high ranking member of the Jewish religious elite. As a member of this influential coterie Nicodemus was both cautious and diplomatic. He clearly knew of Jesus’ growing reputation, and he recognized that the new movement that was growing around Jesus was from God. And yet, despite this ‘certainty’, Nicodemus first came to Jesus by night, that is in secret, away from the prying eyes of the religious establishment.
So often we are like Nicodemus in the way we live out our Christian faith. We hear the Good News of Jesus Christ and we become inquisitive. As we learn more our relationship with him deepens and our certainty of his power to save grows. As we journey through these times something less positive grows as well: our awareness of how critical those who are not on the same journey can be. Our need for affirmation and acceptance keeps us in a relationship with God that only seems to flourish under the cover of darkness.
As faithful disciples of Christ we will find ourselves being called to make the transition into apostleship. An apostle is one who steps into the spotlight and shares the love of Christ with others. It does not matter how certain we may feel in our faith. If we ignore the call to share that faith we are standing in the way of Christ’s mission to the world … a mission founded in Christ’s own, very public, death and resurrection.
So, let us pray for the strength to use the faith that was planted and nurtured in our hearts to take the light of Christ out into the world that we may dazzle all we meet with it.
Prayers of intercession
In the power of the Spirit, let us pray to God.
Renew your Church by the working of the Holy Spirit. In quiet and humble rebirth may your people find new strength as your body in the world and show the way of salvation to all who seek.
Open the ears of a world that seems deaf to your word. Grant that the lives that have fallen aside from the true way may be born again.
Keep us, our families and friends, alert to your calling. As we come to you in questioning, relieve our doubts and fears. Breathe new life into our homes and the places where we work.
Give courage to those who are fearful of what lies before them, who face the call to depart into new and unknown ways. Keep them steadfast in hope and trust.
Grant to the faithful departed the eternal life promised by our Lord Jesus. Unite our prayers with them and with those who have believed your word through all the ages.
May the Holy Spirit direct and sanctify these our prayers and lead us in the way of truth.
Prayer for the week
We give thanks, O God our Father,
for the glorious resurrection of your Son our Lord from the dead:
for his victory over sin and the grave;
for his risen presence in our daily lives;
for his promise of life immortal with him.
Accept our praise,
and teach us day by day to live rejoicingly
in the faith of him who died for us,
and rose again,
and is alive for evermore,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.