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.
The Lord is king and has put on glorious apparel;
the Lord has put on his glory
and girded himself with strength.
He has made the whole world so sure
that it cannot be moved.
Your throne has been established from of old;
you are from everlasting.
The floods have lifted up, O Lord,
the floods have lifted up their voice;
the floods lift up their pounding waves.
Mightier than the thunder of many waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea,
the Lord on high is mightier.
Your testimonies are very sure;
holiness adorns your house, O Lord, for ever.
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.
Jesus said to Nicodemus, ‘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.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
‘Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.’
… so must the Son of Man be lifted up …
So many of us spend so much of our time being blown and buffeted from one situation to another without necessarily understanding why. The circumstances and the shifting sands of daily life often leave us feeling stranded in situations that leave us confused and fearful. We want to know the reasons why but we struggle to grasp the truth because the truth entails a letting go of our human certainty. This is the situation that confronts Nicodemus when he meets with Jesus.
Nicodemus was a learned and respected man and, as a Pharisee, he was also an influential man. To achieve such status he must have studied scripture carefully and over a long period of time. Such learning, underpinned with so much respect, led Nicodemus down a path many others have trod: the very human path of believing we know all the answers. Changes in societal functioning and the nurturing of assertiveness leads many of us down the same path. The highly creditable doctrines of ‘independent learning’ are to be applauded, but they also need to be tempered with humility, the humility that empowers us to accept that we may have ‘got it wrong’.
As Jesus tries to bring Nicodemus, and us, to a greater understanding of God’s plan for his wondrous creation, he speaks of much that challenges our human certainty. We may feel that we are ‘in control’ of our own destinies, but how can that be so if we wish to follow the path of true discipleship? We may have studied much and we may have experienced much, but if we are true disciples we will understand, and accept, that it is the Holy Spirit who guides our feet and lights our path.
Jesus’ earthly life, along with the prophecies of life, death and resurrection, are models of how we should follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The Son of Man must be lifted up can easily be seen as identifying the need for Christ to ascend to his place at God’s right hand. It is easy to grasp the notion of the indescribable power required by the one who is to bestow eternal life on all. But … we must not forget that there are other ways to be lifted up, including the brutal reality of the crucifixion.
Jesus had to travel a very difficult path before assuming his divine glory. So it can be with us. We must be ready for the Holy Spirit to lead us along dark and dangerous paths before we reach the destination intended for us.
Let us pray for the humility to set aside our human wisdom and pride, and follow the path God has laid for us.
Prayers of intercession
Let us pray to the Father through his Son, who suffered on the cross for the world’s redemption.
Fill with your Spirit Christ’s broken body, the Church. Give to Christian people everywhere a deep longing to take up the cross and to understand its mysterious glory.
Bless those who lead the Church’s worship. In the preaching of the word and the celebration of the sacraments, draw your people close to you.
Give your grace to those who preach your word to the nations. Help us to witness to the faith we have received by our words and in our deeds, and daily conform us more and more to Christ, that we may glory in his cross.
Look in your mercy upon the world you loved so much that you sent your Son to suffer and to die. Strengthen those who work to share the reconciliation won at such a cost upon the cross.
Bring healing by the wounds of Christ to all who are weighed down by pain and injustice. Help the lonely and the betrayed, the suffering and the dying, to find strength in the companionship of Jesus, and in his passion to know their salvation.
Welcome into paradise all who have left this world in your friendship. According to your promises, bring them with all your saints to share in the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection.
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.