First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Greg Briggs,
Interim Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720

Sermon & Weekly Bulletin- March 08, 2020

03-08-20 Bulletin PDF
03-08-20 coronavirus Information Insert

  1. Prayer and Introduction
    1. “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our rock and redeemer. Amen”
    2. It only gets you so far
  2. Lent – too Catholic?
    1. Noticing the congregation is not as engaged as Advent, even with the differences in attendance
    2. Someone in the Bible study asked me about my Catholicness around lent
      1. Sure it’s part of it.
      2. Worried tied into the Roman catholic works righteousness
        1. Goes beyond works into seeking spiritual experiences
        2. Not just the what, (fasting, ashes, praying, giving) but the why
      3. Lent – Journey
        1. Chance to put more focus into our spiritual life
        2. Many metaphors to describe it
          1. Midway through the family road trip, needed to clean out car and re-fold the map to know where we are going
            1. Reordering, disposing, refocusing
          2. Lent, new for many – rediscovering old practices
            1. Throwing out the baby with the bathwater
            2. Contrast with Advent\Christmas – shouldn’t we be this generous all year long?
              1. Sure, but it’s good to have a time to start and focus
  • Changing of seasons
  1. Nicodemus in John
    1. Only gospel he shows up in, and he’s an influential character
      1. Later, he reminds his colleagues in the Sanhedrin (the jewish tribunal) that they must hear a person before passing judgement
      2. Aided Joseph of Arimathea in preparing Jesus’ body after death
    2. May not be as dense as a reading of the scripture may indicate –
      1. Presses the impossible meaning to exclude it and to get Jesus to draw out the true meaning
    3. New style of spiritual revelation
      1. A teacher, but doesn’t know this method
      2. Nicodemus is convinced, but still seeks out Jesus, under cover of night
  • 11 I assure you that we speak about what we know and testify about what we have seen, but you don’t receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?
  1. His learning, his scholarship, has brought him as far as it will go
    1. Needs a new path forward
  2. Mysticism of John
    1. Born twice, born anew, born again
      1. Spiritual rebirth
    2. Similar idea as behind confirmation – a mature exploration and acceptance of faith
      1. Not just book learning – embodied. Spiritual
      2. Heart, instead of head
  • Finger at the moon
  1. Text has been used in uncomfortable ways
    1. Litmus test
    2. John 3:16 – if emphasis is on “belief” and not “love”
  2. Raises the question, what do you rely on to believe?
    1. Nicodemus used his Jewish teachings, coupled with what he’s seen and heard Jesus can Do
    2. Invited to go deeper, into his own experiences
  • Conversion experience
  1. Growing into belief
    1. Not as a fact, but “”we are led into it. It grows….It is not a requirement that we are to meet but a quality that grows as our relationship with God deepens.””
    2. Borg helps us to reclaim the text by reframing the idea of being “born again” in an understanding of spiritual growth that emphasizes relationship and experience rather than doctrine and dogma
  2. Spiritual Growth – lent
    1. Many ways
    2. Sacrifice – to see what it is to live without
      1. To realize how much we have is a bonus, a gift
    3. New discipline
      1. A chance to suspend disbelief, and give it a try
      2. Always easier if there’s an end point
    4. Seeking
      1. Practice looking for the divine – epiphanies
      2. Learning where we block things out – blindspots – Lenten devotion
    5. Journey
      1. Labyrinth journey and clearing your mind
      2. Jesus’ story is full of twists, and turns
    6. Inherent spiritual paradox
      1. Don DeLillo, 20th century
        “What we are reluctant to touch often seems the very fabric of our salvation.”
      2. Third rail – because that’s where all the power is
    7. Carry Water – Chop Wood a guide to finding spiritual fulfillment in everyday life
      1. Make it part of everyday life
        1. Hindu story of a mother on the toilet
      2. Doing dishes
      3. Coronavirus
        1. May change how we live our daily lives
          1. Reducing contact in high risk populations
        2. Singing a hymn while washing hands
          1. HOW GREAT though art \ Amazing grace ~ 25 sec.
          2. Devotion – time yourself with your stopwatch.
  • What will you do for faith, if we suspend Sunday worship?
    1. Practical – webcam
    2. Spiritual –
  1. Home stays – food, necessities
    1. Plans to do with your time
      1. Read books
      2. Pray
      3. Video games
    2. Conclusion – What we have done only gets us so far
      1. Lent is a chance to explore new spiritual depths
      2. Move from head to heart
      3. Find ways to incorporate faith into everyday life

Readings John 3:1-17 Common English Bible (CEB)

Today’s reading takes us out of our journey in the Gospel of Matthew and places us in the Gospel of John. This Gospel has many differences than the other Gospels, including a different order of events in Jesus ministry. In this story, Jesus recently cleansed the temple at the beginning of his ministry. Now, hear as we are introduced to a new character, one that only shows up in John.

3 There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a Jewish leader. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could do these miraculous signs that you do unless God is with him.”

3 Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born anew, it’s not possible to see God’s kingdom.”

4 Nicodemus asked, “How is it possible for an adult to be born? It’s impossible to enter the mother’s womb for a second time and be born, isn’t it?”

5 Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. 6 Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Don’t be surprised that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.’ 8 God’s Spirit blows wherever it wishes. You hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. It’s the same with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

9 Nicodemus said, “How are these things possible?”

10 “Jesus answered, “You are a teacher of Israel and you don’t know these things? 11 I assure you that we speak about what we know and testify about what we have seen, but you don’t receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Human One. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so must the Human One be lifted up 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. 16 God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. 17 God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him.