Second Sunday in Lent (Violet)                    Sunday, March 8th, 2020

Readings   GENESIS 12:1-4A; PSALM 121; ROMANS 4:1-5, 13-17; JOHN 3:1-17

Ash Wednesday Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, you despise nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our brokenness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Collect

Almighty God, whose Son was revealed in majesty before he suffered death upon the cross, give us faith to perceive his glory, that being strengthened by his grace we may be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. 

Alt 1            Holy God, whose Spirit’s breath prompts our seeking: transform the night-time of our fear into a welcoming womb for us and all the world; through Jesus Christ, in whom we are born anew.

Prayers for an Inclusive Church (2009) alt. 

Alt 2           God of mercy, you are full of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in mercy, and always ready to forgive: grant us grace to renounce all evil and to cling to Christ, so that in every way we may prove to be your loving children; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

A Prayer Book for Australia (1995) alt.

Prayer over the Gifts

God of wisdom, may the light of the eternal Word, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, guide us to your glory. We ask this in his name.

Prayer After Communion

Creator of heaven and earth, we thank you for these holy mysteries, which bring us now a share in the life to come, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

First Reading

8 am              THE FIRST LESSON IS TAKEN FROM THE 12TH CHAPTER OF THE BOOK OF GENESIS, BEGINNING AT THE 1ST VERSE.

10 am                        A READING FROM THE BOOK OF GENESIS

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him.

8 am              THE WORD OF THE LORD.

10 am                        HEAR WHAT THE SPIRIT IS SAYING TO THE CHURCH.

THANKS BE TO GOD.

GENESIS 12:1-4A

Psalm

REFRAIN The Lord himself watches over you.

I lift up my eyes to the hills; from where is my help to come?

My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. R

He will not let your foot be moved and he who watches over you will not fall asleep.

Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep; R

The Lord himself watches over you; the Lord is your shade at your right hand,

So that the sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. R

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; it is he who shall keep you safe.

The Lord shall watch over your going out and your coming in, from this time forth for evermore. R

PSALM 121

Second Reading

8 am              THE EPISTLE LESSON IS TAKEN FROM THE 4TH CHAPTER OF THE LETTER OF SAINT PAUL TO THE ROMANS, BEGINNING AT THE 1ST VERSE.

10 am                        A READING FROM THE LETTER OF PAUL TO THE ROMANS

What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)-in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

8 am              THE WORD OF THE LORD.

10 am                        HEAR WHAT THE SPIRIT IS SAYING TO THE CHURCH.

THANKS BE TO GOD.                                       (ROMANS 4:1-5, 13-17)

Gospel

8 am              THE LORD BE WITH YOU.     AND WITH THY SPIRIT.

THE HOLY GOSPEL IS WRITTEN IN THE 3RD CHAPTER OF THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO SAINT JOHN, BEGINNING AT THE 1ST VERSE.           GLORY BE TO THEE, O LORD

10 am            THE LORD BE WITH YOU.                 AND ALSO WITH YOU.

THE HOLY GOSPEL OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST ACCORDING TO SAINT JOHN.                    GLORY TO YOU, LORD JESUS CHRIST.

Now 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.” 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, what whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

THIS IS THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST.

8 am              PRAISE BE TO THEE, O CHRIST

10 am                        PRAISE TO YOU, LORD JESUS CHRIST.                           (JOHN 3:1-17)

Sermon

Let us pray.

Holy God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.

Amen

By show of hands, who took swimming lessons as a child?

Do you remember learning how to float?

Learning to float is not easy. It was the thing that held me up in advancing through the swimming badges at the YMCA when I was a kid. The great irony of learning is that the more you try to control the water, the less you will float. And the less you float, the more water will get in your eyes and nose, making you even more panicky, and even more likely to try to thrash about to stay on the surface, which means you’ll inevitably go under the water. This is a vicious cycle. Fear and the need for control are the enemy of floating, and so the first, and most difficult part of learning to float is learning how to stay calm despite feeling out of control.

The only way to learn how to float is to make friends with the water. You need to trust that the water will hold you; that the nature of the water itself means that you can stay serenely on the surface, calmly breathing the air you need to survive, being cradled by the water. Once you have learned how to surrender to the water, to trust the water, floating becomes a joy. A joy that could one day save your life.

Baptism is learning how to float. Baptism is a sacrament of surrender, the sacramental act of letting go of fear and control, making friends with the unknown, and beginning to trust that God will sustain you, even in the midst of chaos and death.

Because we at All Saints’, like most churches, use a font that can sometimes resemble a dry bird bath, it may be hard to remember that baptism is actually a symbolic drowning. Some early Christian fonts were built into the ground and shaped like a cross, so you stripped yourself of your old clothes, descended down to a watery death, and ascended up into new life, where you were greeted with a new white robe. Baptism meant that your old self was dead, and that your new self was resurrected like Christ.

Listen to this part of the Thanksgiving over the Water from our baptismal rite found on page 158 of the green prayer book, and something similar on page 529 of the red one: “We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit.”

We are buried with Christ in his death. What this really means is that we’ve tried everything we knew how to try. We thrashed and splashed and panicked and cried, but somehow, deep down, we knew fear and the need for control weren’t sustainable. We finally understood that fear and the need for control could only lead to death, and so, having no other choice, we surrendered to God, finally allowing God to support us, to cradle us in God’s arms.

Baptism is learning how to float. When we surrender to the water of baptism, we share in the new life of God. When we surrender to the water of baptism, we share in Christ’s resurrection, we start anew. When we surrender to the water of baptism, we are reborn by the Holy Spirit, given the courage discern, to will and persevere, to know and love God, and the gift of joy and wonder in God’s works.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised; Jesus has been trying to tell us since the beginning. “For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it, but if you lose your life for my sake, you will save it.” The irony of learning to float and the irony of the Christian life is one and the same: only by surrendering our life are we able to live. When we lose our life to God, we save it.

Questions for Meditation

The SSJE Rule links the Brothers’ monastic vows to Baptism: “The grace to surrender our lives to God through our vows has been given to us in Baptism whereby we die with Christ and are raised with him.” This week, give some time over to thinking about what grace has been given to you in your baptism?

Water is so commonplace, we might forget to notice it throughout the day. Let your senses come alive this week as you experience water at the sink, on your hands, in the shower, from a cup. What does water offer to you: perhaps it’s refreshment, or cleansing, or comfort? Is it something else you get from water?

At the end of the service of Compline, it is a custom observed on some places that someone sprinkles the gathered community with holy water, praying for “a peaceful night and a perfect end.” This ritual reminds us of our mortality. How might you hand your own life back to God at the end of each day?

Surrendering to the water of baptism allows for us to be reborn by the Holy Spirit into the new life of God. How are you adrift? What keeps you afloat?

Let us pray.

Holy God, whose Spirit’s breath prompts our seeking: transform the night-time of our fear into a welcoming womb for us and all the world; through Jesus Christ, in whom we are born anew.

Amen.

Adapted from “Water: Homily” from Romans 6:1-11 The Rev. Becky Zartman https://www.signsoflife.org/water/water-homily-2/