Worship for Sunday 5th March 2023, by Rev. Ken Stokes

Opening prayer

As we lift up your eyes to seek God’s face.
may we worship our creator and redeemer.

Hymn: StF20 Be still, for the presence of the Lord

   1    Be still, for the presence of the Lord,
         the Holy One, is here;
         come bow before him now
         with reverence and fear:
         in him no sin is found —
         we stand on holy ground.
         Be still, for the presence of the Lord,
         the Holy One, is here.

   2    Be still, for the glory of the Lord
         is shining all around;
         he burns with holy fire,
         with splendour he is crowned:
         how awesome is the sight —
         our radiant King of light!
         Be still, for the glory of the Lord
         is shining all around.

   3    Be still, for the power of the Lord
         is moving in this place;
         he comes to cleanse and heal,
         to minister his grace:
         no work too hard for him —
         in faith receive from him.
         Be still, for the power of the Lord
         is moving in this place.

David J. Evans (b. 1957)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 20
Words and Music: © 1986, Thankyou Music.  Administered by worshiptogether.com Songs, excluding UK & Europe, administered by Kingswaysongs, a division of David C Cook tym@kingsway.co.uk  Used by permission.


God loves us so much;
God’s own Son was given for us in love.
As we join together now in our prayers and in our praise,
may we look with fresh eyes 
at the glorious truth of the good news,
and be changed by it.

We come to you, O God of new beginnings,
maker of heaven and earth.
You are more powerful than all the things we face,
greater than hills or sky,
creator of the blazing sun, 
and the moon that reflects its light.
May we draw near to you
and reflect your radiance today.
In Jesus’ name.

God, forgive us when we have been muddle-headed 
and not paid attention to your words. 
Forgive us when we miss the point 
and unintentionally place a veil over the loving light of your gospel. 
Forgive us when we have not tried to understand your way of love, 
but instead promoted our own agenda in your name. 
Forgive us when we have created more
stumbling blocks than steppingstones.
Make us new again. 
In Jesus’ name.

Collect Prayer

Christ, Son of the living God,
who for a season laid aside the divine glory
and learned obedience through suffering:
teach us in all our afflictions
to raise our eyes to the place of your mercy
and to find in you our peace and deliverance.
We make our prayer in your name. Amen.

Gospel Reading John 3.1-17 (NRSV)

(1)  Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews.  (2)  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.”  (3)  Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”  (4)  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?”  (5)  Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.  (6)  What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.  (7)  Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’  (8)  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.”  (9)  Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”  (10)  Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?  (11)  “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.  (12)  If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?  (13)  No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.  (14)  And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  (15)  that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.  (16)  “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.  (17)  “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.


The discussion that starts with Nicodemus’s visit to see Jesus focuses on the nature of God’s kingdom. Jesus makes it clear that entry to God’s kingdom is not made possible by people trying to be good but by God’s transforming power.

Jesus makes a famous pronouncement he says: no one can see the Kingdom of God without being born again.”

Nicodemus gets tied up in knots because he thinks that Jesus is speaking literally. But John points to Jesus playing with words – he uses words playfully to get across an idea.

The phrase that Jesus uses in Greek can mean either born again or just as likely born from above – and from what follows it’s pretty clear that Jesus means it in both ways. He is trying to get across the idea of a radical change – a complete transformation.

There was a businessman owned a storehouse that he no longer needed had sat empty for months and needed repairs. Vandals had damaged the doors, smashed the windows, and rubbish was everywhere inside the building.

After a long time finally, someone showed some interest and so the businessman showed a prospective buyer the property and took great pains to say that he would replace the broken windows, bring in a crew to correct any structural damage and clean out all the rubbish.” ‘Oh, you’ve got the wrong end of the stick you can forget about the repairs,’ the buyer said. “When I buy this place, I’m going to build something completely different, something entirely new. I don’t want the building. I just want the site!”‘

Sometimes it’s no good trying to repair what is there now you have simply got to start again. Compared with new build that God has in mind, our efforts to improve our own lives are as trivial as sweeping out a house that has been marked down for demolition.

You can’t keep your “old building” if you want to know God. God doesn’t want the building-but God does want the site. The site is the real you- the “you” that was created in the image of God. And the old building-with its dark rooms of selfishness and bad habits- is going to have to be demolished. God wants us to become a new creation of love in Christ Jesus.

In John Nicodemus is told that his life is going to have to undergo such a radical transformation that it is like being born again and starting to see the world afresh with completely new eyes – like a baby. Nicodemus seems to have been horrified when Jesus told him this. He can’t understand how this can ever be possible.

It is possible Jesus tells him because God wants to save people from the mess that we too often make of our lives and our world.

He is sending his Spirit, the Spirit of God who will not just be our teacher and guide but completely remake us.

If we are in the business of letting God enter our lives, we are not going to become the people God wants us to be overnight. The important thing is that we allow God’s Spirit, who is love, to transform our lives.

Some questions to think about

  • Nicodemus came to Jesus at night. He was hiding the best part of himself. Is there anything about yourself that you are hiding from yourself or other people?
  • What would the best possible “you” look like? God wants you to be who you were made to be. Are you that person already or is there something about you that needs to be remade?
  • Being remade is not a self-improvement exercise. It is about being open to the work of the Holy Spirit. What do you need to do to open yourself and allow the Spirit to work in your life?

The Spirit is often referred to in the feminine gender and so our next song reflects this.

Hymn: StF 393 She sits like a bird brooding on the waters.

   1    She sits like a bird, brooding on the waters,
          hovering on the chaos of the world’s first day;
          she sighs, and she sings, mothering creation,
          waiting to give birth to all the Word will say.

   2    She wings over earth, resting where she wishes,
          lighting close at hand or soaring through the skies;
          she nests in the womb, welcoming each wonder,
          nourishing potential hidden to our eyes.

   3    She dances in fire, startling her spectators,
          waking tongues of ecstasy where dumbness reigned;
          she weans and inspires all whose hearts are open,
          nor can she be captured, silenced, or restrained.

   4    For she is the Spirit, one with God in essence,
          gifted by the Saviour in eternal love;
          and she is the key opening the scriptures,
          enemy of apathy and heavenly dove.

John L. Bell (b. 1949) and Graham Maule (b. 1958)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 393
Words: From Enemy of Apathy © 1988, WGRG, Iona Community, Glasgow G2 3DH  Scotland.  www.wgrg.co.uk

Prayers of intercession

Lord, today we pray for those whose hearts are sore,
who cannot lift their hands from weariness, or sadness, or both.
We ask you to bring them rest and hope,
to tend to their hurts, whether these are old scars or fresh wounds.
God of loving kindness, hear our prayer.

We pray for those longing for a new beginning,
who feel heavy at the idea of another day;
may they know the reality of your love for them.
We pray for those who need your refreshing,
and ask that you would renew them by your Spirit’s power.
God of loving kindness, hear our prayer.

We pray for those on journeys to which they were driven, not called,
those who have been uprooted, violated, exiled;
may your redemptive power be at work
even in the darkest of places and on the hardest of roads.
Our eyes squint to see light, but you can see in the dark.
God of loving kindness, hear our prayer.

We ask these prayers in the precious name of Jesus.

Hymn: StF 673 “Will you come and follow me”

   1    Will you come and follow me
         if I but call your name?
         Will you go where you don’t know
         and never be the same?
         Will you let my love be shown,
         will you let my name be known,
         will you let my life be grown
          in you and you in me?

   2    Will you leave yourself behind
         if I but call your name?
         Will you care for cruel and kind
         and never be the same?
         Will you risk the hostile stare
         should your life attract or scare?
         Will you let me answer prayer
         in you and you in me?

   3    Will you let the blinded see
         if I but call your name?
         Will you set the prisoners free
         and never be the same?
         Will you kiss the leper clean,
         and do such as this unseen,
         and admit to what I mean
         in you and you in me?

   4    Will you love the ‘you’ you hide
         if I but call your name?
         Will you quell the fear inside
         and never be the same?
         Will you use the faith you’ve found
         to reshape the world around,
         through my sight and touch and sound
         in you and you in me?

   5    Lord, your summons echoes true
         when you but call my name.
         Let me turn and follow you
         and never be the same.
         In your company I’ll go
         where your love and footsteps show.
         Thus I’ll move and live and grow
         in you and you in me.

John L. Bell (b. 1949) and Graham Maule (b. 1958)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 673
Words: © 1987, WGRG, Iona Community, Glasgow G2 3DH  Scotland.  www.wgrg.co.uk


Go, wherever God may call you –
take courage and be strong.
Be aware of the everlasting arms,
ready to support you, to catch you,
even to carry you, when things get tough.
Go, in the power of the Spirit.