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Bishop Susan Bell



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Canon Penny Anderson
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Fr Jim
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Second Sunday in Lent
March 08, 2020
Christ Church, Niagara Falls

    • 8: Genesis 12.1-4a, Romans 4.1-5, 13-17; John 3.1-17
    • an acquaintance told me about participating in an interfaith dialogue
    • leaders from 3 religious traditions were invited to talk about how their tradition views Abraham
    • The Rabbi basically said, “God needed a mensch” — God chose Abraham because God was looking for the patriarch of patriarchs
    • Abraham, for this Jewish leader, was the ideal believer, the one whose trust and obedience inaugurates a new way for humanity to be in relationship with the God of the universe
    • the representative of the mosque said that Abraham was a true follower of the one God who was driven out of Ur of the Chaldees because he went around smashing idols
    • Abraham distinguished himself as a towering figure in Islam because he loved God in a time and place where people followed many false gods
    • no doubt, with this morning’s reading from Romans in mind, my acquaintance said that Christians think of Abraham as a failure who finds grace
    • without an heir, Abram was as good as dead; he was a minor figure in a great city of the ancient world
    • there wasn’t much to commend Abraham until God calls him
    • the story of Abraham and Sarah says more about God than it does about the people in the Bible
    • I want to tell you a story about another acquaintance 
    • Rachel was a youth leader who was planning a weekend retreat
    • Let’s just say the planning wasn’t going so well; it was late the Thursday night before the kids would gather, and she was still staring at the ceiling, trying to come up with an idea that would rock her youth group’s world
    • she went to the diner on the corner to clear her head and drink some coffee
    • after a while, 3 customers came in and sat at the counter
    • they were older and rough-looking
    • As they sipped their coffee, one of the men said, “hey, tomorrow’s my birthday.” The second man said, “that’s nice, Rob.” The third man grunted and shrugged. They drank their coffee, paid their bill, and left.
    • Rachel asked the waiter, “Do those guys come in here all the time?”
    • “Yeah,” said the waiter, “They work the graveyard shift at the plant — they are here every night around 2.”
    • Rachel had her plan. She bought some decorations and baked a cake and brought the youth to help her set up.
    • the diner was full of people when the 3 workers came in the next night. They sang “Happy Birthday” to Rob and presented him with a birthday cake
    • Rob cried, and posed for selfies with the youth. He couldn’t remember the last time anyone did something nice for him
    • But the really interesting thing happened after Rob and his buddies returned to work
    • the waiter watched, impressed, as the youth cleaned everything up
    • “What kind of church do you guys belong to?” he asked Rachel
    • Like the father in the parable, Rachel responded, “We belong to a church that throws parties for hard-on-their-luck people at 2 o’clock in the morning.”
    • “If I could find a church like that,” the waiter said, “ I would join in the morning”
    • that is one lucky youth group
    • and all Rob did was have a birthday — we don’t get a say over when that happens or who we are born to
    • that’s part of what gives Nicodemus trouble in his late-night conversation with Jesus 
    • being born from above is totally outside the control of the one being reborn — it’s the very definition of grace
    • all we can really do is try to put ourselves in the way of that grace
    • all we can really do is open ourselves to God’s Spirit at work in the world, and give ourselves fully to the activities that cause our hearts to sing
    • God is not calling most of us to leave our country or our kin
    • but when we are generous with the talents that make us most who we are, we may just find that we have become part of something bigger
    • we may just find that we are engaged with God in loving those whom


Collect of the Day

Almighty God,  whose Son was revealed in majesty befoe he suffered death upon the cross, give us faith to perceive his glory and 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, on God , now and for ever.  Amen

First Lesson

Genesis 12:1=4a

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. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.


Psalm Not today

Second Lesson

Romans 4: 1-5, 13-17


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.

The Holy Gospel

John 3: 1-17

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, that 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.