Readings for March 15, 2014
Genesis 12: 1 4
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. (NRSV)
Romans 4: 1 5, 13 17
What shall we say, then, of Abraham, the father of our race? What was his experience? If he was justified by things he did he would have something to boast about – but not in God’s sight. The scripture says, “Abraham believed God, and because of his faith God accepted him as righteous.”
A person who works is paid wages, but they are not regarded as a gift; they are something that has been earned. But the one who depends on faith and not on deeds, and who believes in the God who declares the guilty to be innocent, it is faith which God takes into account in order to put that person right with God.
When God promised Abraham and his descendants that the world would belong to him, God did so, not because Abraham obeyed the Law, but because he believed and was accepted as righteous by God. For if what God promises is to be given to those who obey the Law, then a person’s faith means nothing and God’s promise is worthless.
The Law brings down God’s anger; but where there is no law, there is no disobeying the Law. And so the promise was based on faith, in order that the promise should be guaranteed as God’s free gift to all of Abraham’s descendants – not just to those who obey the Law, but also to those who believe as Abraham did. For Abraham is the spiritual father of all; as the scripture says, “I have made you the father of many nations.”
So the promise is good in the sight of God, in whom Abraham believed – the God who brings the dead to life and whose command brings into being what did not exist. (TEV)
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 anew.”
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 anew.’ The wind blows where it wills, 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.” (NRSV)