MEETING AIM: To reflect on the fact that Jesus came to save the world and repair our relationship with God.
BIBLE PASSAGE: John 3:1-21
BACKGROUND: Perhaps the most famous Bible verse of all comes in the middle of a discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus, one of the religious leaders. Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night, partly because the dark would hide him from the sight of others, but also (as elsewhere in John) because darkness symbolises spiritual blindness.
There is so much to unpack in this passage; this service will focus on this most famous of verses (verse 16). You might wish to explore the passage more fully in other services or small groups to complement this service.
OPTION ONE: Order of love
You will need: pictures of things that people love (eg chocolate, rollercoasters, musicians, family)
Show the pictures of the things that people might love (you could print them out and show them, or put them on a PowerPoint presentation). Ask the congregation to order them from the ones they love the most to the least. You could do this all together or in small groups. Get some feedback about the choices made.
OPTION TWO: Guilty or innocent
Ask the congregation to think of something silly they have done wrong over the
past week. Put a willing volunteer ‘on trial’. Encourage people to come up with light-hearted reasons to exonerate or
condemn (don’t let it get personal!). Decide whether the person is guilty or innocent, and then come up with a comedy punishment if they are guilty! Ask if it is fair for us to judge people.
You will need: the ability to darken your meeting space; volunteer to be Nicodemus; first-century costume (optional); a baby doll; a jug of water; a picture of a cloud; a toy snake; a calendar; a lantern or torch Invite your Nicodemus to the front (they can be dressed in a first-century costume if you have one). Introduce him to the congregation, pointing out that he was one of the religious leaders. He had studied the scriptures and was one of the most knowledgeable people when it came to God and his relationship with his people.
Darken your meeting space if you can, then say that Nicodemus wanted to talk to Jesus, but didn’t want any of the other religious leaders to see, so he went at night. Comment too that the writer John often uses darkness to talk about things that are hidden, a life that is lived away from God and not being able to see the good news about Jesus. Then tell this story:
Nicodemus sneaked through Jerusalem to find Jesus. He came at night and found
Jesus. He had lots of questions to ask Jesus, but he didn’t really seem to understand Jesus’ answers. Jesus talked to him about being born again. Give Nicodemus the doll. He told Nicodemus all about being baptised with water and the Spirit. Give Nicodemus the jug of water. He told Nicodemus about heavenly things, about a snake in the desert, about eternal life and about darkness and light.
During this sentence, hand Nicodemus the picture of a cloud, the toy snake, the calendar and lantern. He should be struggling to hold onto everything.
Nicodemus struggled to understand what Jesus was talking about, he couldn’t keep everything in his head. But Jesus had something amazing to say in the middle of all these things. He told Nicodemus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” As you say this, take all the items off Nicodemus.
You will need: copies of the questions below; Bibles
Break into small groups – made up of one or two families, or different mixed-age groups – and give each group a copy of these questions and a Bible:
- What’s your favourite part of the Bible passage?
- How do you think Nicodemus felt as he listened to Jesus?
- Read John 3:16-17 again. What do these verses make you think?
- How does it feel to be loved so much by God?
Give the groups time to chat about these questions, referring to the Bible passage if they need to.
You will need: roving mic (if needed);
Get some feedback on questions two and three from ‘Small groups’, using a micro- phone to hear people’s contributions if your meeting space is large.
Set these three activities up in different parts of your meeting space. Explain what each one is and encourage people to go to the one that will help them process what they have discovered most effectively.
OPTION 1: Discussion
Assign some volunteers to help guide a discussion about the story and what it might mean for the congregation today. You could read the whole of the passage and discuss everything Jesus talks about.
OPTION 2: Bible art
You will need: art materials; paper or card Encourage people to illustrate all or part of John 3:16-17 using images, patterns or things that represent how they want to respond.
Invite them to listen to God as they work, being open to what he is saying to them today.
OPTION 3: Telling others
Hold a discussion around how you might tell others about how much God loves them. What do people in your parish or community need to hear about God’s love? How can you most effectively get that message out there? Make plans for an evangelistic / outreach event which you can host in the coming weeks.
Bring everyone back together and ask if anyone would like to share what they did, thought about or discussed during the response time. Thank everyone for taking part and say an appropriate blessing to close the service.
Supporting documentsClick link to download and view these files
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