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Numbers 21.4-9; Psalm 107.1-3,17-22; Ephesians 2.1-10; John 3.14-21

Explore and respond

Adult & All Age

Explore and respond

Ways to engage different ages, spiritual styles and learning preferences

Ideas for a sermon or interactive talk

See also Thought for the week to read out in place of a sermon; and 'The week in focus', linking the readings to the news. 

 

  • In her book You’re Not Listening Kate Murphy laments our not listening to one another, suggesting we ask curious questions such as, ‘What was the best part?’ Nicodemus asks honest questions: ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old?’ ‘How can these things be?’ Glimpsing God’s presence in Jesus, he distances himself from other Jewish leaders, later asking why Jesus should be judged without ‘a hearing’ (7.51). Nicodemus joined Joseph of Arimathea, the secret disciple, in giving Jesus a burial. We are not told about his allegiance, but Nicodemus’ story reminds us of the importance of those who ask curious questions. It may be a route to understanding eternal life.

  • Paul Rowley says, ‘I have always been fascinated by the fact that despite having no arms or legs snakes can kill you!’  He works at the Centre for Snakebite Research and Intervention in Liverpool, handling poisonous snakes and milking their venom for use in research and development of antidotes. In 40 years of this work he has been hospitalised three times after snakebites. On a visit to a research project in Nigeria he met a girl of ten, agonised and frightened after a deadly bite. Telling her she would be all right, he showed her the marks of the fangs on his arms. She smiled, looking up at the man whose experience and empathy would make her well.

  • Kirk Douglas hired Dalton Trumbo to rewrite the script for his film Spartacus. Trumbo had been a member of the Communist Party, and he and nine other writers and directors, the Hollywood Ten, were jailed for contempt of Congress in 1950 after refusing to cooperate with its Un-American Activities Committee. A gossip column in March 1959 revealed the blacklisted Trumbo as the screenwriter of Spartacus, and Douglas made a courageous choice: ‘We’re putting your name on it.’ In 1960, the writer was given full screen credit and the blacklist was effectively broken. ‘Those who do what is true come to the light’ (John 3.21).

  • In this week’s Old Testament passage, the people of Israel looked inwards at their own challenges and discomforts, failing to see the goodness of God and all that God had done for them. In short, they embraced darkness rather than light. Are we inclined to do the same – whether by choice, accident or habit? But Jesus wants us to look up to him, the ‘Light of the World’ – to come out of the darkness and embrace the light. What things might get in the way of us doing that, and make us ashamed of looking up and embracing the eternal light of Jesus?

 

Thought for the week

Read out in place of a sermon if you wish.

In this week’s Old Testament passage, the people of Israel looked inwards at their own challenges and discomforts, failing to see the goodness of God and all that God had done for them. They allowed themselves to wallow in their discomforts, taking their cue from each other rather than trusting God. In short, they embraced darkness rather than light. 

Sometimes it is apparent that to do this – embrace darkness rather than light – is a deliberate choice. But might it not also be because we drift aimlessly, without giving things much, if any, thought – and so we end up in that place without any particular intention? Or maybe it is the result of a habit or a preference – do we sometimes prefer to stay ‘in the dark’, and therefore hiding from the light, because we rather like the patterns of behaviour and so cling on to them, even when they are, even when we know that they are, unhelpful? 

But – and presumably we are here because we know – Jesus wants us to look up to him, the ‘Light of the World’. To come out of the darkness and embrace the eternal light. We do well to ponder what things might get in the way of us doing that. To ask ourselves: what things make us ashamed of looking up and embracing the eternal light of Jesus? 

Lent always spans that time of year when the days stop getting shorter and start to increase once again (this year the change – the equinox – occurs next weekend). The lengthening days bring an increase of light that can, perhaps, remind us that the Light of the World is always present to guide us, if we ask to see the way ahead. When we bring ourselves and our failings into the light of Jesus and own up to them, we have made a start – or maybe a new start – to living in his light.

 

All age act of worship Session

Active worship

An obstacle course

Demonstrate the importance of looking up.

  • Set up two identical mini-obstacle courses using chairs, bags, etc. Get two volunteers to negotiate the course: one of them is allowed to look up and around; the other must only look and always down at their feet. They start at the same time. (You could repeat this a few times with different volunteers.) Who is most successful? Why is this?
  • This activity illustrates the importance of looking up and seeing a wider picture. And this ‘rule’ applies in many aspects of our lives – e.g. in order to see/understand how our actions affect others around the world, or the climate.
  • Sometimes we look to other people for an example. Who do we look up to? Are all our role models good ones, or might some of them set us poor examples? If we look up to the wrong person, we may get things wrong!
    E

A simple worship activity

Coming to the light to say sorry

  • Set up a bright light somewhere in the worship space. 
If possible, turn down the lights elsewhere.
  • Give everyone a small piece of paper and a pen. Ask people to write, or draw an image to represent, something that they are sorry about in their lives (no names, and nothing that would break confidentiality – if this may be an issue, assure people that all the slips of paper will be destroyed immediately after today’s worship).
  • Ask people to fold their paper and, when they are ready, to bring it to the light. Simply place it beside the bright light. When everyone has had the opportunity to do this, continue with A prayer of confession.
    W A

 

A discussion about eternal life

Explore the connection between light and eternal life.

  • Talk of eternal life runs throughout John’s Gospel. But on 
a couple of occasions there is a clear statement about what eternal life ‘is’. Invite people, working in small groups, to search John’s Gospel to find what eternal life ‘is’. If they don’t find them in the available time, point them towards John 12.50 and 17.3. Give each group one of these verses to discuss in more detail, as follows:

    - What Jesus speaks, is eternal life (12.50). So, what (in summary) does Jesus speak? And how does this affect the everyday choices we make between light and dark?

    - Eternal life is to know God and Jesus whom God sent (17.3). So what does it mean in practice to ‘know God’ and to know Jesus?

  • Invite feedback and make a list of practical steps that we can take to show – to choose – to follow something eternal.
    W A

Give thanks

Looking for reasons to give thanks rather than complaining.

  • During the Second World War, a Dutch woman, Corrie Ten Boom, was a prisoner in a concentration camp. One day, she was surprised to hear a fellow inmate giving thanks to God for the fleas that plagued them day and night. Corrie asked how this was possible: how could anyone be thankful for something as horrible as fleas? Her friend replied that the fleas meant that the cruel guards avoided the hut and paid the prisoners less unwanted attention. Corrie realised that even in the darkest situation it was possible to find something to be thankful for.
  • Invite people to share with one or two neighbours something positive that they have been thankful for this week. And, thinking about some of the darker stories from the week, can they identify at least some small crumb of hope, something to be thankful for, in those stories?
    W E S A

 

A litany of thanksgiving

For our world and all its beauty:
we give God thanks today.

For creating us to be his work of art:
we give God thanks today.

For this place and for the life we share here:
we give God thanks today.

For our homes and families, for friends and fun:
we give God thanks today.

For food and warmth, for comfort and safety:
we give God thanks today.
Amen.

 

Activity sheet

 Drama: Psst, Jesus … Yes, Nicodemus?

 

Spiritual styles abbreviations
W Word E Emotion S Symbol A Action
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Children & Youth

Explore and respond

Activities marked with an asterisk  next to the activity title are in addition to the resources in the Ready to go sessions. Suggested timings for these activities are also shown. NB The inclusion of additional activities varies from week to week.

 

 

 VERY YOUNG CHILDREN

Very young childrens Session

Light basket

Play and wonder about Jesus the light

Create a treasure basket with torches, battery-operated tealights, shiny fabric, mirrors and reflective foil. Encourage the children to explore the objects, reminding them that Jesus is the light of the world.

 

Make a light catcher

Create a reminder to trust in Jesus

Cut out circles of coloured paper and invite the children to use paint brushes to paint them with vegetable oil. Allow the oil to dry and fix the catchers to a window to let the light shine through.

 

Beanbag toss       10 minsE 

You will need: balls or beanbags, basket or bucket.

  • Ask everyone to take turns at throwing a ball or beanbag into a basket or bucket – but they must be looking in the opposite direction. Now invite them to do it again, this time looking at where they are aiming.
  • Ask: Which was easier? Talk about the importance of seeing things clearly.

 

Very young childrens Session

 

FOR CHILDREN

Childrens Session

Play a memory game         W E

A reminder that Jesus said God’s love is for everyone

  • Sit in a circle and ask the first person to say, ‘God loves everyone who…’ and add an attribute, e.g. ‘God loves everyone who is wearing red.’
  • The next person should repeat what the first person said and add their own attribute, e.g. ‘God loves everyone who is wearing red and has a cat.’
  • Keep the game going round the circle, adding to what needs to be remembered each time. Finish by emphasising that God loves and offers eternal life to everyone no matter who they are.

 

Make a Möbius strip           E S

Explore the concept of eternity

You will need: strips of paper about 2cm x 10cm, pens, glue.

  • Give each child a strip of paper and ask them to write part of the passage (e.g. John 3.16) across both sides. NB, The writing on one side needs to be done upside down.
  • Help everyone to fold their paper strip into a ring, putting a half twist into it as they do it and glue it in place.
  • The Möbius strip is an infinite shape which has no start or end – if you draw a line along it with a pencil, you will get back to exactly where you started. Encourage the children to play with it and think about what eternity means.

 

Sing

 Songs from Same Boat Music. 
Everybody Praise Him

Find more suggestions on the Hymns, songs & music page.

 

Talk together and talk to God

Use these questions to discuss the Bible passage and then bring your thoughts together by praying to God.

Talk together

  • How does darkness make you feel? How does it feel when light comes into that darkness?
  • In what ways did Jesus’ words make Nicodemus feel brighter?
  • How can we share God’s light with others?

 

Talk to God: Say sorry to God         E S

Ask for and be assured of God’s forgiveness

You will need: candle, lighter, snuffer.

  • Light a candle – ensuring safety. Invite the children to come up one at a time, think of something they want to say sorry for, and extinguish the candle with a snuffer, saying the words, ‘I am sorry.’
  • After each child’s turn, relight the candle and say, ‘God says, “I forgive you”.’

  

Very young childrens Session
Childrens Session

Activity sheet

 

 Eternity slogans       10 minsE A

Design a poster promoting reducing and reusing

You will need: pens and paper.

  • Talk about how the lives we live are often the opposite of eternal: things are disposable and we throw them away.
  • Come up with ideas for ‘eternity’ slogans that encourage people to reduce and reuse what they have instead of throwing it away. For example, ‘Upcycle: make things last an eternity,’ or ‘Plastic waste lasts an eternity: cut it out’.
  • Provide materials for everyone to make a poster of their slogan – these can be displayed somewhere in the church or community. Consider ways the slogans could also be shared with the congregation, e.g. in church magazines or on social media.

 

 

NEW! Drama: A piece of eternity

 

FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

Young people Session

Obstacle course     10 minsE

Experience how difficult it can be to trust

You will need: cups filled with sand or water, a blindfold.

  • Place a large number of full cups in rows along your space. Invite one young person to be blindfolded and ask for a volunteer to guide them round the cups, just using verbal instructions, e.g. take one step to the right.
  • Swap roles and allow everyone to have a turn (you may need to refill some cups if they’ve been spilt!). Afterwards, discuss together how difficult it was to trust. Ask whether looking to Jesus can make negotiating the obstacles of life easier.

 

Who or what do we look up to?    10 minsW E S

Consider why we put our trust in them

You will need: magazines, newspapers, glue, scissors, large sheet of paper, pens. 

  • Invite the young people to make a collage of people and things they look up to.
  • Ask the group to write the qualities they admire in what they have chosen around the edge. Discuss together: How long do you think you will admire these people/things? Do we trust in them, and if so, why?

 

Our broken world10 minsW E A

Explore our responsibility to make sure our world lasts

You will need: spoken word clip.

  • Play the clip.
  • Then, in small groups, consider the following questions: How do you think God feels about what we are doing to the world? Do we believe our world will last if we don’t make any changes about our behaviour? What practical things can you do as individuals and as a group to help look after the beautiful world that God created? Pray about these things as a group.

 

Check-inConnecting faith with everyday, real-life issues 

 

 Looking to the light     10 minsE S 

Think about what we need to trust Jesus with

You will need: large candle, tealights.

  • Sit in a circle with a lighted candle in the centre and read the Bible passage from The Message (see biblegateway.com).
  • Invite the group to think about what it means to trust Jesus and to embrace the eternal life he offers us. What do we need to trust Jesus with more? Invite everyone to light a small tealight from the candle as a symbol of trusting God.

 

Spiritual styles abbreviations
W Word E Emotion S Symbol A Action
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NEW! Drama: A piece of eternity

A group of professors present a lecture on artefacts from history.

There can be as many actors as there are ‘artefacts’ (up to eight), or a smaller group can take turns as Professors.

Professor 1: Hello, and welcome to our lecture: ‘Items from history’. We will present to you items from different eras in history, starting with the most recent, to give you a sense of how the world has developed. We have many historic artefacts for you to view, so we hope you will find it interesting as well as educational. Over to my colleague, who will start things off with our first item. Professor? 

Professor 2: (project on a screen if possible) Good morning. I am so excited to be able to present to you the first ever TikTok video. It was made in 2017, that’s four whole years ago. It features a cute kitten falling off a sofa to the soundtrack of an Ed Sheeran song. 

Professor 3: (show a physical iPad) What I hold in my hands here is an ‘iPad’. First launched a whole decade ago in 2010, they revolutionised the way people used computers, allowing them to watch videos, play games, take photos, surf the internet, write and send emails from the comfort of their sofa. 

Professor 4: (show a photo of one) This is one of the first colour televisions. It was manufactured 50 years ago in 1970, before many of us were even born. Although it might look like a television you could have in your home today – notice how much chunkier and heavier it is. You also had no ability to pause, rewind or record programmes yourself and, most shockingly of all – there were only three channels! How did people cope, you might indeed wonder. 

Professor 5: (show a photo of the genuine fragment) Going back even further, this small fragment of papyrus from 2,000 years ago was part of a scroll containing the Gospel of John. The papyrus plant was treated to make a flat surface that would hold ink. Unfortunately, although biodegradable and very ecologically sound, you can see that only this tiny amount has survived today. 

Professor 1: Now we appreciate that casting your mind back 50 years is a stretch, let alone 2,000 years. But our artefacts go even further back than that. 

Professor 6: (show a photo of them) These are Acheulean stone axes from about 1.5 million years ago. 

Professor 7: (show a photo of them) These are tools unearthed from Lomekwi in Kenya which archaeologists have dated as being 3.3 million years old.

Professor 8: (show a photo of them) And these are zircon crystals, part of the formation of the earth’s crust itself, the oldest such minerals that scientists have analysed to date – found in the Jack Hills of Western Australia. Scientists say these are at least 4.4 billion years old. This is the closest we can get to something eternal.

Professor 1: And no one in this room is as old as that! Except…

The others turn to look at Professor 1.

Professor 1: This is Celia. (points to a person – real or imagined – beside them) The Bible tells us that, as a Christian, she is filled with God’s Holy Spirit. God’s Holy Spirit was present at the creation of all things. In fact, God has always existed, before anything else at all.

Older than apps and the iPad, earlier than TV, papyrus scrolls, stone axes and ancient tools, zircon crystals, or anything that we can physically see. 

God is eternal, and so – as someone filled with God’s Spirit – is Celia. She will be the longest-lasting thing in this room. Now that’s eternal!

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