Family Liturgies

John 3: Being Spirit-Born

by Casey W. FitzGerald

Prayer
Holy One,
Be with us as we watch,
Be with us as we imagine,
Be with us as we remember,
Be with us as we tell our stories.
Amen.

Watch: John 3:1-10, 16-17 (Common Engligh Bible (CEB))
Children tell the story of Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night.

Reading In-between the Lines
In this story from the Gospel of John, Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night to have a conversation. Nicodemus starts this conversation in a pretty normal way: “We know you are a teacher from God—how else could you do the things you do?” Jesus, on the other hand, gives a very curious answer. He tells Nicodemus that if anyone wants to see God’s kingdom, they must
• be born “anew” (some translate this phrase as “born again” or “born from above”)
• be born of “water” and “spirit”

The meaning of Jesus’ words has been the topic of many conversations for more than 2000 years. To Nicodemus, being “born anew” sounded ridiculous. He asked the question many would ask—how can a person go back into their mother’s belly and be born again? Pretty silly. Of course, Jesus did not mean people need to actually be born again from their mother’s belly. But what did Jesus mean? I am not sure there is a “right” answer—but this is a great opportunity to explore some questions and tell some stories together.

Questions and Storytelling Prompts
– What is it like to be born? What happens in preparation for being born? What happens after a baby is born? This is a great time to share stories of birth and adoption.
– Having considered what it is like to be born, and what it is like to be a baby—why do you think Jesus tells Nicodemus he needs to be born anew?
– Jesus also says we need to be born of water. Have each family member name a use for water—going around the family as many times as able. How many were you able to name?
– Of course, we use water for baptism. If you have one, tell a story of baptism. This might be a great opportunity to phone a relative—particularly if they know the story of YOUR baptism!
– What other stories of water do you remember from the Bible? How many were you able name/tell?
– According to Jesus, we need to be born of both water and the Spirit. He says the Spirit is like the wind – it blows where it wants. In other words, we can’t control the Spirit. Do you remember the story of Jesus being led by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days and nights? The Spirit can take us into unexpected places! Parents, tell a story of a time the Spirit led you somewhere unexpected. What happened? Did you learn anything?

Memory Verses
Once kids and adults have learned their verses by heart, do a call and response of the verses!

Memory Verse for Kids: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. (John 3:16, CEB)

Memory Verse for Adults: God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:17, CEB)

Closing Prayer
In families with non-readers, have the children repeat the prayer line-by-line.

God our Creator,
Help us to remember that you are the giver of life.
You gave us life and called us good.

God our Redeemer,
Help us to remember that through Jesus Christ you save,
You save us with your love.

God our Sustainer,
Help us to remember that through the Holy Spirit you guide us,
Your Spirit is with us always.

Amen.

Bonus Activity
Go to a dictionary and look up the words “redeem” and “sustain.” We call God our “redeemer” and “sustainer”—but what do those words really mean? Once you’ve looked up the words, discuss ways God redeems and sustains.
_

Casey W. FitzGerald is Associate Pastor for Children & Families and Young Adults at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, VA. She writes about storytelling at Faith and Wonder and and tells stories each week on her podcast, Story Divine.

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