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  • Nat Bothwell

Sermon Outtake: John 3:14-21

March 14, 2021

Bethlehem Lutheran Church

Slater, Iowa


Pastor's note: below is a sampling of the real thing. For the full sermon, check out Bethlehem's website or YouTube channel.



It can be a difficult thing, to look up on occasion. It’s often easier to look down.


We look down to get where we’re going.

We look down, to stay on track.

We look down, sometimes in our effort not to notice other things.


I was writing this on Friday, and I caught myself singing "2-4-6-0-1."



And for those of you who have seen “Les Mis”, you might know that reference. There’s a song in that production, called “Look down,” and there’s a refrain in that song that goes like this:


“Look down, Look down

You'll always be a slave

Look down, Look down

You're standing in your grave.”



I don’t know the musical all that well. I had to look up the lyrics, but that refrain

is already familiar in some way, isn’t it?



It’s often easier to look down...

at our own priorities…

our own frustrations…

To look down… at our bad luck…

our own unmet expectations.


Look down, look down… that’s a grave that humanity makes for itself often, and it can be a difficult thing… to dare to look up. To look away from all that would invite our grumbling. To look up… intently… expectantly… obediently… desperately, trusting God to move precisely in a difficult place.


That’s not to say that God answers every prayer as we might imagine. We don’t look up to the cross place an order.


We look up to remind ourselves continually, of God’s answer in Jesus Christ, already given for the sake of the world... not to condemn, but to save.



Jesus invites Nicodemus to see a God who loves graciously this morning. A God who loves selflessly. A God who loves abundantly, in full view of all that threatens to enslave humanity, and hold us captive.


Look down, and you’ll only see a mirror.

Look up, Jesus says, and notice the window.


The cross was once an image of death. It’s now a source of healing.


It was once only a sign of suffering. It’s now, God’s story of grace.


Look up, Jesus says.

God has delivered before.

God will deliver again.


Turn and look up, and risk being raised by this one who goes before you still.


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