Archive for March 18th, 2012
14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “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. 17 “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. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”
It appears that with the gentle winter season passing was are on the edge of an early summer. It seems spring has sprung for the dogwoods and daffodils. While our skin would appreciate the care year round, summer’s sunshine calls for extra attention and sunscreen.
How does it work? Sunscreen works by combining organic and inorganic active ingredients. Inorganic ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium oxide reflect or scatter ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Organic ingredients like octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC) or oxybenzone absorb UV radiation, dissipating it as heat. Some sunscreens protect us from the two types of damaging UV radiation: UV-A and UV-B. Both UV-A and UV-B cause sunburns and damaging effects such as skin cancer.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a spiritual cream we could buy at Stan’s that would protect us for all the things that sneak up and bite us. Balm of Sin-be-gone or Holy Salve of Jesus or maybe even Metho-Oxy-Gott’em. The truth is there is not balm of Gilead for sin-sick-souls.. at least not one to be found on a shelf when we need it.
Similarly, the middle of this text, the 3:16-17 part, while it is quite popular, it is not a prescription. Can anyone rattle off the 19-21 verses?
19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.
The son has already shone and has casted the light of judgment on the world and the conclusion is that people love darkness more than the light.
Life taken for a new pair of Nike shoes.
A lie told to save face in front of the children.
The work of feeding, clothing and healing given to agencies, governments and institutions.
Dependent on wealth more than dependent on God’s call and charge.
Idols of status, Jealous and grumbling complaints
I once thought I wanted a sleeping chair on my back porch. But is was still rather hot, so I had to find a small fan. I added a nice pillow and pitcher of lemonade, I hoped for a small black and white TV to watch the Braves game, or at least a radio. But there were the bugs to contend with. So I got one of those blue glowing zapper lights to control the bugs. But it was not very restful, not very quiet, not what I had pictured. Then there were the other guests: Neighbors, children, wandering-walkers, who were also drawn to the light of the TV and the only way I found some peace was to turn off the TV, turn out the bug light, and go inside, where it was light, dry, cool and my home.
There are values and business models that drive us out into the darkness.
There are visions and dreams that are not grounded in faith in God and lead us away from home.
There are venues and places that promise happiness and peace, but are false substitutions for our heart shaped hole inside that God has carved out through Christ…
Yes, God so loved the world that he send Jesus, but look around we see plenty of folks who could care less.
Yes, we hear God wants us to believe, but can you actually trust God with your heart, home, money?
Yes, God wants to save the world through Christ, but who has time, we have other commitments first.
Yes, we know John’s chapter 3 verse 16-17
But we best pay attention and lead others to wake up to 18-21.
If you saw someone about to walk into the street would you stop them?
If the person beside you was reaching out and could not see the snake about to bite, what would you do?
If you saw someone hungry, tired, confused, lonely, greedy, naked, afraid, ashamed, guilty, broken…what then?
Am I a person of the light or the dark? I’m going to live like I mean it? Or just when I need the light?
Wendy at home and Sonya in the office always making sure I have light on where I’m working. I like the light behind me or close over me, but not in my face. I can’t see when the light blinds me.
Here is where I think most of us live… blinded by the light of Christ.
We know what God is offering, but we don’t like the blind-faith part.
Sure we will say yes, shine your light on me, but when it means following where God’s light leads, we put on shades or look away.
In John’s Gospel we have our invite back into the light..
“But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” Look at the things God is doing in you, and you will see God with you. If you can’t, look at your deeds carefully.
21:4 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. 5 The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” 6 Then the LORD sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live. -NRSV
In Garden of Eden, God created all the living creatures, including the talking snake, and at the end of that days work, proclaims that God’s handwork was indeed, good, including the snake.
But through disobedience, Adam and Eve suffer the consequences (kicked out of the Garden) and at the same time experience God’s grace (Clothed, Guard, and Work-study program, and not death)
The story and faith journey continues with great similarity today. Moses had freed the Hebrews from being slaves in Egypt and now in the wilderness the people missed the dependability of their slavery.
They grumbled. They became disappointed and discouraged. They questioned and doubted God’s plan and Moses’ leadership. So out comes the snake and families of snakes to bite the grumblers. Today we have a visitor from Dausset Trails, that Gordon will introduce us to today:
Are there any grumblers here today? Any complaints? Any dissatisfied folks? Come up and meet Gordon’s friend.
I have seen a corn snake as thick as my arm. I have seen a copper head in our back yard at the parsonage. I have been thrown into a rattle snake pit (empty at the time) by second cousins because I was the youngest. I have handled snakes and earned my reptile merit badge. I have attended a worship service where rattle snakes were handled up front; I sat at the door at the back.) But I have not yet been bitten.
But there are other things that have bitten me.. and I’m guess you’ve been bitten by them too. Greed, Jealousy, Fear, Shame, Guilt, Pride, Desire and the greener grass over Lewis Grizzard’s septic tank. We go back to the snake and back to sin, and find ourselves grumbling, doubting and questioning God’s plans just like God’s people in the wilderness.
People were dying from the snake bites then and we are dying from our sins and separation as well. The wandering complainers asked Moses to speak to God and get rid of the snakes.
God didn’t get rid of the snakes but gave a sign and means of grace for those who happen to be bitten. Moses makes a bronze pole and places a snake upon it and lifted it up as a point of healing and renewal.
Today our physicians use this same simple as a sign of healing in the oath they take to heal and do no harm. Moses lifted up his rod, (walking stick-staff-scepter) over the rock where God was to bring the Israelites water.
Remember how Jesus lifted up the child’s lunch of bread and fish, gave thanks to God and broke the meal into enough food to feed the thousands with 12 baskets of left-overs. And recall how Jesus lifted up the bread and cup at the last supper and how he said that he, himself would be lifted up, for our behalf.
Most churches have some steeple, tower or cross on the top of their building to point out eyes up to God. It would be idol worship to worship the building, tower or cross. (Note: Some years later the prophet Hezekiah did destroy the bronze snake-pole because the people had again forgotten God and were worshiping the sign.) But signs do a good serve if they point beyond themselves toward God.
God directed Moses to make a sign for the people. This sign was a lifted up staff, God’s protection and it was a sign of what had lead to death, the grumbling brought about death, suffering and fear. Together, the bronze snake-pole was to be a reminder of what not to do and where to place our trust in the face of sin and danger.
What if we put your sins or mine on a pole and carried them in front of us? We might rather carry a snake.
But we don’t have to because Christ has carried the cross for us already. We trust God’s continuing work of grace through Jesus Christ as our saving Grace and true hope.
Lift high the Cross of Christ. Stand up, raise your arms to your sides, stretch them out and be for the world the cross and the body of Christ with us, even in the face of danger, death and doubt.