O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
those he redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.
Some were sick through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities endured affliction;
they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress;
he sent out his word and healed them,
and delivered them from destruction.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices,
and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.
You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.John 3:14-21
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
“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.
“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. 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. 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. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 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.”
Snakes have fascinated us for years.
In Genesis, it is the serpent who tempts, who is associated with evil. Encounters with poisonous serpents strike fear in our hearts; their venom kills.
Have you, or anyone you know, ever been bitten by a snake? What happened? How do you feel about snakes?
In the wilderness, when the Israelites complain about their condition (Numbers 21:4-9), they are inflicted with poisonous snakes. They confess their sins and ask Moses to ask God to take away the poisonous snakes. Interestingly, God didn’t take away the serpents. Instead, God instructs Moses to make a bronze serpent. When the people look upon it, they live ... despite the presence of the poisonous serpents.
In Greek mythology, Asclepius, the God of medicine and healing, carries a staff with serpents wrapped around it. This has become the symbol of modern medicine.
Likewise, in the Old Testament book of Numbers, we find this story of Moses raising up a bronze snake, and all who look upon are cured. Moses uses the image of a serpent on a staff for healing.
In the Gospel for this weekend John declares, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
It’s clear that John finds a connection between the raising of Jesus on the cross and the bronze serpent that Moses has raised. The Romans, during the time of Jesus, raised up corpses on crosses along roadsides to threaten those passing by with a similar death. Looking upon such corpses generated great fear. In the face of this gruesome reality, John proclaims that when Jesus is raised up on the cross, he becomes the source of healing and eternal life, not a symbol of fear and humiliation.
So, how does a snake wrapped on a post and a crucified, mutilated corpse on a cross lead us to healing, life, love and hope?
Maybe it is when we face our greatest fears that we can finally live again. We can love again. So when fear of death is gone, when it’s replaced by trust in an overflowing love, then we are free to live and love.
How have you faced fears in your life? What fear still plagues you, keeping you from living and loving? How can you get past it? How can understanding the enormous depth of God’s love for you be a help in this process? How can this love reconcile your relationships?
I’ll look forward to seeing you in worship this weekend.
As we've begun to explore the Passion stories of Jesus--those stories of his betrayal, arrest, suffering, and death--we've built a foundation for these stories by looking at the Gospel according to Mark. Now we're ready to hear this Passion story from the Gospel according to Matthew. How will Matthew tell the story? What will Matthew add to Mark's telling--and why? What are the nuances in Matthew's telling that enrich our understanding of this powerful story that so transforms our lives? Come and join us on Sunday morning at 10:20 or on Wednesday morning at 11:00. And to enhance your time with us, we encourage you to read Matthew, chapters 26 and 27, beforehand.
Bible 101. In the beginning we thought we'd be doing well if we had a dozen people sign up to join us on Saturday, March 17, as we explore the basics of the Bible: where does it come from? who wrote it? what were they trying to accomplish? what is the Bible for us? Then it looked like we might fill the adult education room that can comfortably hold 28 people. But the sign-up list grew and grew! We're well over 28, so we'll be moving to a different room. And there's still space for you! So if you want to join us on Saturday, March 17, from 10-2, sign up this week on the pink sheet found on the Mission Control bulletin board in the Crossroads. The more the merrier!!
Come travel with us!
Travelers one and all! If you're one of those interested in our two upcoming trips--either to the Holy Land later this year, or to Oberammergau, Germany, in 2020--and have been waiting for the new brochures to arrive, good news! They're here! Please see Pastor Bill. Take a brochure for yourself and several for your friends. It's not too late to sign up!
For additional information about these trips, see the article below under "INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL EVENTS ANNOUNCED."