Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Snakes on a Stick

Snake on a Stick – sounds like something that would be served deep-fried at the State Fair of Texas – maybe served with a fun Cajun spicy sauce. Yum!

This OT reading is odd-sounding to my ears, for many reasons. So imagine my surprise to find it in the beginning of our Gospel reading in John today. Jesus Christ himself is compared to the Snake on a Stick. “Curiouser and curiouser” as our friend Sheldon Cooper would say.

So here’s my take on it all. John is reminding us that just as the snake in the Numbers reading would “save” those who gazed upon it, so will Jesus Christ “save” those who gaze upon him. You see, in John’s Gospel, one only has to believe to be saved. Once Jesus comes among us, according to the author of John, the world get divided into those who are saved and those who are not. But I do not think John means it is the evangelical, Texas-style phrasing of “Brother have you been saved?” If we look closely at John 3:17, that particular verse changes what many of our evangelical brethren think about judgment and being saved.

As we get closer to Easter – my first one among you all – I want to talk a bit about judgment and being saved. I believe Jesus saved the world merely by entering it. God loved us so much that she sent her only-begotten son to live among us, teach us, show us how to BE God’s believed people in the world that whosoever believes in Jesus will have ever-lasting life.  At the core of that statement, is what I was taught as a child growing up Southern Baptist at 1st Baptist Church in Archer City, TX – 25 miles from here. But my journey has been ever so much longer than that. God could have “saved the world” in any infinite number of ways. Jesus could have lived a long and happy life, surrounded by family and friends and the world would have been saved merely by his existence among us. The circumstances of the fateful week dictated otherwise. I’m NOT saying there is no value in Jesus’ actions concerning the crucifixion, but I am saying it did not have to happen THAT way. You will never hear me glorify the violence of Holy Week. Instead you will see and hear me continually point out the actions of Jesus and his followers – what they did and how they handled what was happening.

The Stations of the Cross are difficult for some of us. It is a Lenten discipline I practice – not because of the re-hearing of the violent actions, but because every year I enter into the story from a different place. There is a different bystander I can empathize with or learn from: compassion from Veronica, service from Simon, empathy with Mary… there are many ways to enter into the story – and for that reason, I find value and devotion there to strengthen my own spiritual disciplines.

Now before you think I said it’s all good – we’re all going to Heaven, so we can just live our lives however we choose with no accountability to God and our neighbors, I am not saying that at all. What I am saying is that this is all much harder than it seems – we cannot just say the words of a Believer’s Prayer and make our reservations in the Father’s House. We actually have to believe. We actually have to love God with all that we are, and all that we have to offer, & love our neighbors as ourselves. I believe CS Lewis is onto something in the Great Divorce: we have to choose to be saved. We have to give our consent. We can refuse the grace that God offers – that is part of free will. So I am not saying that this is all good, we’re all going to Heaven, go about your business and be happy.

I am saying that God loves you so much that there have been numerous covenants made – that God loves you so much that Jesus Christ as one of the Godhead came to dwell among us in human form and ascended into heaven in human form – that we are loved THAT much and even more than we can imagine.  Amen.

I put a new battery in the recorder, so the audio is on the right sidebar PodBean player.

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Please be graceful with me and others!