Our lectionary readings this week bring us two fairly complex and curious passages with which to wrestle. The first testament reading from Numbers may be totally unfamiliar. If you suffer from Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), you might find it especially disturbing! Our Gospel reading, on the other hand, is likely to be familiar to all. It contains perhaps the best known and often repeated line of Christian scripture that’s out there…“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” But just because it’s familiar, doesn’t mean it’s straightforward. These two passages are challenging and not only are they tied to one another but they both hold, in tension, the dual reality of sin/judgment and God’s amazing grace.
Click here to view the fourth session of our Lenten Series called “Spiritual Practices for the Wilderness.” This week we’ll explore the practice of Centering Prayer. Adam graciously leads us through this practice, one that can bring deep peace in a world full of ups and downs. And what a year of ups and downs it’s been. We’ll be recognizing the one year anniversary of living with COVID and related restrictions, honoring the grief and loss of this past year but also leaning into hope, into light, into new life…the dawning of a new day. We trust it’s coming!
I hope you’ll join us for online worship at 9:00 as we offer our praise and thanks to God, as we connect with God’s love, community and call and as we explore our faith together. Please know that all are welcome to join the Wednesday Bible Study that reviews the scripture and sermon topic from the previous Sunday and reflects on the questions that are listed below. If you’re interested in joining us from 11:30 to 12:30 on Wednesdays, please notify the church office or Pastor Lori and we’ll send you the Zoom link. Drop-ins are welcome! Looking forward to being together on Sunday!
Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:14-21 (NRSV)
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. 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.” Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. 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. 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.” 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.
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.”
Questions to consider:
- What is your level of familiarly with these two passages? What resonates with you? What disturbs you?
- What does the symbol of the cross evoke for you? What does it bring to mind or heart?
- Have you ever known someone like Harry? (Tune into Sunday’s service to hear about Harry!) What makes it hard for us human beings to acknowledge the “trouble with us?”
- How would you describe the tension between judgment and grace? Does one come before the other?