Sermon – 03-14-21 – Lent 4 – Cycle B
Scriptures: Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22; Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21
Sermon Title: “Whose Responsibility Is It Anyway?”
Garbage mountains! Waterways full of plastic! Water animals full of plastic! Air full of carbon dioxide! Whose responsibility is this catastrophe? Who is to blame? Waterways becoming dry. People starving. People thirsting for water. Surely we did not have anything to do with this disaster.
And why should we care anyway? We have clean water, at least the church does and my own house does. Do you have enough clean water flowing at the touch of a spigot? Think of walking miles for water that is probably not very clean. Think of sharing a meal enough for one with a family of six. Think of having that be the only food all day. Is this fair? Is it the people’s fault? That is exactly why we are having the “One Great Hour of Sharing” offering today or anytime soon when you are able to send money or bring money after church. It may be time that we do more than give money. It may be time to change our habits.
While we are waiting for that to happen we can think that our offering is like the bronze serpent that Moses was told to lift on the pole. When the serpent was lifted, the snake bites did not kill. When the serpent was not lifted high on a pole, or when the bitten person did not look at the metal snake, the snake bites caused death. With our offering we are keeping each other alive. The trick is to have our offerings be used for long-lasting aid. Instead of having trucks bring water from a distance, our money will help to dig wells and buy pumps right in the village or even better, right to each home. Our money will help to bring good health and healing. Pure water is a source of healing. Pure water is necessary to maintain good health.
Everyone needs good water and good food to stay healthy. Water and good food are physical material. We can see it and feel and touch and taste. For healthy bodies – whether we be rich or poor or in-between – we need a spiritual component. Physical health and mental health go hand-in-hand with soul health. Our beings need a relationship with a power greater than our own. Another human is fine but here we are talking about a supreme power. People have imagined, and attached themselves to, all kinds of supreme power. Maybe the supreme power is waiting for us to help each other. Can that be?
People who have the best water and food and living conditions still have deficiencies in their thinking and acting. Satan watches for a weakness, a place where needs are not being met, and in Satan moves. There is often pain in our lives even when we seem to be living comfortably. We may have sparkling, cold water pouring out of spigots in 10 places in our house; we may have hot water in seconds to many locations in our house, but there can be a non-working spigot in our souls where the water of healing does not reach.
Sometimes we need God’s healing hand on our souls, deep in our beings and we don’t know it. It is a low-grade pain or a mountain of a pain but we are not facing it. I share a daily devotional reading with you, written by Anthony Robinson for the United Church of Christ daily devotions called “God Is Still Speaking” for March 1, 2021.
“Sometimes we go to great lengths to avoid actually looking at what is causing pain, even death, in our own lives and communities. Why? Is it because if we look at the problem head-on, chances are good that we will have to deal with it?
“On their wilderness journey, the Hebrew people complained long and loud about their situation. They accused Moses of bringing them out of slavery in Egypt only to kill them in the wilderness. Their lack of faith led to an invasion of poisonous snakes ordered by God.
“Moses received a strange instruction from God. ‘Make a serpent of bronze and put it on a pole. If people are bitten, they are to look at the bronze serpent and they will be healed.’
“They were to look at the source of their pain and death.
“Lent is a good time to come clean about the things that are the real sources of pain and death in our lives and relationships, and to ask God’s help to be delivered from them. Grudges we carry and refuse to release, addictions we don’t admit, anger we’ve allowed to eat away at us, sin we have failed to own. We may point to, even treat, the symptoms – fatigue, irritability, deadness in relationships – but avoid looking at the source of the pain.
“But when we look directly at the source of pain in our lives and take responsibility for action, a wondrous thing can happen. That source of pain may become a source of healing.” End of quote. Written by Anthony Robinson.
I thank God that we don’t need to look at a bronze serpent to clear our pain. We have Christ on the cross instead of a serpent on a pole. Clearly, Jesus Christ did not cause our pain. However, he is the source of healing for pain caused by our own sinning – whether intentional or accidental.
Of course, we wonder why Holy Jesus had to suffer for each of our pains. But, we know that Jesus is not still on that cross. We know that on the third day, the light arose and it was Jesus. Jesus is the light for our lives. When we say that Jesus is our Savior, we mean that our sins are forgiven and we can have the wonderful expectation of being called to heaven when we die.
When our souls are troubled we need to examine the “why.” Why do we feel out of balance? Why do we feel cloudy or foggy? We need to pinpoint the cause. Sometimes we need to ask Jesus to reveal the cause, if it is not clear to us. If we can’t immediately change the cause, Jesus will make it plain when we say, “Jesus, you helped me to know the cause of my darkness, but now I need help to change the cause. I need help to come into your light. I want to be among the true people of faith.” Before we know what is happening, the foggy darkness is lifted and we are in the light.
We think then of the grace of God, given to us because we have faith, that we are truly and mightily loved by God. We don’t need to hang on the cross ourselves. We don’t need to live a life of darkness. We don’t need to spend eternal life in hell. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.” from John 3:16
May we each keep the faith in Jesus on the cross and the resurrected Jesus who is our light! Amen