Book of Numbers 21:4-9
From Mount Hor the Israelites 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.
Letter to the Ephesians 2:1-10
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[a]—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. 10 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.
Jesus said, “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.”
Yesterday afternoon, the sun was shining so brightly and the outside
was so inviting that it gave the illusion of being a lot warmer that it actually
As I as driving, it was 40 degrees. Yet, I had to crack a window for
comfort. I even saw a man casually walking on the sidewalk along West
Dorothy Lane wearing shorts.
I got to tell you, yesterday was refreshing. Spring is definitely in the
air. And, I for one, am thankful.
This Sunday in Lent is traditionally known as Refreshment Sunday.
Our scripture readings aren’t intended to challenge us as much as remind
us that God’s love and mercy are unfailing, even to those who complain or
are defiant. There is only one requirement of us to receive maximum
effectiveness. We have to trust that the gifts of God’s love and mercy are
wrapped around us each and every day, even when we don’t feel them or
Our first reading from the Book of Numbers tells of a time after the
Exodus from Egypt when the Israelites were wandering in the desert –
waiting to enter the Promised Land.
God provided heavenly Manna for their food. Yet, like being served
mashed potatoes at every meal, the people got tired of eating Manna. They
complained. Poisonous snakes appeared. The Israelites put 2 and 2
together and they determined that God was punishing them. The Hebrews
believed that all things come from God, curses as well as blessings.
So God went with their thinking, telling Moses to make a bronze
serpent, place it on a pole, and those who were bitten by snakes would look
at the bronze serpent, think of God’s love and mercy, and live.
Later in Hebraic history, King Hezekiah orders a similar bronze
serpent to be destroyed because it was then associated
with pagan worship, as recorded in the Second Book of Kings (18:4).
In our gospel lesson from John, Jesus has a conversation with
Nicodemus. Nicodemus was one of the ruling elders of Israel. In that
conversation, Jesus equated himself to the bronze serpent Moses had cast.
Jesus predicted his crucifixion; elevated high for the world to gaze
upon, hanging on a barbarous cross.
Jesus claimed to be the sign of God’s mercy and love for the entire
world, even for those who complained about God or were defiant toward
God. You and I know this truth.
As many of you are aware, this past week our parish community
celebrated four wonderful people whose lives have touched us in important
ways and made positive differences in our world: David, George, Duncan
and Mary. We thank God for each of these people and entrust them to
God’s eternal care.
Those in attendance at their Memorials had the privilege of listening
to stories of these individuals as told by their loved ones. Common themes
of their lives include: sharing happiness, and a deep concern for others and
creation. Also, each believed in God’s mercy and love.
Each of these dear people lived these themes in the manner
of their own choosing. That’s a good thing. It’s an expression of the beauty
of God’s diversity.
As a child, I was imaginative and strong-willed. My Mom and Dad
were gentle, loving people. They were patient – that is,
except when I went too far with my stubbornness and independence.
One day, when I was 15, I decided to call the Hammond Organ dealer in
Kansas City. I must have sounded older on the phone. I asked him about
He told me that there was a beautiful sounding Hammond organ with
a Leslie speaker just waiting for someone to enjoy it. I told the salesman
that I couldn’t get to the showroom that day (he was unaware that I didn’t
have a driver’s license), so he suggested to bring the organ and Leslie
to me. I replied: sure.
Well, the salesman with truck showed up at our house, the organ and
external speaker were unloaded and set up in our living room. Mom was
speechless; Dad was angry, but quiet. Mom listened to me play the organ.
Dad simply asked, “How much will this cost me?”
Dad turned and walked away, heading back toward the hay field.
With his back turned, he said to me, “Do whatever you want.” I knew what
I could keep the organ and speaker, and make Daddy pay for them,
or I could do what I knew to be right: wait until I had the money to buy
such an extravagant instrument and deepen my respect for my hard-
working, self-sacrificing, benevolent Daddy.
Oh, I knew that Daddy would forgive me if I said “YES” to the organ,
because his mercy and love are unending. But, I couldn’t say yes because I
trusted in Daddy’s unending love and mercy.
You can imagine, I didn’t make a friend of that Hammond Organ
God’s will never abandon us. God hopes we won’t abandon God.
That’s why God continuously encourages us to accept God’s embrace and
trust in God’s unfailing mercy and love.