3.17.2009

Fourth Sunday in Lent



Maybe this has never happened to you, but it has happened to us. You are walking down the road and you see a sign like the one in the picture that says "Jesus Saves". Or you might see someone with the same message on a t-shirt or a bumper sticker...or you might meet someone that is excited to tell you about themselves and somewhere in the conversation s/he might use the phrase "Jesus Saves."

Now if you had never been exposed to Christianity in America and you read or heard this phrase, some questions should pop up for you. Even for those of us who have been exposed to Christianity in America, since we are all good postmodern deconstructionalist children of the Enlightenment, some basic questions should be reviewed every once in a while.

Who is this Jesus?
Who / What is being Saved?
From what is 'X' being Saved?
How?

This week our lectionary readings give us several glances at this Being Saved business.

In Numbers we see an interesting story that involves Moses, some angry Israelites, the wilderness, poisonous snakes, a bronze snake, and salvation. The people were following Moses who was following the direction of God out of slavery and in / through the wilderness and the people became quite upset because life seemed to be worse for them than it was before when they were slaves in Egypt. God's response to their lack of gratitude was to send poisonous snakes to bite and kill the slow and unsuspecting. The people repented to Moses. And here is the interesting part--God did not take the snakes away, he told Moses to make a snake out of bronze and put it on a pole so that when someone was bitten by a snake, they could look on this bronze snake and live...or be Saved.

Being Saved is often a theme in the Psalms. In verses 17-20 of Psalm 107 we see a small story laid out that seems to run parallel to the story from Numbers. Some folks brought themselves near death because of their sinful ways, they cried to the Lord (repented) and he Saved them....healed them....delivered them from destruction.

As often happens with Paul, he offers to the followers of Jesus in Ephesus a fairly didactic explanation of what it is Christ does to / for / in one's life. He explains here that this Salvation comes by Grace and through Faith and Mercy. That is one of the great things about Paul...even with something as mysterious as Grace and Salvation he does all he can to bring it back down to an understandable rational / logical explanation...which is often still a little difficult to understand because he uses some tough-to-grasp words (like Grace and Mercy and Faith) to explain a difficult-to-grasp concept like Salvation.

Most of the passage from the third chapter of John this week is familiar to most of us. However, we often do not quote v. 14 where John makes reference to the bronze snake Moses made in the wilderness. Here a direct connection / parallel / allusion is made between the way the Moses lifted up the snake for folks to believe in as a conduit for their salvation and the way the Son of Man (we assume this means Jesus) must be lifted up and believed in. An interesting and important difference here is that when the folks looked at the bronze snake it meant they did not die from snakebite, but in John we see that those who Believe in the Son of Man will gain Eternal Life. Also, an important difference between the two is that the Israelites were not asked to believe in the bronze snake, just look up to it...John's audience is being asked to Believe in the Son of Man. And in the rest of the passage we are given the story of God's relationship to the world in just a few words--For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

It seems that each of these have some commonalities. In each case, someone has transgressed against God. In each case, the transgressors find themselves in a difficult / painful situation and cry out to God for Mercy. And in each case, God chooses to bring those asking for Mercy back in to some sort of healthy state of affairs.

And even with this little bit of background, it is still important for each of us (no matter our track record with Christianity or with Jesus) to take some time to make an honest account for ourselves of these questions.
  • Who is this Jesus?
  • Who / What is being Saved?
  • From what is 'X' being Saved?
  • How?

Closer To Myself

Digging deep, I feel my conscience burn
I need to know who and what I am
This hunger jolts me from complacency
Rocks me, and makes me meet myself

Jacob walked a limp to remind him
of the greater gift of the greater one
When I fell, I fell to my own resources
How can I carry your truths if I can't even crawl to you?

I wanna feel something sweeter than this sin
Cover me in leaves and roll me over again
Cause I've been everybody else, now I want to be
something closer to myself

Paint me in a different light
Shed me another coat of skin
Mark me with ash until I'm clean again
Cause I'm so sick and tired of being sick and tired
I know I can love you, I know that I can

I wanna feel something sweeter than this sin
Cover me in leaves and roll me over again
Cause I've been everybody else, now I want to be
something closer to myself

I wanna feel something sweeter than this sin
Cover me in leaves and roll me over again
Cause I've been everybody else, now I want to be
something closer to myself

And I wanna feel something sweeter than this sin
Cover me in leaves and roll me over again
Cause I've been everybody else, now I want to be
something closer to myself

-Kendall Payne

No comments: