For God So Love the World
Tony E Dillon Hansen
Sermon based upon Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 107, Ephesians 2:1-10 and John 3:14-21
“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent…” invokes the passage from Numbers 21 where people have become “impatient on the way” to the Promised Lands. People complain and ask “why have you brought us here?” “Why did we come here? Things are so miserable here? Can we go back?” (like the sounds from the backseat on car trips or a Simpsons episode. )
We say things like this because we are want to complain. Why do we complain and so easily even?
Serpents came into the desert, bit people, and people died. Moses then prays and fashions a serpent pole of bronze from which people would become healed.
(We should spend a moment and thank all that have put themselves on the line for our sakes in the face of serpents we call viruses. Thank you, medical community, for your work this past year and going forward yet.)
The question for us is to consider why do we have this tendency to want what has been and perhaps gone? We get to the other side of the Red Sea just making our escape from the violence and wreckage of the past washed upon the shores only to turn around with nostalgia.
Maybe you walked in here needing something today, got something on the mind or have something to do- and just not quite sure what to do yet. Oh the questions and how we want easy answers and we want familiar. You could walk out of here back into familiar and nothing changes. But what if.. what if… (hold on to that for a moment.)
We like being around things that feel normal because we become complacent in them. Yet, we cannot go back in time; (we probably don’t really want to do that anyway.) If you only look at the past, you limit your future and your present. We look at now to what we have and look towards our future.
What people experienced those many years ago in the desert on the way to the Promised Lands feels somewhat relatable to us here today going through the pandemic. We want things to go back to “normal” - whatever that is. I want to be in stadiums to watch baseball - enjoying expensive beverages and overpriced hotdogs. I want, I want… In our wants, maybe we are easily forgetting the lessons and our gifts too quickly. Think of how many wont see another ballgame.
To be honest, there was some good this past year. Some corrected finances (less overpriced hotdogs can help) or fixed things around the house.
We dwell in darkness, and we love it. Just look at the what the news reports and how that captivates our attention. John’s Gospel calls us to task asking why we love the darkness when there is so much in the light for us today.
Are we longing in our nostalgia for what has been that we lose sight of what is here and before us? I submit we do. When our focus is just upon past and misery, we not only limit our present; we might be losing sight of God.
Instead of complaining about what we don’t have, perhaps, we (and as a church) return our focus upon God in our hearts and through us now. What does our church want to be and where does it go from here? Do we wallow about misery and snakes (I would) or do we remember that God so loves the world that amazing things come to us?
What if ..perhaps what if -- Let God do amazing in your heart now because then, things can change. We can embrace the light of Jesus, but you cant do it with your hands full. You have to drop the baggage. Oh that can be frightening but very amazing! We learn from our past, and we can let go of all the baggage we carried in here with us when we trust God.
Do we trust and have faith in God or just echo some words we read or heard in song? We are tasked to turn, not to nostalgia or misery but to the gifts that have always been there and to the promise our God gives.
Drop the baggage, Turn to the love of Jesus and share that love. Turn to the light, the powerful light, & turn to love. Then, use your gifts in the way that God asks us. The Gospel reminds us, “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.” (John 3:21)
We know there are things wrong in this world, but despair does not need to rule nor nostalgia because Jesus redefines - Jesus redefines our love and our world. Jesus needed to come in to this world to show us the way to the light. Jesus redefines and let Jesus show you!
We all were created in this relationship with God – a great relationship, but we – we - choose to walk away. We pick many excuses (whether pandemic, or otherwise) to walk away and then wonder why things are the way they are. We find ways to complain and grumble perhaps thinking we deserve something else.
I ask, what do you deserve that God hasn’t already given? Lean into God; find your heart & treasure there and through your deeds. Consider what if? What if we acknowledge that God so loves the world (and so loves us), that wonderful is possible. Let Jesus show you!
We don’t need to go back to old, tired ways because we have the gift of today and new chances in this moment and a future. We won’t be miserable or afraid when we walk with faith in our Creator.
Restore your faith and trust! Acknowledge, realize your true gifts! Don’t leave them and your faith in the desert. Give them real life and purpose by helping those around you and making it evident through you that God is with you.
St John, find purpose, leadership and your Church in God, then you will see how God gathers all people with intention “from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.” When we cry to the Lord in our trouble and darkness, God answers and saves us from distress.
So then drop the baggage, turn to the light, Be saved and be healed! Let God shine upon you here for “God is rich in mercy.” With great love, we are made alive together with Christ. “For God so loved the world,” we have life - these wonderful gifts.
“For by grace you have been saved… That is a gift from God… which God prepared to be our way of life.” (Ephesians 2) Embrace the light, your gifts, your life and find what you need is right here.
Thanks be to God!