Archive for March 14th, 2021
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.” [John 3.14-21: NRSA]
This passage contains the heart of every sermon in the most familiar verses of this chapter, vs. 16 and 17. We will get to them in a moment, but first, we look back to the Moses and the People of God in the Wilderness, living in peril, fear, and separated from all they had known before.
In the wilderness, they had a problem with snakes. People were getting bitten by poisonous snakes and dying left and right. It was a mini plague, a real crisis for the community. They turned to Moses, who turn to God.
Notice the response of Moses always includes turning to God.
God instructs him to place a snake upon the staff that had parted the sea and guided the people, and to live it up for all to see. The Wilderness Journey was all about teaching the People of God to look to God, trust God, and follow God.
Moses’s remedy is no different. The sign is the promise that God will take care, God will guide, God, will save. Follow God and find Life. That was the Old Testament message, and Luke is telling the same as our New Testament message.
FOLLOW GOD and FIND LIFE.
The connections between a snake in the garden with Eve and Adam, being lifted up, as an offering, a sacrifice, as an example of God’s power to save..blessed the Israelites in the Wilderness and points us to Christ who dies for us all, is also lifted up, as a sacrifice for our sin and the payment for our life with his own.
- FOLLOW CHRIST and FIND LIFE
- FOLLOW THE HOLY SPIRIT AND FIND GOD
- FOLLOW THE PAYMENT and SEE WHERE IT LEADS
Much of the evil and corruption we see in the world is tied to money and power that can be seen in the transactions of payment. The great three traded resources in our time are weapons, drugs, and people. Money is laundered to transact these commodities for power around the globe. This is when human trafficking, the war on drugs, and the quest to limit nuclear weapons and still new technologies as always at work behind the scenes. Money is given for oil, that is traded for weapons that are traded for drugs, that paid for with the lives of human trafficking and/or slave labor. It is a horrible system of evil at the deepest and highest levels.
We say, thankfully none of us do anything like that!
But we want our prices low at the discount stores; the largest cost is labor. The lower the price the less has been paid for labor. It is politically convenient for some to argue that we should raise the minimum wage to bring justice. But that is not the model to support. Somewhere the work has to be done and someone is paying the full cost.
If my shirt is made of cotton, it was grown by someone, harvested at the hands of others, traded and transported, prepared into clothing, transported, made into garments, packaged and transported, sold, and transported yet again. Who deserves what percent of the product? the grower, harvester, transporter, trader, weaver, designed, sewer, packer, shipper, or the retail salespersons at the end of the line? If the minimum wage doubles, would not the cost of each step also increase, and though the wage increase so would the value of the product and process. Bottom line, when we speak about cost and payment, someone makes the risk, the sacrifice, and therefore determines the true value.
The Value of Eternal Life has been paid through the sacrifice of God’s own Son, God’s grace, God’s work! Why? Because God loves us. Because God does not want to give up on us. God is not ready to be cast us away.
John 3:16-17 Gets all the attention
But let’s look at verses 18-21:
- “And this is the judgment,” with the proclaiming of Jesus as our means of salvation, he is also our advocate in Judgement. This is a reminder that just because we are with Jesus doesn’t mean we skip the final judgment.
- the light has come into the world,
- 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.
By What will be judged? Here is the scorecard: Light or Darkness, Love or Hate, Self or God, Evil or Good’s Righteousness.
The thing about sin is that it is an all-or-nothing dilemma. We are with God or we are not, We are in the light or dark, no 50 shades of grey with Righteousness. So we step up to the plate, we already have three strikes and are headed back to the dugout. Why try if we are out before we start. We don’t like this so we..
The best players in history bat in the 400s which means the very best strikeout or get out a majority of the time. Not too different from playing for the world’s team.
World’s Baseball teams: The Dark Nights, The Evil Weasels, the Hidden Hitters, the Shagging Shamers,
My prayer is that evil may be seen for what it is. If we were to see the real evils in the world we wouldn’t be less likely to look the others way and allow evil to have a pass.
When we believe that our own salvation is connected to exposing all that is hidden, in darkness, with the light of Christ, our passion is not kill-people-with-kindness (that’s always a miss used phrase)
We share the light of Christ because God wants the light of truth and life to reveal what is broken that it might be exposed, healed, redeemed, and transformed, buy the same grace that saves us.
We have more sense than a moth. A moth is drawn the light and will continue to attack the bulb until it burns it up. Why, the month is not very bright.
Why do we continue to do what is hidden, selfish, evil, sinful —
The world looks at the church says, We don’t like Christians because they are too judgemental. And we run around trying to find away to soften, couch, and even hide the truth until are able to explain the Good News. Yet…
Honestly we usually just keep letting things slide, and people think what they want so they will at least leave us alone, and we can just co-exist in some lowest common denominator or detent we vaguely call peace. And we become those who keep silent.
The implied instruction in the famous John 3:16-17 about Jesus is the summary of Grace, and 18-21 is the reason why we who are in Christ are called to expose evil, name the truth, stand for God’s righteousness.
But the moment we do, count on the power of evil not resist. Remember from the sermon on the Mount, Blessed are those who are persecuted FOR MY sake, for the purpose of revealing and teaching God’s righteousness and goodness.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Salvation is for those who hold fast to righteousness and speak the truth to evil, greed, pride, shame, deception, and all manifestation of sin and brokenness.
Read: Acts 23.10-13-14 (NRSV)
Image an organized group of people who are plotting to have you killed. That’s terrible! Luke shares an occasion when a group of over forty people, make oaths, to not stop until they have Paul killed. We may just one or two people who wish us ill will and we become paralyzed with fear. Remember Paul, who once was known as Saul, had a mission of targeting Christians, and now he is their target. If you, or someone you might know, are in the crosshairs of people at work, creditors, neighbors, or anyone it is a scary moment in our lives. What do we do when people conspire against us? Seek God’s strength, guidance, and fellowship with God’s People– the church.
Sometimes we join those who complain, gossip, and vilify a person or situation, and we become the conspirators. This happens in the community and in the church. It is easier to find someone to blame and we want them to solve the problem, pay the restitution, stop revealing the truth about our weaknesses and shame. Imagine what it would feel like to have forty people working together to trip you up, to point out your every flaw, to have you fired, to have you embarrassed, or to have you killed. Imagine if those forty people worked together for good rather than out of fear. Today is a day to be safe in God’s care. Stand up with those who are being attacked or demeaned. Stand with God and God will provide.
Active Rest: Call, message, email, or text 40 people and ask them to pray with you and become a team of God’s witnesses, not evil’s conspirators.
Prayer: Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen.