Our March 14 Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook. We are excited to say that our Sunday 8 & 10:30 am services are open again for in-person worship. Services will continue to be streamed online.
The March 21 Sunday worship service and March 17 Wednesday Lent service will be held with in-person attendance. We have returned to regular in-person worship services. We will still be wearing masks, social distancing and lots of hand sanitizer, but we will be open.
We are glad to share our worship with you. Click on “Contact Us” above to find out more about our faith family and what we believe.
Sermon March 14
Numbers 21:4-9 | Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
Ephesians 2:1-10 | John 3:14-21
The Israelites in the Wilderness: As the 40 days of the Season of Lent is a parallel to the 40 days in which Jesus was in the Wilderness, it also parallels the 40 years that the Israelites were in the Wilderness during the time of the Exodus.
By the time of the Numbers lesson, the Israelites had been freed from their slavery in Egypt, (by God’s mighty hand), God had led them through the sea, fought for them against Pharaoh and his army, and was even feeding them with the heavenly Manna, and what is their response? They complained about the food. They aren’t complaining about a lack of food. They are complaining about the taste of the food. By the way, when I visit someone in the hospital or a nursing home, guess what the number one complaint is? I have wondered if it is genetic to complain about food is certain situations. The Israelites aren’t in awe about how God has brought them out of Egypt. They aren’t in wonder about the miraculous nature of the Manna’s coming every morning to sustain them. No, this food tastes bad. “We detest this miserable food.” It sounds like kids at a table when you serve them turnips, Brussel sprouts, or rutabagas. It doesn’t matter what a person needs, or what is being done for them. It seems that the taste of the food is what really matters. Although, I’m a foody, so I can kind of understand.
Well, in this case, it was the wrong thing to say. God, evidently, is a picky chef. He sends snakes, perhaps as a food substitute. They do taste like chicken. Earlier in the Book of Numbers, God had sent quail – but they got very sick and vomited. But more likely God sent the snakes to get a little discipline and gratitude. After a few bites, and deaths, the people realize that they were out of line, and apologize/repent. To save them, God tells Moses to make a bronze serpent and lift it on a pole, so that those who look to the serpent may be saved. This symbol of a bronze serpent on a pole will go on to become the symbol of the medical profession. But, it is also a precursor of the crucifixion of Christ, through which we also may turn and be saved from the effects of another serpent, the serpent of the Garden of Eden. That is another parallel for us for the Season of Lent.
The Gospel text this morning contains one of the best known verses in the Bible, John 3:16, “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.” But, we forget the very fact of the context of that verse, namely the two verses before it, which gives us the parallel to the Numbers text this morning, and is a prediction of Jesus’ coming Passion on Good Friday, as he is crucified.
“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.” Jesus is telling Nicodemus, and his disciples, this early in John’s Gospel. It is exactly what is going to take place, and why. He is going to be crucified, and he is going to be crucified so that we might have life in his name through faith in him. He is the salvation which God has put forth to save us from our sins, in the manner of Moses’ serpent on a pole. He is using a scriptural example to explain to Nicodemus, “the teacher of Israel,” what is going to happen and why! He is explaining that there is a precedent in the Old Testament of how God saved the faithful in distress, to what will take place on Good Friday.
Jesus’ mission is one of grace, God’s grace. John 3:16 may be one of the best known verses in the Bible. But I have always liked John 3:17 even more. It goes even a step further in declaring God’s grace, “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.” I find it strange that you never see someone carrying signs with that printed on it. They only had to read one verse further! God does not want to condemn, but rather to save. Over and over, the Scriptures portray to us God’s desire to save, even in the midst of human disobedience.
Finally, the only way which was satisfactory is the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ, for our sake. Jesus’ ministry is an unswerving journey to accomplish that mission, to save us from the Wilderness of Sin, from the bite of the serpent which caused our Fall in Genesis, through the bite of a piece of forbidden fruit. His mission is accomplished by his death and resurrection, lifted on a cross. Then, raised from a tomb. It is all done for us, so that all who believe and look to Christ in faith, may be saved from the serpent of sin, death and evil which afflicts us. All of this is because of God’s desire and grace that we might be restored and saved through him. And so, we are freed and claimed to be children of God.