Lent IV, 21 March 2009
Numbers 21:4-9, Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22; Ephesians 2:1-10, John 3:14-21
“For by Grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not our own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Not my words, but yours oh, God!
Not my thoughts, but yours!
Not my heart nor soul, but yours!
Oh God, I humbly pray! Amen!
I am a member of an online lectionary study group where we bounce sermon ideas off each other each week. Since I noticed that our readings this week make reference to snakes, I asked my colleagues in the group if anyone knew any good jokes about snakes. Unfortunately for you, they did! So, here’s joke no. 1:
There where two snakes talking.
The 1st one said ‘Sidney, are we the type of snakes who wrap ourselves around our prey and squeeze and crush until they’re dead? Or are we the type of snake who ambush our prey and bite them and they are poisoned?
Then Sidney says “Why do you ask?”
The 1st one replies: “I just bit my lip!”
My colleague seems to think, and I agree with him, that there is a good metaphor for sin in that joke. See, the classic definition of sin is to be turned in on oneself, to think that ones internal power and ability is enough. The story of the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden is a great example. They were not satisfied by simply being human; they wanted to be God, which they were incapable of doing. They denied there humanity, their dependence on God. Turning in on themselves they were separated from God.
The balance to Adam and Eve is our Lord Jesus Christ, who though he had every right and the power to be God, denied his divinity and became fully human. He embraced his humanity to show us that human was all we needed to be in order to be members of the free Kingdom of God, free collaborators in the transformation of the world.
Here’s another snake joke for you:
An old snake goes to see his Doctor.
"Doc, I need something for my eyes, I can't see very well these days."
The Doc fixes him up with a pair of glasses and tells him to return in 2 weeks. The snake comes back in 2 weeks and tells the doctor he's very depressed.
Doc says, "What's the problem? Didn't the glasses help you?"
"The glasses are fine doc, but I just discovered I've been living with a water hose the past 2 years!"
Again, my colleague points out a metaphor. Once we were dead in sin but now we are alive in Christ? When we tried to live life through ourselves instead of Christ, we were blind. We could not see the world as it is, nor as it ought to be. We could not see the true nature of the powers that be that work through violence in our world, nor could we see how to resist these forces non-violently.
However, when we live in Christ, as Paul points out this week, we are alive and can see. Accepting our humanity just as Christ did, acknowledging that we are not God; for God alone is God is the first step on the path to freedom. Then accepting Christ as Lord is the next step. By denying the violent "powers that be" dominion over us--by pledging our allegiance to the non-violent path of Christ--we are freed to love God, our neighbors, and our selves because, as the Apostle writes, “we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” We called to be collaborators with God in the healing of the world.
One last and certainly least joke, with a wink & a nod to ol' St. Patrick:
Q: Why did St. Patrick drive the snakes out of Ireland?
A: He couldn't afford plane fare.
That joke, while lame, hinges upon how we perceive the word drive. Similarly, when we say we believe in the Jesus, we need to be clear about what we mean by the world believe. For instance, I believe that lung transplants work, but I’m not lying down on the table for one. When we say we believe in Jesus, we aren’t assenting to a mental proposition. We aren’t just saying we believe Jesus lived, died, and was raised from the dead. We are buying in with whole selves, committing every ounce of our being over to God’s project, God’s passion to transform the world. We are sacrificing ourselves from our desires and ambitions, our fears and faults, to be collaborators with God in the mission to heal the world.
Now it may seem that we are not worthy of this love of God, this call to be God’s partners. Be that as it may, I know we have what God wants. The Gospel today says “Whosoever” believes in Jesus. Whosoever. That means any body; that means everybody. We, the human race, are called into relationship with God. We were created to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul, and we always have our heart, mind, and soul to give to God.
It does not matter whether we golf with Donald Trump and Warren Buffet, or we clean gutters at a municipal course. It does not matter if we are world class athletes like NCAA Basketball players or if, we don’t what the 2-3 zone is. It does not matter if we are a Rhodes Scholars or a scraped by with a GED. It does not matter if we are one of the beautiful people or if no one will ever remember our face. Tall or short, handsome or ugly, rich or poor, smart or dumb, gay or straight, leader or follower, it does not matter. God simply loves you and wants you to love God with all that you are. What you have been given is what you are to give. For God so loved the world that God gave his only Son, so that whosoever believes in him will have eternal life.
Won’t you join with God today, and share this love with the world?
Won’t you join with God today, and help put the pieces of this broken creation back together?
My brothers and sisters, won’t you join with God today and strive for Justice and respect the dignity of every human being?
Won’t you walk this aisle and come to God’s Holy table?
Won’t you surrender all to Jesus?
My brothers and sisters, come to this altar. Bring all that you are and receive the body and blood of Christ. Then go. Then go and do not be what the world thinks you ought to be; rather be what you already are, the Body and Blood of Christ broken and shed for the world, collaborators in God’s passion, and active agents of God’s peace.
Love the World!
This sermon is also posted on the website of the Church of the Resurrection.