This weeks lectionary texts: Psalm 107:1–3, 17–22; Numbers 21:4–9; Ephesians 2:1–10; John 3:14–21
- In my nutshell: (PLEASE read them though. Seriously. Just click that link and spend 4 minutes of your day.)
- Numbers – God sends poisonous snakes to wandering Israelites. Moses says – what do I do about that??? God tells him to make a gold snake and put it on a stick. People still get bit – but then look at the gold one and they don’t die.
- Psalm – Oh give thanks to God – for God is GOOD. God saves you from trouble.
- Ephesians – You were dead: sin. God gave you life. By grace you have been saved. (not works) You were created in Jesus – made for good works intended by God.
- John – Just like Moses lifted up the gold snake – the son of man must be lifted up for the people as a sign for the people to believe so that they may have eternal life.
We hear in these texts an overwhelming promise of God’s redemptive love. As I sit with these texts I see a deep love from God to creation – a love that desperately wants to bring life where there is pain. Yet God does not take the easy path – just get rid of the snakes, take away the trouble, program humans to simply love and follow. God offers a deeper relationship. Instead of sweeping us up like plucking a rose off a bush – God comes near to us and offers a way of grace, a way of life.
I am a questions girl. I know that not every question has an answer. My poor mother called me her “why child” (sorry mom). I believe that everything has a purpose – a reason for why it is done. However, why can be the wrong question. It can be a question we hang on to, especially in the dark times. Why God, why did this happen to me? Some of the platitudes that try to answer this question can be worse than dwelling on the question.
- God won’t give you more than you can handle.
- If God brought you to it, he’ll bring you through it.
- When God shuts a door, he opens a window.
- Maybe God is using this to bring about something even better.
- What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
The tricky part here, is not dismissing problems and feelings, or placing blame or responsibility solely on God. We live in a world tied to human systems – systems that advantage some over others. There are many problems that a cheery disposition won’t fix – or even help. Sometimes we make Jesus into this gentle and soft child hugging person who always said the right things – like anger is a bad thing. We pretend and dismiss instead of sharing honestly.
Friends I believe that God gets angry. I believe that God laments. I believe God experiences our full range of emotions. The good news in these scriptures is not that God wants us to look on the bright side – it’s that God is always there with us. That God is always loving us. That God is always providing ways not to magically make our deep suffering go away – providing ways for us to live. To fully live with the grace and love of our creator – redeemed and loved. Called to do the work of God here on earth. To play our part in bringing about the kingdom. There are no promises that this will be easy or good.
My husband works as a crisis counselor. When he is on call, he gets calls at 12:30 am and has to respond. This is his work. This is good work. When he gets home at 7:00 and we kiss hello and goodbye as I go off to work it doesn’t always feel all that good. Yet this is good work.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to keep our spirits up and look on the bright side. (If you met me, you would know I am a cheerful spirit!) I’m saying that we need to be careful of our platitudes, and of perpetuating the lie that God sends the bad things that happen for some reason. Why may not be the right question here. Perhaps I may offer – where is the life in this chaos?
- I wonder…
- when you feel God’s presence the most in your daily life?
- what helps you when there are no good reasons?
- what gifts God has give you to bring about life?
- how the gift of grace makes you feel?
Oh Redeeming God, we come to you together as a community together through technology, grateful for your amazing gift of grace. Holy one it is you who set everything we know into motion. Help us to not be afraid of the feelings that come with living our lives. Dance with joy with us. Lament in our sorrows. Spirit, help us to feel your presence, especially when we are in trouble. Give us the confidence of the children of God to speak out against the evils of our world and to shine your light. In the name of Jesus we claim our power as heirs to your kingdom. Amen.