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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 2, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 9, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 16, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…

Lent 4B RCL March 18, 2012

Numbers 21: 4-9
Psalm 107: 1-3, 17-22
Ephesians 2: 1-10
John 3: 14-21

Our Lenten journey is mirrored in the journey of God’s people. They have to go around the land of Edom because the Edomites have not granted them permission to cross their territory. The people become impatient. They forget all that they went through making bricks for the pharaoh in Egypt, all the suffering and the slavery. They are thinking only of the great food they had there, and the water, and all the comforts. This is so helpful to us thousands of years later because we do the same thing.

 Sometimes, when the journey becomes particularly challenging, we tend to look back on times in the past when, as we recall though rose-colored glasses, everything was so much better and things went so much more smoothly. Nostalgia can be deceptive. As we look back with that idealized vision, we can forget the bondage that was involved. At any rate, the people start to complain about Moses and his leadership and about God.

 The text says that God sent poisonous snakes. In those times, everything was attributed to God. The snakes bite some of the people and they die. The people come to their senses.  They realize that they have sinned against God. They have not trusted God to lead them. Moses prays to God, and God instructs him to make a serpent and set it on a pole. The people look on the serpent and are healed. In ancient times, snakes were thought of as having healing properties. To this day, the symbol of the medical profession, the caduceus, is a staff with two snakes wound around it and two wings at the top. The people look at the serpent and they are healed. The journey goes on.

 Our gospel for today begins by referring to the lifting up of that healing serpent in the wilderness journey of the people of God. Jesus is going to be lifted up on that horrible instrument of torture and death, the cross. He will also be lifted up at the resurrection into new life and he will be lifted up at the ascension.

This portion of John’s gospel follows Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a leader of the Temple, who comes under cover of night to meet Jesus. Jesus tells him he must be born again. The first step in being born again is to believe that Jesus has faced every form of death and has overcome all of them. This is where we read that stirring summary of the Good News, “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son so that everyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Jesus came to share God’s love, but God’s love is like the light. It shows things as they truly are. We can’t hide anything. Jesus has come to bring everything into the light. As the hymn says, we are called to walk as children of the light.

 In today’s epistle, Paul talks about how our Lord came to us when we were living in the passions of our flesh. For Paul the flesh does not mean the physical body, but self-centeredness.  When we do whatever we want to do, without any thought for others and with no thought for the consequences of our actions, things can go downhill fast. When all we are thinking of is ourselves and our wants, which we often frame as needs, we become alienated from God, from other people, and from our true selves. Also, there is no sense or community if each person is living only for himself or herself. As a Pharisee, Paul also knows how it feels when we have a code of laws to follow but we just can’t do it.

 In the face of this human dilemma, Paul writes, “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

 Have you ever felt enslaved to something? To a habit, perhaps, or to a trait of character you wanted to get rid of but just couldn’t seem to shake? Have you ever kept breaking one of the Ten Commandments over and over? I think Paul could probably answer yes to all of those questions, and I think many of us can as well. We try and try and we just can’t get out of that pit.

 The love of God, expressed in the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord, is our way out of that pit. It’s a path to new life, life in an entirely new landscape, with a completely different outlook, so  different that it feels like being born again, and, for all practical purposes, it is as though we were a new person.

 Paul puts it so well. He writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

We have a wonderful reminder of this in the banner which DiAnne made and which hangs here to inspire us.

 God has given us a great gift—the gift of newness of life. This gift has required nothing of us. We did not have to earn it. God loves us so much that God comes among us and gives us this gift. But we do need one thing, one thing in order to open this gift. God also gives us this one thing—the gift of faith. 

 This fourth Sunday in Lent marks a turning point, a lightening up in the discipline. In years past, we called it “Mothering Sunday.” People went to visit their mothers. People also enjoyed the delicious fruit cake known as simnel cake.

 Let us take some time today to think about this gift we have been given—the gift of faith and the gift of new life in Christ. Let us take time to give thanks for God’s immeasurable love. And let us remember that nothing can separate us from that love.

 “By grace through faith….”

 

                                                           Amen.

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