March 16, 2021

MESSAGE – Sunday 14th March 2021 4th Sunday in Lent

It’s a week of looking up. For the Israelites in the wilderness, it was looking up at a bronze snake that would open them to God’s healing from the poisonous snakes in their camp. For Nicodemus it was looking up at the Christ who promised that when he was lifted up he would draw all people to himself. And now for us, we are called to look up, both as an act of repentance, turning away from what poisons us, and as an act of faith, trusting in God’s grace and salvation.
On the borders of the Promised Land a generation who had never lived in Egypt (or, at least were too young to remember living there if they had) complained about the hardship of the wilderness and longed to “return” to Egypt. Hundreds of years later, Jesus uses the story of the plague of snakes that attacked these rebellious Israelites, and the bronze snake that God instructed Moses to erect for their healing, to describe the healing work he had come to do.
A key to both stories is the willingness to admit what plagues us. To find healing the Israelites had to “look up” to the bronze snake. This was an act of repentance, turning their eyes from the fiery snakes, to the God who had cared for them for decades and now offered them healing.
Those who love darkness, says Jesus, will not look up to him when he is lifted up, because to do so would take repentance and an admission of their need. Those who are unashamed and willing to come to the light will look up and find life. In the same way the Psalmist tells that those who rebelled but then repented found healing and were forgiven and saved.
Finally, in Ephesians we are reminded that it is God’s grace in Christ that saves us, which we appropriate simply by faith – which means that we recognise our need, and turn to God to meet it. The invitation of this week’s Lectionary, then, is that God graciously and freely saves us, but, to live as “saved” people, we need to recognise our need, repent and look up to Jesus. The result of this, as Ephesians tells us, is a life of good works. We are saved by grace, changed by repentance and called to a life of meaning and abundance in the good works God has prepared for us. All of this means we face a decision today: Where do we need to repent, and how can this change our lives so that we become followers of Christ who bring grace to others through our good works?
Rev Tania writes: In prayer, Rev Tania.