I stand before you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Please God we know You are always with us, fill this congregation with your grace and help us retain Your Perfect Love. Amen.
I’m going to start this sermon with some fitting quotes.
“I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead; I lift my eyes and all is born again.” – Sylvia Plath
“The world only exists in your eyes. You can make it as big or as small as you want.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Snakes, why did it have to be snakes?” Indiana Jones from Raiders of the Lost Ark, when he discovers the Well of Souls is crawling with them. The Well of Souls in the movie is a place that was created to hide the Ark of the Covenant.
The Well of Souls is actually a real cave beneath the great stone of Mount Moriah where Abraham was preparing to sacrifice Isaac. Unfortunately, I have no idea if this is where the Ark of Covenant is being hidden.
That’s it for the quotes. Now some questions. What is wrong with me? What is wrong with you? Has anyone asked you that? Have you asked yourself that?
Here’s a few more questions…
Who is Jesus? If He walked into this church right now how would you SEE Him? How would you perceive Him? What would you do? Would you trust your own EYES?
Quick answer: a tall, well-built middle-eastern 30-something man with long hair, a beard and a lot of scars.
Why would He have a lot of scars? Because there was no other way. I repeat there was no other way. Remember that just like you do when we partake of the Holy Communion. Jesus had to die. He was born to die.
Instead of a man, would you expect an animal or a reptile? A lamb or a serpent? Maybe a bronze serpent?
The serpent is one of our world’s oldest symbols. It even represents the field of healthcare and medicine. In scripture, it usually represents a crafty, sneaky, deceptive creature with deadly venom.
Let’s see what our readings tell us about our problem, what’s wrong with us, and our savior and why we need to be saved..
According to our reading from Ephesians. We are all spiritually dead because we follow Satan and the ways of this world. Spiritual deadness is a condition that comes from the source of evil. We tend to accept our fallen state because we SEE it in the world around us. We shouldn’t accept it as the norm. We aren’t just existing in life, we were made alive. God makes us alive. Jesus saved us. Any faith and life we have is a result of God’s gift of grace.
According to our reading from Numbers the Israelites trust in God has faded away like their footprints in the shifting sands of the Sinai Peninsula. They came to resent God and His provisions. They quickly lost their love and fear of God. And this angered God. He sent serpents whose bites burned like fire until the one bitten died in agony. Many died. The people finally acknowledged and accepted their sin. They go to Moses and ask him to pray to God to take the serpents away. God has Moses build a bronze serpent, set it on a wooden pole and lift it up. The people who were bitten looked upon it and were healed.
Again the quote, “Snakes, why did it have to be snakes?”
Our problem is evil. I don’t know when evil came about or when Satan was created. My best guess according to scripture is between Genesis chapter 1, verse 1 and verse 2. All I know for sure is that the Angels were around to witness the creation of the Earth.
When did evil get into Satan? Again, I would need to guess. My guess would be after the first week of creation. Now. what is evil?
For this answer, I turn to one of the prophets and the book of Genesis.
Has a nation changed its gods,even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit.
Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
These verses tell us that the cosmos are upset by this. We have abandoned God. God the fountain of living waters. And we’ve broken our cisterns. Our water tanks are broken. In my first sermon I explained how to connect to the sermon by being open to His grace. The problem is that we let His grace flow through us instead of holding onto it. We are broken. I tried to explain what the prophet Jeremiah has already said. We have abandoned God and our cisterns are now broken. And where is our cistern? This is the core of our being. We are broken on the inside. Deep inside. And how can that be fixed? The solution would need to integrate itself deep into our system. Be a part of our world.
Our two evils He says. We mostly ignore God and when we don’t we let Him slip right through our fingers, through our very being. He being God speaking through the prophet Jeremiah. What is true evil? For more detail as to the very definition of evil we turn now to Genesis.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
We are creatures ruled by our perception. The human limitations we use to mold our reality. Our truth. We’re born with big heads to contain our almost full grown eyes because we’re born to SEE our reality. SEE the truth. Eve SAW the tree. It was a delight to her EYES. The tree will make us wise so we do not need God’s wisdom. Adam and Eve desired something MORE than God. This is the definition of evil. This is what the first and most important commandment is all about. Many will use terms like disobedience or rebellion but those terms don’t sum it up for me.
The ultimate evil of ourselves is desiring, wanting, treasuring, valuing, loving something more than we love God. We place another God before God. I see disobedience and rebellion as breaking the commandment. That is knowledge of the law. That’s a confirmation that the essence of evil is already in place because we broke our cisterns. We let His grace flow right through us. God is no longer our first love. The honeymoon is over.
The reading from Ephesians was right. We are all spiritually dead because we follow Satan and the ways of this world. Want more proof? Think of someone you absolutely love and listen to. SEE that person in your head. Imagine that person has a plan to save your life. Their plan involves them being completely humiliated and brutally murdered and knowing all about it beforehand. First they are arrested and beaten at night. Then in the morning they will be beaten some more and whipped severely. Then a crown of thorns twisted onto their head and hammered in place with wooden rods. Lastly, they will be marched to their place of execution and nailed to a cross to die slowly in excruciating pain and struggling to breathe. And when they are finally dead your life will be saved. Would you agree to this plan? Or would you try to come up with another plan of your own?
Satan questioned this plan, tried to come up with his own plan and was cast out of heaven for it. We questioned God’s plan for us, followed our desire and were cast out of Eden. Yeah, it’s pretty clear now isn’t it.
The passion is gone. How do we get it back? Let’s study our Gospel.
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
Again, why did Moses lift up the serpent? His people were impatient and grumbling against God’s provisions. So God sent snakes with burning, deadly venom. The people now understood His wrath and needed to be saved from it.
In the book of Exodus, Aaron cast down the staff and it becomes a snake. Pharaohs magicians did the same with their staffs. But Aaron’s staff in the form of a serpent swallowed up theirs. The symbol of evil swallows up all the other evil.
Christ carries our sin and becomes the greatest sinner, that great symbol of evil. Think about that. Truly dwell upon that. Christ swallows up God’s wrath. Jesus, the lamb of God because the bronze serpent on the pole, the serpent from the staff, the snake in the tree. God to man, man to lamb, lamb to serpent.
15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
How many times have we heard this? Has the shock value worn off? He still hovers over the chaos of the Earth. His Love covers everything. “For God so loved…” The Master, The Creator, The Father of Everything Loved as Only He Can Love. God’s Perfect Love In His Perfect Way. The Perfect Love of The Perfect God is Perfectly Demonstrated for the World. God Reveals Himself. The Core of His Being. His Perfect Heart and Essence. And what does He Love?
“The world.” Every part and parcel of the System He created. Every person of every race and tribe, every living creature that has been impacted by the essence of pure evil. He loves you! He loves the broken you and SEEs the perfection of you. Don’t ever doubt that you are loved. You are loved perfectly by the being who is Love!
“That He gave His only Son.” What does it take to give yourself? To give of yourself? To give your only son? To sacrifice a child? God gave us everything He could. He gave Himself. He gave Himself in the form of His own Son. This is the perfect revelation of true Faith. Father Abraham understood this. Father Abraham had great faith. He understood God’s plan and God’s promise. When He was commanded to sacrifice his only son he went to carry out the act no questions asked. The act not only shows the faith of Abraham but it also reveals something about God. In a time when other religions and supposed gods (Baal and Moloch to name a couple) required child and human sacrifice here is our God making the same request for the same sacrifice BUT what happens. On the third day, on the Mount where the temple will be built and Christ will die for us, father Abraham tells his servants that when he and his son are done worshiping God they will both return. Abraham knew God’s plan that one of his offspring will be resurrected and he knew God’s promise that Isaac would begat a nation. He told the servants, “We will return.” I don’t know if he thought that Isaac would be resurrected or if he just knew that God would intervene and provide the sacrifice but he acted with incredible faith. A faith we should understand. A faith we should have. Father Abraham understands this verse and especially this part.
And remember Jesus is God. God gave Himself. He took on the sin of the world. The subject of this sentence is God’s Love not just Jesus. In the Old Testament sin required a sacrifice. In the New Testament, Jesus dies for our sin. However, do not exalt the Son and exclude the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus cried out, “Why have You forsaken Me?” He had to feel the punishment for our sin. Again, there was no other way. That Friday, God the greatest, uncreated perfect being divided Himself and allowed Himself to be broken to be truly Man in order to be infected with our pandemic sin so that it could be destroyed from the inside out with His unceasing and perfect Love.
And why? So that when we die our eternal death is conquered because of what He did and then we are allowed into Heaven with out Father. The greatest gift ever and we did and do nothing to deserve this. We need to believe. We need to fix our cisterns. Accept that our cisterns can be fixed. We can retain His grace.
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.
21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
Do we live our life as if we are in God’s spotlight? Do we live in the light? Do we put things before God? Do we SEE God or the church as inconvenient? Do we prefer our temptations? Can we survive the wilderness without God?
Jesus was cast into the wilderness for us and tempted the way we are. Food for His hunger. then shown the kingdoms of the world and lastly to test God and try a different plan. Lust of the flesh and the eyes. Pride of Life. You want to fix your cistern? Want to fix your broken vessel? Heal your sinful state? READ HIS WORD!!! LOOK TO GOD!!! SEE JESUS LIFTED UP!!!
Jesus says there will be a falling away before He returns and even asks, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
This is what the we are doing to ourselves and our world. Our reality, our perception. We broke everything and refuse to accept it. We definitely refuse to forgive. We grow in our hate and rage against the system we created for ourselves. We’re forgetting to love and forgive and we are clearly forgetting to SEE God. Where do we SEE Jesus lifted up? If we looked in our hearts or into the core of our being what would we SEE. What would Jesus SEE?
Again, I beg you. Fix your cistern! Fix your broken vessel! And if you can’t fix it ask God to fix it! Heal your sinful state! Live your life in His spotlight! I challenge this church to let Jesus find faith when He returns! READ HIS WORD!!! LOOK TO GOD!!! SEE JESUS LIFTED UP!!! ACCEPT GOD’S HOLY GRACE AND HOLD ONTO TO IT!!! YOU NEED IT!!! WE ARE LOST WITHOUT IT!!!
In His Holy Name,