Looking at the RCL this week, I’m fairly struck by the theme of sin and sickness, and how tied they are in the Biblical text.
You have the Hebrews grumbling in Numbers 21, if there is anything the Exodus teaches you it is our impulse for whining when things are difficult, and the people are bitten by poisonous snakes. What are the things we are grumbling about that are going to turn back to us in the forms of poisonous snakes? I have no doubt that every individual congregation, as well as every denomination has these issues that need to be addressed in a way to stop the cycle of poison.
Psalm 107 opens up a petition to the Lord to be made free of the sickness and affliction of sin. I find this interested as so often we Christians use the language of purity to discuss the Bible. However, I am having many deep thoughts about illness being about when your cells and microbes are not behaving as they should. Cancer, for example, is often an overzealous clump of cells trying to grow where they are not supposed to grow. If I think of sin as the malfunction, as opposed to being only about purity. It broadens the scope, for me, of how it is sin comes into our lives, and how Jesus comes as a doctor to fix us. Because, we all know that no matter how much we wash and try to avoid germs, sometimes we still get sick. Its comforting to me to realize that all of my efforts to avoid and wash away sin do matter and help, but to also acknowledge that I will sometimes sin.
Its also telling for me to think on how Jesus healed people. So often Jesus’ statements were simple redirections, putting us back upon the right path, when we had gone astray–intentionally or unintentionally. Jesus practiced physical and spiritual healing. What practices do you find healing in your context? Where is Jesus most present in those practices? Can you emphasize or expand on those healing aspects, especially during the season of Lent?
John 3:14-21 is such a funny text, because eternal life is definitely one of the pieces that we humans want to focus on. But for me, when I realized that what followed John 3:16 (probably the only verse I’ve every memorized) was that “God came not to condemn the world, but to save it.” This is, for me, a bigger narrative that we need to focus on that Jesus came to save everyone, and not just for heaven, but on earth as well. I am also struck by our need to hate evil. As an American wrestling with the violence of guns, and the reality of the oppression of minorities, and a host of other things, I am convicted that I need to find ways to hate evil. The older I get, the more I believe there is real evil at work in the world, and the more I need Jesus, because I need that light to shine in the darkness, and I need to know that evil does not have the final say. Do you have a light/darkness duality that you find at work in your soul?
Finally, if John 3: 14-21 is the big picture of the work of God, then I think of Ephesians 2:1-10 to as the deeper explanation of God’s work. That the Spirit is already at work on those who are disobedient, which is really each and every one of us. The Word of God, here, is a word of hope. God is already working on each and every one of us, sharing the riches of God. The riches of God which are given not by good works, there is no bootstrap way to reach God. we cannot work our way into God’s good grace. Rather, we are each heirs to God’s richness of love, through the holy power of grace. Thus our job is not to be proud of ourselves, but rather recognize and share what the gift of God is to you, and to me. Its transformative, because we have to let Spirit do the work that needs to get done. Where is the Holy Spirit working? What is under construction right now? I pray that as you work with these texts that you find the ways that God is present to you right here and now in this word of God.