4th Sunday of Lent
March 15, 2015
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“It’s just human nature!” said my book club friend as we were carefully and respectfully having a serious discussion about the movie “American Sniper” and war and soldiers in general. Her point was that it was a normal part of our nature to use violence to get what we feel we have a right to have and to protect what we treasure. The fact is that no matter where you stand on hawk or dove spectrum, you understand that it is never easy to ask young men and women and their families to sacrifice the lives of our children at their most idealistic time in life. It is brutal and some people never recover from the losses incurred. But it is a fact of life that such violence is the default of every society when it feels threatened and the first step is rarely an attempt to sit down and thrash out an agreement before anyone loses their life. It’s just our human nature. Maybe our human nature is the very thing from which Jesus came to save us.
How many times have you heard John 3:16? It’s often used as a way to ask people to make a choice to invite Jesus into their lives so that they may now be assured of their eternal life in heaven when this life is over. But after reading the story of Moses lifting up the bronze serpent in the desert, and hearing Jesus talk about being lifted up, we get a little different perspective. John talks about Jesus’ “being lifted up” as his triumph, his victory over all that separates people from God. It is not your life in heaven after this life that he’s talking about, he’s talking about the life you live every day.
What good is it if trust in God through Jesus is only something you can collect when this life is over? I’m sorry, but if my faith doesn’t make a difference in how I face every day, then it isn’t any good to me. I need to know and trust that the eternal life that is promised to me begins on the day that I open my eyes to the fact that God has already intervened in my life with a love that frees me from my fear and my failure. Jesus says that he didn’t come to condemn us, to put us further from God’s love, but to bring us into the arms of a God who could bring us hope and show us another way to live beside the ‘human nature’ that defaults to violence and brutality.
On Wednesday night we met Shane Hipps on DVD, who talked about salvation being a moment to moment dwelling in God’s love and God’s way rather than only being about what happens to us at the end of our life here on earth. He claimed that the release from anxiety and fear that we experience in prayer, that the breakthroughs we experience when we read Scripture or come to the Lord’s Table, are all part of the salvation promised to us. “Those who believe in him are not condemned, but those who do not believe are condemned already because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God,” says Jesus. It’s not believing that separates people from God’s love, not that God withholds love from anyone. The people bitten by snakes only had to look up to be healed, nothing else. They didn’t have to repent, or make promises, they only had to trust that looking was enough and everything in their future changed.
I remember when my youngest, Melissa was in First Grade. She often walked home from school with her friends who lived on the other side of the block. I usually got a call from a Mom if she stayed very long. It was getting close to dinner, and I hadn’t seen her and I was worried. I checked her usual places on our side of the block and walked around to Travie’s house. No one had seen her. It was not normal. I checked up and down the street again, and began to be scared. I called Travie’s Mom again, obviously panicking. “You sound so scared,” she said, “can I pray for you?” Yeah, I thought, yeah. Prayer would be nice while I checked the neighborhood again. “Yes, of course,” I said. She began to pray, right there over the phone! “Blessed Father, we pray for your child Melissa and for her mother,….” I don’t even remember. I was crying. I could feel my heart release. I was saved from my terror. “Call me again in ten minutes, if Melissa’s not home yet and I will help you knock on doors,” she said. It was starting to get dark, and there Melissa was, with tales of a new friend she’d gone home with.
We are not condemned to live only according to our human nature, the one that is filled with fear and strikes out at the world. God so loved us that when we trust in that love, we are saved from the things that kill us, that rob us of real life. We are saved to see with God’s eyes, and to care for each other. Our salvation is available day by day from now into eternity, when we will step into the light that never ends. You don’t have to wait for eternal life, it has been won for you already. You get to live it every day. Amen.