Fourth Sunday in Lent – Recorded Live

Today’s Collect

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Numbers 21:4-9

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22

Ephesians 2:1-19

John 3:14-21

This morning I would like to look briefly at all three of our readings as they share a common message.  In our Gospel lesson we have the familiar words of John 3:16 and we are reminded that God loves the whole world, the entire world…both the loveable and the unloveable.  In Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesis, he reminds his readers that we are saved by grace through faith.  Our salvation is a gift from God.  And, finally our Old Testament story illustrates for us the need to place our faith in God and to trust in his word.

During their forty years of wondering in the wilderness, the Israelites seemed to be continually complaining about one thing or another.  They didn’t like the food or there wasn’t enough water.  Even though God had provided for their every need the complaints were endless.  On an occasion, God told Moses to take Aaron’s rod and go and speak to a rock in order to bring forth water.  For whatever reason, Moses chose to strike the rock and although God provided the water, Moses was told that because of his disobedience he too would not be allowed to enter into the promised land.  While this may seem to be a harsh punishment, we see that God expects his children to be obedient and he is prepared to punish those who aren’t.

Because of the Israelites continued sinfulness, God sent a plague of deadly serpents into their camp and large numbers of people were dying.  God told Moses to duplicate the image of the serpent and raise it up on a pole.  The people were told to look to the image and believe and they would be saved.  It obviously wasn’t the image of the snake that saved the people, but it was their acknowledgment of God’s saving power.

In our reading from John, we see Jesus using this familiar imagery by saying that the Son of Man would have to be lifted up in order for the people to be saved.  He was referring to his being lifted up on the cross and later lifted up into heaven to once again be with his father.

We are reminded of what it means to believe in Christ.  We are called to believe that God is who Jesus said he was.  We are to believe that Jesus is the son of God.  And finally, we are called to be obedient to God’s commandments.

Christ offered his followers eternal life, but what does that mean?  It is a life enveloped in peace.  Peace with God, peace with ourselves, and peace with one another.  John 3:16 makes it very clear that God isn’t acting for his own sake, but for ours.  God can not be happy until his wandering children have come home.

St. Augustine wrote that, “God loves each of us as if there was only one of us to love.”  But there is a paradox in this morning’s lesson between love and judgment.  God is prepared to love each of us, however if a man chooses to turn his back on God’s love then that man, not God, has condemned himself.

The paradox found in Paul’s letter is that while we are saved by grace and not by anything that you or I might do, we are still meant to do good works understanding that our good works come as a result of God’s salvation…not the cause of it.  

The Psalmist wrote, “O give thanks to the Lord for He is good” and we remember those words each week as we come together to worship at his altar.  Because God is good….all the time.  All the time….God is good.

An Act of Spiritual Communion

“My Jesus, I belie that you are present in the holy sacrament of your body and blood.  I love you above all things and I desire to receive you into my soul.  Since I cannot at this time receive you sacramentally, I invite you to come spiritually into my heart.  I embrace you as if you were here with me and I unite myself with you fully.  Never permit me to be separated from you.  Amen

A Prayer for the Church and Benediction:

Almighty and everliving God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth, hear our prayers this parish family. Strengthen the faithful, arouse the careless, and restore the penitent.  Grant us all things necessary for our common life, and bring us all to be of one heart and mind within your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be among you, and remain with you always.  Amen.

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