The readings for Sunday, March 11, 2018:
First Reading: Numbers 21:4-9
Psalm: Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
Second Reading: Ephesians 2:1-10
Gospel: John 3:14-21
There are some Bible texts that are so prominent that it's hard to imagine that we could find something new to say about them. This week's Gospel includes one of them, John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
I spent my childhood and adolescent years in a variety of small, Southern towns, and this text was often used as one to exclude people. Most responses to the text that I've seen zero in on the idea that we must believe in Jesus to have eternal life, and I'm certain that I don't want to wander into that theological muck. I used to be able to spend many hours deliberating whether or not a Hindu could go to Heaven, or an atheist or your beloved pet.
Now I'm much more interested in how we live our lives here--not so that we get into Heaven, but so that we participate in God's visions for us and for the larger world.
Today, let us focus on the text that reminds us that God doesn't enter the world to condemn us--many pop culture preachers forget that. But almost every verse of this week's Gospel reminds us that God comes to us out of love, not judgment. God comes, not to cast us into shadows. Most of us spend many hours dwelling in murkiness. God comes to lead us into the light.
Many of us have come from Christian traditions which would find this theology strange. Many of us have been scarred by a theology of a divine judge who finds us wanting. Many of us fear hell.
Think about the lives we're leading--maybe that's the punishment. God has come, not to punish us further, but to save us from our punishment, which is our current lifestyle.
As we move through our days, we could use our own internal judgment to ask ourselves if we're moving towards light or towards murk. Which activities lead us towards the life we'd like to live? Which ones take us further away?
Each person might answer that question differently. Coffee with friends might be a life-affirming break that helps us survive a tough work day or it might devolve into gossip and pettiness. We might be so available to help others that our family members feel neglected.
That's why it's important to keep asking the question, to keep making sure that our lives are on a trajectory towards light. We are like airplanes, which are notoriously difficult to pilot, given that humans aren't meant to fly. That's why airplanes are equipped with a variety of monitors, so that if one system fails, another can keep the plane from tragedy.
We need a similar set of systems. We need an internal compass, one that steers us towards a good, well-lived life. We need to continuously ask questions of our activities, to make sure our compass stays calibrated. We need to surround ourselves with like-minded people who will partner with us, instead of sabotaging us. Inasmuch as we can, we need to align ourselves with institutions that have values of good rather than values of evil.
If we take a self-inventory and realize that we've gone off track, the Gospel gives us the good news that it's not too late. And little changes can lead to quite a different destination.
Our world is desperately in need of the light that Christians can provide. We live in a world of rampant Capitalism, which is doing a wide range of harm. The world needs our message of something that is more vital, something that is more important than making money and buying more stuff.
We can be the lighthouses that lead people to safer shores.
feeling the feelings…
2 years ago