Sunday, March 18, 2012

Root, root, root for the home team... Sermon for Year B Lent 4


We have been traveling through Lent with a different song
each week which reflects our scripture readings.
Lent 1 was THE RAINBOW CONNECTION (Noah and the rainbow in the sky).
Lent 2 we had “Get behind me, Satan” and the song was BEWITCHED, BOTHERED AND BEWILDERED.
Last week it was a bit of a struggle to find the right song for Lent 3.
But finally I saw clearly
and, because the disciples understood what Jesus was saying
after he died,
I picked Johnny Nash’s I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW.

But this week was a snap.
I knew immediately what the song would be when I read the gospel reading the very first time.
You might have already guessed it.
Here’s a hint..
[Reach in bag and pull out a baseball cap and put it on.]
How about this?
[Hold up sign that says JOHN 3:16]


That song came to mind because at a baseball game (other sports too sometimes)
there is almost always at least one person in the stands
holding up a sign
that simply says: JOHN 3:16.

I wonder if people who don’t know that verse actually go home
and take the time to look it up in the Bible.
And even if they don’t have a BIble, they can find it on their computer.
In today’s world you can google JOHN 3:16 and find the verse:


A beautiful verse.
Some people say that John 3:16 is the New Testament in a nutshell.

But you may be shaking your head and thinking,
JEANNE, JEANNE, that’s very interesting
but there are a lot more interesting things going on in these readings today.
DId you see the parts about snakes?

DId you see that GOD not only sends his son in John’s gospel
but God sends snakes in the Old Testament reading
from the book of Numbers--
God sends snakes and it says right here in black and white
..and the snakes bit the people..and people died!!!????

What’s going on here?

Is this the same God?
A God who sends poisonous snakes
and then a God who sends his son?
A God who sends snakes to bite and kill people
and a God who sends his Son to love and save people?

And we wonder why people sometimes shy away from the Old Testament!

I mean, after all, the Israelites are ONLY complaining, whining--
they don’t like the food, they’re tired,
they wish they hadn’t come on this journey at all.
Should people be killed for complaining?!!!
(Many of us hope not!)

But you see the Israelites have forgotten.
They have forgotten that this journey is not some wild ride
across the desert that Moses initiated and mapped out.
This journey is God’s idea.

This journey is the journey that will save them--
save them from the Egyptians,
from slavery,
from misery.
This journey will lead them to full being as God’s people.
But they have forgotten why they needed to leave Egypt in the first place.
They thought that as soon as they left
everything would be perfect. Easy street.

Sometimes we, too, think that way--
if we just find the perfect job, the perfect house, the perfect car,
the perfect person-
everything will be easy,
Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks
I don’t care if I ever come back...

You see, the snakes are just a reminder.
Complaining and grumbling is what bites us.
If we lose hope, if we think we are running the show instead of God,
if we can’t see beyond the darkness and despair,
then, in so many ways, we are already dead.

The Israelites have forgotten.
They have forgotten that they are on their way home.
They have forgotten the purpose of this journey.
They aren’t happy with the way things are working out
and they forget--or stop believing--
what God has promised.
They are on a journey that will lead them to the Promised Land,
literally and physically
and spiritually.

The Promised Land is not just about heaven;
the promised land is about growing to become the people--the person--
God created us to be.
All growth does not occur in bright sunlight.
There are times of darkness, there are soaking rains--
there are even those occasional snakes.
Not an easy journey.

It is easy to lose hope.
It is easy to despair.
It is certainly easy to complain.
Because the truth is life is hard.
Sometimes very hard.

Life can be a treacherous journey.
We have to step very carefully through the desert of our anxieties and fears or we too will likely be bit.
We too can easily forget the light and love that surround us.
We can stumble and allow darkness to swallow us--
or we can pick ourselves up, skinned knees and all,
and go on.

God wants us to live.
God wants us to look up.
God wants us to know what true love really is.

For God so loved the world---
that is true love.
God loved us and all creation into being.

...that he gave his only Son...
whatever your theology,
whatever your status as a parent or non-parent,
we know this gift, this love
is immense and unconditional.

What this gospel tells us is that God gives us everything.
Absolutely everything.
Nothing is held back.

We need to look up and see that.
We need to stop whining and grumbling about all that we do not have.
We need to worry less about the snakes and the snake bites
and celebrate more what we are given as our daily bread.
And some days,
that is all we will get: just one day’s bread.

God is not an almighty umpire
wanting to call three strikes and throw us out of the game.

God is not a cheerleader either--that is our work to do.
We are here on this planet to be cheerleaders for one another.
To encourage each other, to care for each other.
You know,’s root, root, root for the home team...

God is more like the coach at home plate.
Calling us to come home--
home to God’s deep love for the world and us.
God’s deepest desire
is for all of us to make it home.
Every one of us.

For God so loves the world.
For God so loves you and me.
For God so loves.


farmstros said...

Search engines are an interesting thing. I was looking for articles about the Astros new slogan for 2012 ROOT, ROOT, ROOT, and i was brought to this article of yours posted today. Your description of the fan in the stands made me think of an old Steve Taylor song "BANNERMAN". It is a tribute to the guy with the rainbow hair who started that tradition. Your whole post made me think of a baseball poem I wrote a few years back around Easter time- about striking out and still miraculously succeeding. Please give it a read if you have a chance.

Tom E said...

This was a great sermon and even better in person to see the ball cap and sign for Jon 3:16! Thanks Jeanne.