March 17, 2009

MARCH 17 – WHEN I GROW IMPATIENT

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By Greg Yoder, a senior music major from Perkasie, Pa.
SCRIPTURE: Numbers 21:4-9 (NRSV)Scroll down for complete Scripture.

DEVOTIONAL: Lent is a season of waiting. Like the people of God following Moses through the wilderness, I grow impatient. The constant reminders that Jesus is going to die wear on me, perhaps similarly to the ways in which miles and miles of walking, dry ground, heavy heat and miserable food wore on the people following Moses. After they spoke against the Lord and suffered the bites of venomous snakes, God told Moses that his followers could look to a bronze snake raised on a pole in order to avoid death. One might think of this image of the snake on the pole as foreshadowing Jesus, raised up on the cross — perhaps hoisted there in a way that might be saving.

The figure of Jesus on a cross is one that often manages to stop me in my impatient tracks. While I’d like to hurry through Lent and skip to the glorious resurrection of Easter, there is something about Jesus’ death that needs to be felt and experienced. The people of God surely felt pain when they were snake-bitten. They could turn their eyes to a raised, bronze snake and be reminded that God is not absent in the face of pain. As God’s people today know the pain of divorce, abuse, addiction, poverty, racism, gender inequality, depression and damaged relationships, we may turn our eyes to the image of Jesus on the cross and be reminded that we are not alone in our pain, that God is not absent in the face of pain, and that Jesus himself suffered through very human pain.

The grace of God alone lifts Jesus above Mount Gethsemane. The grace of God alone lifts the bronze snake above the poisoned heads of the people of Israel. And it is the grace of God alone that can lift us out of our impatience and into the painful darkness of Lent, that paradoxical, holy, uncomfortable celebration of the incomprehensibility of God and the realness of God’s presence.

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SCRIPTURE: Numbers 21:4-9 (NRSV)

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.’ Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.’ So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

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Comments (17)

  1. THanks Greg – I see you have a strong connection to music, what song do you sing today?

    Pam Harrison March 17, 2009 |
  2. Greg Yoder,
    What an excellent devotional. You have done a great job.

    Thanks!!

    Julia Leatherman March 17, 2009 |
  3. that is very well said!

    Ann March 17, 2009 |
  4. This is a very good thought for today. The comparison of the bronze snake on the staff to Christ on the cross is one I have never thought of. Praying to Christ to rid ourselves of the “poisonous venom” that afflicts us in our daily lives is a wonderful analogy.

    Mark R March 17, 2009 |
  5. Today’s reflection, and yesterday’s too, are helpful in letting me see the larger context in which we live our faith. Thanks so much to the writers who at Advent and Lent are part of my weekly sermon preparation.

    Phyllis Kramer March 17, 2009 |
  6. This really is thought provoking. Oh to be young again and to be able to think clearer and put it on paper! God’s blessing on your future.

    Julie Poteet March 17, 2009 |
  7. Thanks for the thoughtful reflection.
    Blessings to you!

    Rod Derstine March 17, 2009 |
  8. Thank you for an insightful meditation. I will carry it with me this week as I prepare a sermon for my community.
    Many blessings to you, Greg.

    The Rev. Ann Whitaker March 17, 2009 |
  9. thank you! I am not sure we are always aware of the poison in our heads or hearts. I am sure that the irrational faith that looking can result in living is most relevant in our hyper rationalized culture.

    Stu Buisch March 17, 2009 |
  10. The last word in the passage is live. They would look upon the serpent and live, not die. But it also isn’t, “be perfected” or “not have issues” or “not have pains” or “not have real life intrude upon their plans.” The word is that we will live, not die, but that the life we are given, while given by God, is still very much connected with this earthly life, a life which leads to Calvary Hill and Jesus.

    Janee March 17, 2009 |
  11. Greg, what a prayerful meditation. You brought up thoughts that are new to me and I thank you for that.

    Nancy March 17, 2009 |
  12. G, a timely reminder to be in tune with the presence of God as we grow impatiently impatient for graduation! -sheldon

    Sheldon C. Good March 17, 2009 |
  13. Greg: I appreciated the insights that you shared and the powerful analogy of God’s precious provision for us and all hurting and, at times, willful people. Truly, God does want us to experience Grace and abundant life.

    Irene Bechler March 17, 2009 |
  14. Thank you for some “saving Grace” in preparing for Lent IV B’s sermon…expansive thought and deeper spirituality.

    God bless you…

    Helen M. Moore+

    Helen M. Moore March 17, 2009 |
  15. Wow! God spoke to me through you today. Thank you!

    Howie March 18, 2009 |
  16. Dear Greg. Your comments hit me right where I am. I am continually on the go trying to multi-tasked all my obligations into 24 hours. Your reflection made me stop and think about what is really important. Impatience is keeping me from developing a stronger relationship with God. Thank you so much.

    Cynthia Torres-Nusse March 18, 2009 |
  17. Elvis, good stuff. Follow on…

    Tuna March 28, 2009 |