Sermon Lent 4b 2015: What Funny Signs God Uses to Save Us Introduction: Looking for Signs

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1 Sermon Lent 4b 2015: What Funny Signs God Uses to Save Us Introduction: Looking for Signs We live by signs; We live by symbols or marks or indications or even hints To help us understand our lives, to give us direction; To give us hope in our darkest moments that there is something and someone more. We don t always need to have it all explained us, a sign will do Some of the signs we live by are funny and lighten the load we may be carrying Or give us some broader understanding about what this life is all about; Or a clue that we re on the right path or that we re on the wrong path.. I love signs along the road or at stores because they often convey things in a mixed up way Or give you more information than you really needed, Like the sign in the new building that read Attention, please make sure elevator is here before stepping in. Or punctuation issues like the sign at a Days Inn Hotel over Memorial Day last year that read: We remember all who have served hot breakfast Sometimes signs are trying to do too much. Mel s Diner in Delaware broadcast that it is family owned And directly underneath that phrase read, Shut up, no you shut up, open 24 hours. A sign sent to me by a friend read No wifi, talk to each other, call your Mom, pretend it s 1993 Amy sent me a sign that reads, Old dog, young dog, several stupid dogs, please drive slowly. And then there are those wonderful church signs trying to convey Christian messages like Salvation guaranteed or your sins cheerfully refunded; And God help me to be the person my dog thinks that I am. We live by signs to let us know that we re heading in a positive direction Like a good grade in school or a promotion or a raise at work; Or a friend who calls you up out of the blue just to say hi that lets you know you matter. 1

2 We live by signs when we re trying to make a decision about a next step; You ve said it or heard someone say, It s a sign ; It s a sign when something coincidental happens or a whole day goes well or really poorly; We think, it s a sign! Or this may be a sign; And though it doesn t tell the whole story, it may be just the nudge we need; To keep going or to check ourselves and head in a different direction. And we live by signs even more when we re in a time of despair or difficulty; In times when life seems to be offering up defeat instead of victory; We look for signs that reveal what s really possible And what we re capable of us people and as a community. I am honored in my ministry to be with people in some of their darker moments, When hope is thin and sadness is welling up in the hospital or at home or at a funeral; And the sign of presence and maybe a couple of gracious words and a prayer Can make all the difference in keeping hope alive. And in these darker moments or in the middle of the night when we re facing our problems Or contemplating our existence, we look for a sign We look for a hint that God has not forgotten us; That we re not alone and we have purpose; That a current defeat or difficulty is not the final word; And that God s grace and love are still available for us; Even though we re not fully sure. Funny Signs in the Scriptures And God s signs that He is here or is saving us are often funny; Not like the signs along the road that are humorous, Though God certainly has a sense of humor; No, the signs from God seem indirect, even odd; And they often take a while before that take hold of us and we understand. 2

3 The Old Testament and Gospel lessons this morning present us with just those kinds of signs Signs from God that are presented in a funny, even confusing way; But are signs nonetheless of God s presence and forgiveness and salvation. Let me catch you up in the Book of Numbers, for those of you less familiar with it; The Book of Numbers tells the story of the wanderings of God s people, Especially after they ve refused to enter into the promised land; When God promised to give them victory and they were too afraid And untrusting to enter in and live in the land. You see, they Hebrews spent forty years in the wilderness learning to trust God; Not because Moses refused to read the road signs or ask for directions; When the refused to trust in God, God sent them back to wander Until a generation that had never been slaves, but only lived in freedom was ready to trust And enter fully into God s promise of the land. So, the story this morning comes after they have turned back to wander for forty years And they re complaining about having to eat manna day after day And they want to go back into slavery in Egypt where they were being worked to death But the food had a little more variety. God obviously had never attended a management training seminar Where they teach you how to listen to customers and look for signs to improve; Because God s response to customer complaints is to pull manna off the menu And give them snakes instead. Some of the snakes bit people and some of the people who they bit died; Which leads the people to consider that maybe manna is not so bad after all; And they repent of their complaining and ask for God s forgiveness; And God is moved and tells Moses to make a snake out of bronze and put it on a stick; And then to lift it as a sign that God has forgiven them and they will be healed. 3

4 This is a strange story that raises questions about God, about healing and about signs; But whichever path you want to follow, the point of the story and sign Is that God forgives and God heals, though it is a very funny sign; A strange, but memorable sign of what kind of God they are serving; And the Hebrews remember the lifted bronze snake as a sign of forgiveness and healing. And then in the Gospel lesson from John s Gospel; We begin to hear John talk about the strange sign of salvation That is so familiar to us; Jesus lifted up as a sign of salvation. Just as Moses lifted up the snake, Jesus says, so when He is lifted up; It will be a sign of eternal life for all who believe or put their trust in Him; Funny sign, isn t it. The sign of punishment and death and disgrace Becomes the sign of forgiveness and life and restoration. We Christians believe that this is the ultimate sign of God s grace and forgiveness; The sign that captures the essence of our faith and that is the cross; A simple wooden cross on which Jesus was lifted up; To take away our sins and break the power of death forever In the cross of Christ is the sign of the deepest holiest mystery of the universe; That God so loved the world that He gave His only Son; So that everyone who believes in Him may not perish; But have eternal life. The cross is not a sign of judgment or condemnation; But the mark that the world might be saved through Him; And brought to a new life with God.. 4

5 The cross that Jesus is predicting and that we know after nearly 2,000 years of Christianity Is God s strangest and most wonderful sign that we are loved and that we are His; And though it is a funny sign in the sense of being unexpected or surprising; It is the sign that is at the core of what makes us into one Body And inspires us and encourages us to walk with Christ in our lives; And to know with confidence that God is in fact with us always. We re Funny Signs And when we believe or trust or give our hearts to God; Then we become signs to the world that God wants us; That God loves us; That God will go to every length possible to show us a different way; A different way of life that is really life. And we are certainly funny signs, we strange band of followers, Who sometimes get things right; But more often than not need a little help from the Spirit to be signs To one another and to the world that God offers us life with God Today and one day beyond the door of death. So, when we come to church on a Sunday to worship God we are signs; We are signs to the people driving past who see all the cars And have to consider that something is going on here, something that might be good We are signs to our family and friends and neighbors that God matters And that if we re clever signs they might find out they re invited, too. When we take in homeless families as we do through the Interfaith Hospitality Network; We become a sign to the families we care for that they re worth something; And that we re trying to bring about a better society By giving them a hand up by prayer and word and deed. When we bring food to feed the hungry in Norristown 5

6 Or support the food pantry at St. Mary s in Chester; We are signs of God s love to a hungry world. When we work all year to gather and sort to plan and execute The world s most fantastic country fair and auction each October We are signs to one another that we re called to make a difference And signs to the wider community that we are one a mission. And when we care for those in need as Stephen Ministers, Eucharistic Visitors Or just take a moment to introduce ourselves to someone we don t know Or to welcome someone new to St. David s, we are signs of God s love. We live by signs; We live by symbols and marks and indications and even hints; We don t need to understand it all, thank you very much, a sign will do. And the God we serve sends us signs that we may know Him And make Him known By the way we live as persons and as this community of St. David s Church. And so today and this week, I invite you to ponder the signs of God s love in your life; Look to the snake on the pole if you have to; But certainly to the wonder and love of the cross of Christ; And remember, too, that you and I are signs for others; And we can be life changing signs if we will live that way. Amen. 6

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