Sunday, March 22, 2009

Life in Body and Soul

Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 22, 2009
John 3:14-21

You think we got problems in our country with our economic situation? Just be glad you weren’t wandering out in the wilderness for forty years. Think things are taking a downturn? Imagine if poisonous snakes came into your house and began biting you and you died.

We have problems. And what do we do when we have problems? We complain. We murmur against God. We ask Him why things are going south. Or we question His providence or His care of us.

That’s what the Israelites did. And that was four thousand years ago. Not much has changed.

But you know what else hasn’t changed? This: God loves the world. God loved the world in this way: He sent His only Son to die for everyone. He sent His only Son so that we may have everything we have.

Everything we have is from Him. The wealthy person may come to the point where they have so much that they think they don’t need God. The poor person who has almost nothing may come to the point where simply getting food is more important to them than God.

Either way, God is not first. In both cases God is supplanted by the things of this world.

God loved the world in this way, He gave His Son. Why did He give His Son? To give us life. Life in body and soul.

So often when life brings us through rough patches in body we lose sight of the blessings to the soul. So many times when we don’t have what we think we need, or even want, for this life we place the things we need for eternity to the side.

And we complain. We question. We search for answers outside of the Word of God and in the work of salvation in God’s only-begotten Son. We too often place our trust in the things of this world. Money. A stable job. Peace of mind. Health. These things aren’t bad. They’re good—they’re blessings from God. But we too often seek them in place of God.

God is our source of life in body and soul. We know that because He has given us His Son. He loved the world in this way, He gave us His very own Son so that we may have life now and forever.

This is why we pray as we do. This is what we prayed moments ago in the Collect: “Almighty God, our heavenly Father, Your mercies are new every morning; and though we deserve only punishment, You receive us as Your children and provide for all our needs of body and soul.”

So we prayed that. But how do we live it out? Do we wake up each new day rejoicing that our Heavenly Father’s mercies are new every morning? Or do we grudgingly go into the new day not looking forward to having to work hard, or deal with people that make it hard to be loving to them? Or do we think about all those things we don’t have? Or think about those things we wish were different?

The truth is, we think we deserve a life free from hardship. At least, we think this when we’re going through trials. It doesn’t occur to us in those times that our problems in life are due to sin. We don’t automatically acknowledge that we don’t deserve anything from God. That we in fact deserve only punishment. The last thing we probably think to acknowledge and rejoice in is that instead of punishment our Heavenly Father receives us as His children and provides for all our needs of body and soul.

We need help. That’s why God sent His Son. We need help not just in body but in soul. We need help to pray. The Collect helps us out here by concluding this way: “Grant that we may heartily acknowledge Your merciful goodness, give thanks for all Your benefits, and serve You in willing obedience.”

Just because it doesn’t seem like you need God, doesn’t mean you don’t need Him. If you work hard and have gained much in this life because of it you can easily lose sight of where your blessings come from. Without God you have nothing, in body and soul. Just because you do a lot to provide for yourself doesn’t mean God is out of the picture. He is your Maker and Redeemer, without Him you have nothing.

If you don’t have much in this life you might conclude that God doesn’t provide for you, or at least not much. But rejoice that without much material goods in this life is abundant opportunity to rely on Him for all you need in body and soul.

He has given you life in body and soul. How do you know? He has given you His Son.

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life. The bronze snake had the form and appearance of the poisonous snakes, just as Jesus was revealed in the form of our sinful flesh. Just as the bronze snake had no poison, so Jesus was without sin. Just as whoever looked at the bronze snake remained alive, so also every sinner that has been poisoned by sin who looks up to Jesus, the one lifted up on the cross, will not perish but have eternal life.

The Israelites were saved in body and soul. Looking to the bronze snake their physical lives were spared, even as they were saved in their souls by the very same God who spared them. God loved them in this way: He gave His only Son to die for their sins. Jesus was lifted up on the cross for the world, including those Israelites. The bronze snake being lifted up pointed to that one who was lifted up in whom we have life in body and soul.

God loved the world in this way. He loves you in this way. He gave His Son. You have life in body and soul, now and forever. Amen.


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