Fourth Sunday in Lent

Homily: Grumbling Against God

When the children of Israel freed from bondage in Egypt, they witnessed more signs and wonders from God than anyone has ever seen, down to this day. Yet they did not trust God. They did not seem to appreciate what he was doing for them. They did not respect him. In fact, they grumbled against him. Reading from Numbers:

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.   ()

We may wonder how the children of Israel could have put themselves in such a precarious position. What can we read from this? Obviously, grumbling against God is a serious sin. And forgetting the great things God has done because of an inconvenience or some perceived lack of support seems ludicrous, does it not? But how does this situation apply to us? Do we grumble against God? Do we blame him for difficult circumstances?

Surely God has done great things in our lives. Do we so easily forget them when we are faced with new challenges? If so, what is the remedy: For the children of Israel it was a bronze serpent put up on a pole.

what is our remedy, if we need one? Reading from today’s Gospel:

Jesus said, “Just 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.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.   (John 3:14-16)

This is the plan for our salavation. It also might be the prescription for our attitude toward God. The children of Israel needed to continually look at the serpent lifted up if they wanted to save their lives. Do we not need to do the same? What we take our eyes off of Jesus, bearing our sins on a cruel cross, that is when we are ripe for the enemy to give us an attitude, a bad attitude.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Philippi:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.   (Philippians 4:4-5)

And to the Church in Thessalonica he wrote:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.   (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Can anything we may face on this earth compare to the cross that Jesus bore for us. When we want to grumble against God, let us remember how much he loves us, enough to die for us while we were sinners. If we grumble against him now we are still sinners. Time to look up to the cross.


Teaching: Good Works

What is the place of “good works” in the Christian Faith? In John’s Gospel we read:

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”   (John 3:19-21)

There are deeds done in the flesh and there are deed done in God. The Apostle Paul writes:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God– not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.   (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Our good works do not save us. Our salvation comes by the grace of God alone, provided we accept it in faith. Notice, however, that good works are very much a part of salvation. Paul tells us that we have been created for good works. Those works have been prepared for us beforehand,

We have no good works and can do no good works on our own. When we are dependent on good works to please God we tend to hide in darkness. Jesus tells us that our good deeds are done only in God. But before that happens we must first come to the light of Christ. Only in his light can our Lord empower us for ministry.

In the Book of James we read:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.   (James 2:14-18)

Thus, we see that grace does not rule out good works. Grace prepares us for good works. They are not our good works, but rather God working within us.

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Filed under Eucharist, Gospel, homily, Jesus, lectionary, Lent, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, sermon, sermon development, Year B

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