Sermon for Lent 4 – March 14, 2021

+ Lent 4 – March 14, 2021 +

Series B: Numbers 21:4-9; Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21

Beautiful Savior Lutheran

Milton, WA

 

“Action-Packed Love”

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

We tend to think of love as an emotion, a heart-racing, warm fuzzy feeling – what Thumper refers to as being twitterpated in Disney’s Bambi. And while those things are certainly a part of God’s gift of love to us, love is also much greater than that. To paraphrase the classic rock band Boston, when it comes to Scripture, love is more than a feeling.

 

God reveals his love for us most often by his actions. By what he does for his people. Our scripture readings today unveil God’s loving actions for his people, for you.

 

In Numbers 21, despite the Israelites grumbling against God, despite their rebellion, despite their lack of faith in YHWH’s promises – still YHWH loves his people. when they deserved only punishment and death he sent rescue. A sign of his love. The Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

 

In Ephesians 2, God’s love is an action as well. God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.

 

The same is true of Jesus’ famous words in John 3. For Jesus, God’s love is action. His love is revealed in what he does for you. His Giving. Sending. Lifting up of Jesus in crucifixion for you. God loved the world in this way, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

 

One of the New Testament’s favorite words for this action-packed love of God is a familiar one, agape. Agape love is love that points back to the source – to God himself who is love. God is agape, love. Self-giving, self-sacrificial love.

 

This kind of love is far different from the ways we think of love. Not only do we see love as an emotion, but so often we also see it as a transaction. “What’s in it for me?,” or “What do I get out of this?.” So often what we call love for others is really nothing more than love of ourselves. In our sinfulness we are the greatest objects of our love. And this is what St. Paul means when he says that we “were dead in our trespasses and sins.”

 

Thankfully, God’s love is not like our love. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. God loves the world in this manner; in this particular way. God gives his only begotten Son to be lifted up and crucified for you. 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.

 

God loves us – agapes us – with no regard for receiving. Jesus doesn’t ask what’s in it for him. His agape love is wholly focused on others – on you. On saving you, the object of God’s love. God loved the world in this way, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

 

God reveals his love for us in his gracious, merciful, loving action toward us. Just as it was for Israel.

 

God gave the Israelites a sacramental sign back in their wilderness days. The Israelites had rebelled yet again, and grumbled and complained against Moses and against God. In judgment, God sent snakes into the camp, fiery snakes that caused horrific wounds and death. In mercy, God gave a curious antidote, a bronze serpent, the very image of the disease, raised up on a pole so that all the eyes of Israel could look on it. And in looking on it, they would live.

Strange as it sounds to us, that bronze serpent was a tangible token of God’s love for His people, rebellious, stubborn, and sinful though they were. To look on that image trusting in the promise of God was to live, to survive the venomous bite of the fire snakes. It was the only way to survive.

 

In this we see a picture of humanity and of us. Snake-bitten with the venom of Sin coursing through our systems. It’s killing us and in the process bringing death and destructive. We are born into this world snake-bitten.

For Israel, there was nowhere to go except God’s promise. To look upon the bronze serpent he provided, the sign of his love. We’re no different. There is nowhere for us to go except to where God reveals his promise, his love. To the place where God enacts his love for you in the greatest way possible – the crucifixion of Jesus.

In mercy and love, God gave His Son. 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. In His death on the cross, Jesus is the bronzed serpent on the pole, the Antidote, the Cure, the Medicine of Immortality. To look on Him is to believe in Him, that is, to trust Him.

This is the way God loves you. In giving His Son unto death for you. The Son loved the world by giving His life. God’s love for you is no less tangible than it was for Israel. Israel had a sign, something they could look and see – a bronze serpent. God does one better for us. Not a bronze serpent on a pole, but touchable, tangible, earthly things reveal his love for us – water, word, bread and wine.

 

God loved you by bringing you to Baptism, by joining you to His beloved Son in His death. God loves you in His beloved Son. The Son loves you in giving you His Body and Blood to eat and drink. God loves you in putting His Word into your ears to hear.

 

God’s love for you in Jesus is more than a feeling. It is his merciful, gracious, loving action. Jesus given, sent, lifted up, and crucified for you. If anything or anyone in life ever causes you to doubt God’s love for you, you need only look to the cross to see God’s love for you in Jesus. There, Jesus is given and lifted up for all the world to see God’s love for you.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Beautiful Savior

is a traditional Lutheran Church, faithful to God's Word and His Sacraments. We equip God's people to serve, love, and encourage one another as we grow in our personal relationship with Christ. We reach out to the community as beacons of light, sharing the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Savior.

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Friday 8:30am-11:30am

The office is closed on Fridays during the summer months of June, July, and August.

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August - May
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
8:30am-12:30pm

By appointment only June and July

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Address
2306 Milton Way
Milton, WA 98354
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(253) 922-6977
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staff@mybslc.com