Saturday, June 9, 2007

Quit Grumbling: Look and Live!

Numbers 21:4 Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. 5 And 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 our soul loathes this worthless bread.” 6 So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. 7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

Any of this sound like Anglican life in South Dakota?

This reading was assigned for Morning Prayer today (1928 Book of Common Prayer Lectionary). Discouraged people, worn down by the journey into which God himself called them, were "loathing the worthless bread" (might this be how some of us regard the sacraments of the apostate Episcopal Church?)

But the result of the discouragement and grumbling (which God perceived as an insult, by the way) was the lethal bite of fiery serpents. We need to recognize that our own discouragement and complaining, however bad TEC might be, is destructive to our souls.

What help can we find in this lesson?
  • They made confession. The people went to Moses and specifically admitted what they had done.
  • They relied on prayer. The people asked Moses to intercede for them.
  • They accepted God's solution. God told Moses to make a bronze figure of the fiery serpent, and hold it up on a pole. Wierd though it seemed, the people obeyed, and all who looked at it lived.

We can do the same today. Jesus himself is God's solution. If we confess our sins of despair and grumbling (and our resultant failure to form a fresh Anglican witness), and pray in Jesus' Name, he is like that bronze serpent lifted up by Moses. All who come to Jesus will live. Moses held up the sign of death to bring life; Jesus was lifted up on the cross to bring life.

Around the country, reform and renewal of Anglican witness begins in confession and prayer. We all had a part in letting the Episcopal Church turn away from Christ. We need to confess that, turn back to Christ in prayer, and let him give us new life in his Name - a life that requires us to come together to hear the Word and celebrate the sacraments. (See Number XIX here).

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