Sunday, March 14, 2021



Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

John 3:14-21

If you have ever been in the hospital or flipped through the phone book looking for a physician, you’ve probably seen the image – two winged serpents wrapped around a staff. It is known as the caduceus. Even though there is some confusion with another "one snake" Greek symbol, the two-serpent symbol wrapped around a pole has been the symbol of the American medical profession for nearly a hundred years – a decidedly odd symbol for doctors until you begin to investigate where it came from and its underlying meaning.

This ancient symbol of healing is mentioned in the Book of Numbers and referred to in the gospel today. On their trek across the desert from the slavery of Egypt to the freedom of the Promised Land, the People of God underwent all sorts of trials and troubles. The one mentioned today is their plague of biting, winged serpents. After praying for delivery from this awful plague, God instructs Moses to make a bronze image of the same serpents, put it on a pole and invite the people to take a good hard look at it. When they looked at it long and hard, they recovered.

Now this may sound like some kind of voodoo magic, but it isn’t! It’s primitive psychology! All you who benefit from the services of nurses, doctors, psychologists and mental health professionals, listen up! What Moses did here is still good practice! What he is saying here is that the road to healing is always through facing the problem and looking at it squarely. Looking away and failing to look at problems squarely is the best way to keep those problems going and even worsening!

As the comedians say, "Denial is more than a river in Egypt!" The worst thing you can do, if you have a mysterious lump on your body, is to pretend it isn’t there! You need to pay close attention to it and have a professional examine it carefully - and as soon as possible. The worst thing to do is to look the other way and pretend that it isn’t there! Healing begins with noticing - whether it is a health problem or a relationship problem. 

The worst thing you can do, if you are having financial problems, is to keep on spending and pretending that the problem doesn’t really exist! If you are having such problems, you need to face some hard facts and get some help as soon as possible. The worst thing to do is to look away and pretend the problem does not exist! Recovery begins with squarely facing that which is painful to face!

The worst thing you can do, if you or one of your friends has a drinking or drug problem, is to look away and pretend that it isn’t there! Reality must be faced squarely and help must be sought as soon as possible. The worst thing to do is to look away and pretend the problem does not exist! Recovery begins with facing facts squarely! That’s why people in AA must first be able to say to themselves and others, “I am an alcoholic!” After that, their healing can begin!

We live in a world that has avoidance down to a fine art! If we don’t like something, we look away! Nowhere is it more obvious than mushrooming credit card debt, when people spend and spend when they can barely pay the interest, even using one credit card to pay the interest on another!

Nowhere is this tendency more obvious than in our national obesity problem. I read the other day that more than 70% of all Americans are overweight or obese! Instead of facing this problem, every time we sit down to eat, we keep stuffing our faces with massive amounts of bad food, while we wait for that magic pill that will "melt fat away as we sleep." According to Dr. Phil, for the first time in our history the next generation will die younger than their parents because of obesity related problems.

Moses didn’t put it this way, but this is what he meant – all of us need to “wake up and smell the coffee” in several areas of our lives! As a culture, we are addicted to our denial. Whatever it is, we need to open our eyes and take a good hard look at reality and quit going to sleep just because it is more comfortable and because it feels good for the moment!

On a spiritual level, as the gospel reminds us today, we also need to look at Jesus dying on the cross. We need to take some time to look at it intently this Lent and try to  understand what it means for us and the rest of the world. We do that quite dramatically on Good Friday when we uncover the cross and we are traditionally given the opportunity to come forward and kiss it! 

Lent, my sisters and brothers, is about facing ourselves, facing our addictions and owning them, facing our wasteful habits and owning them, facing our shabby treatment of others and owning that and facing our sins and owning them. Lent is about taking a long, loving look at reality as a path to healing and forgiveness! Anything else is just a silly waste of time!

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