Monday, April 01, 2019

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of March 31, 2019

Sermon: “From Adored to Abhorred”

It was just after midnight on March 21st and our Boeing triple 7 rumbled down the taxiway of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.  It was the end of an amazing week in Kenya and the beginning of a long 19 hours of flight time home.  Soon we were airborne for an 8 ½ hour flight to London’s Heathrow Airport. I usually adore flying on a plane. It usually means that adventure is ahead or perhaps the glow of time away remains forefront in my mind. But soon this flight would go from adored to abhorred. 

To say the least, there was not much space on the plane.  We were seated in the second row of basic economy and legroom and shoulder room was in short supply.  I was in a middle seat and was next to a woman who was trying to curl up the best she could to get some sleep on the overnight flight.  Soon after takeoff the person in front of me leaned their seat back and now the entertainment screen was just inches from my eyeballs and was burning my retinas with every passing mile.  After a while, the meal services started and the choices were some sort of spinach item and lamb.  Wanting nothing to do with the spinach, I chose the lamb.  It was a poor choice.  It was awful.  As the cabin lights dimmed, I tried to get some shut eye. But just as I drifted off to la-la-land I was shaken from my slumber by someone in the row behind me getting up to use the facilities. 

As they got up, they used my seat back to steady themselves and scoot out.  If it would have been one time I would have excused this but it went on about every 30 minutes for about 5 or 6 hours. I would doze off for a moment…then I was shaken from slumber. I just wanted to die.  There were no adoring glances given to those behind me.  Soon I began to abhor the whole situation. By the time we arrived in London I was impatient with the trip, cranky and upset and I was quick to criticize my fellow passengers, British Airways and even the entire airline industry.  But this is minor compared to what happened with God’s people recorded in the book of Numbers chapter 21.

Then they moved from Mount Hor, following the road that goes to the Red Sea, in order to get around Edom. The people became impatient on the trip and criticized God and Moses. They said, “Why did you make us leave Egypt—just to let us die in the desert? There’s no bread or water, and we can’t stand this awful food!”

So the Lord sent poisonous snakes among the people. They bit the people, and many of the Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we criticized the Lord and you. Pray to the Lord so that he will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake, and put it on a pole. Anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it on a pole. People looked at the bronze snake after they were bitten, and they lived.  (Numbers 21:4-9)

Just for the record, there were no snakes on my plane, no one died, that I know of and for me it was just a minor inconvenience.  For God’s people in the wilderness it was more than just an inconvenience, it was life and death.

And in that moment as Moses intercedes for the people, he does something confounding.  He instructed the people to do that which was contrary to their religious sensibilities… “Make a snake, and put it on a pole. Anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” It’s a confounding story, as the people adore what is raised up they find life. 

Of course, that which is even more confounding is what happened when another was raised on a pole; that moment when God, Himself, took on human flesh and was raised up on an instrument of torture as a sacrificial offering.  “For just as Moses lifted the snake up on a pole, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.” (John 3:14)

For the times Israel went astray, for the occasions we have wandered away, for the times Israel grumbled against God and the occasions we’ve complained about Him.

For the occasions the Hebrew community distrusted God and the times the Bethany community has done so as well.  For the occasions the Israelites embraced group think and the occasions we’ve done the same. For all the acts of injustice, disobedience and self-centeredness that humanity has ever engaged – and for all those things you have done and left undone, Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin…and God who declared Him to be His beloved and chose Him for this work – condemned Him chief of sinners and rejected Him for our guilt.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)

The one who was adored just days before when he entered Jerusalem was now the one abhorred by those who called out “Crucify, crucify!” but it's far worse than that.  For on the cross, the son of God was abhorred by His Father because of our sins; as the Father turns His face away from His only begotten Son, the punishment for the sin of the world fell firmly upon Him. 

He did this so that having become a curse, He might redeem you and me from the law’s curse…in Jesus we’ve gone from being abhorred…to adored!

In this season of Lent we draw our eyes to the cross and there we see that Jesus became the embodiment of our sin and mistakes.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)

He took in Himself all our sin: our acts of injustice, our taking advantage of others for our gain, and our self-centered faithlessness.  He, who was once adored by many, became an image abhorred by all.  Yet, our salvation lies with Him, the one who “redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” (Galatians 3:13).

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)

It is there, as we behold the sight of our enfleshed sin, beaten, pierced, and crucified, that God calls us to adore what was raised, first on the cross and then raised to defeat sin, death and the devil, to look and to live, for there all humanity is transformed from abhorred to adored.
 -Pr. Seth Moorman


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