A reading for Sunday March 14, 2021 (Lent 4B) Numbers 21: 4-9
From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. 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 God 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 God and against you; pray to God to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And God 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.
God of the Scriptures, thank you for these stories,
even when they are strange, they help us think things through.
Even when the theology seems odd,
they push us to sort out what we believe.
Even when we are left scratching our heads at the weirdness,
they encourage us to keep searching and questioning and growing.
In a lot of ways, we can see ourselves in these stories.
We are wandering in the wilderness, too.
We are trekking through pandemics: viral and racist.
We are travelling in times of crisis: personal and environmental.
In all the binge-watching and over-indulging,
in the kneeling and knees on necks,
in the being overwhelmed and ticking climate change clock,
we pray for direction, insight, and wisdom.
And even though we know, in faith, that
water came from a rock when there was thirst, and
manna came from heaven when there was hunger;
we know, too, that we can be complainers,
griping and grumbling over the petty,
murmuring and mumbling with vindictiveness,
ranting and railing when we feel slighted.
Forgive us our trespasses.
Let us forgive those who trespass against us.
And so like Moses, we intercede for the people.
We pray for the planet.
We may not believe in the magic or sorcery of snakes on sticks.
We may not believe in the power of idols bronze or brazen.
We may not believe in a God who dispenses luck and antidotes
according to our will,
but, nevertheless, we still ask:
that we might face our fears,
that healing may come to the brokenness,
that joy may erupt in the barrenness,
that wholeness might come to this Earth.
May the poison and the venom and the serpents be taken away from us.
In as much as we are at fault, we also ask for forgiveness.
We take this Lenten moment to repent, to turn around,
to seek transformation for ourselves, our church, our society and our world.
May there be genuine healing, authentic redemption and real reconciliation.
Let us look on the Holy One, and live.
(Diaconal Minister Ted Dodd, United Church of Canada)