Mtr. Vivian Shelby – The Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 10, 2024

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that all that believe in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

So we pick up this week pretty much from where Father Bill left off last week, with Jesus’ temple tantrum. And now Nicodemus has traveled in secret, at night, to talk to Jesus. To try to understand some of the things he was teaching in the synagogue.

Now, Nicodemus is a Pharisee. He is doing this in secret so that his fellow Pharisees do not know. But he’s really curious. And our gospel picks up about halfway through that conversation. So he refers to our first reading, a story that Nicodemus would know about the Exodus. That people were dying from poisonous snakes. And Moses built a serpent of bronze at God’s direction, put it on a pole, and when people would come to him and had been bitten, he would lift the pole. The person would gaze upon the snake, and they would live. They were given their mortal life back. They would not die from the snake bite. So why is Jesus bringing this up? Jesus is saying that he must be lifted up just as that pole was lifted up. They don’t realize it. Nicodemus doesn’t realize it, but he’s referring to his crucifixion. That he will be raised up on a cross, just like Moses raised the pole. But when people believe in him, they will receive eternal life. Not just their mortal life and their sickness will go away, but eternal life.

Then he talks about how he did not come to condemn the world, but to save it. And how does he do that? Well, he tells us about light and darkness. And I think this is telling. He says, “For they so loved the darkness that they did not come to the light, and if you choose darkness, you’re choosing eternal death.” If you choose darkness, and Jesus says the people so loved their darkness because then they were not exposed.

So here’s the deal. God knows us because he made us, And we have a dark side. Our human side can be wonderful, and our human side can be awful. And we have all felt it. Something makes us angry, and we say something, or do something that we don’t want people to see. It’s embarrassing. Why did I say that? Why did I do that? We don’t want it exposed. What things make you angry? What things make you lash out? I’ll just name a few I’m familiar with. Family drama? Anyone? We don’t have control over other people, and they’re not behaving the way we would like. Or they’re behaving very badly. How about our physical health when it fails us? And we have to realize we cannot do what we did yesterday. And we have no control over whether it gets fixed or gets worse? We do have some control. Doctors have control.

What about anxiety? I read an article and did a small article based on that in the Trumpet about how since about 2018, people are anxious and unhappy. And we’ve lost our social fitness, not just because of the pandemic, but that did not help. I think it was something like 45% of high school boys from 2018 to 2022, their socialization with their friends in person has dropped by 45%.

People are anxious. People are looking for connection. Connection with other human beings. And if they don’t have access to that, and sometimes when they do, what do we humans fall back on? Alcohol, illegal drugs, eating, anything that helps us bodily not feel what we’re feeling.

Jesus gives us the answer. Come to the light. Come to the light. We are human, and we will have our moments of darkness. But that light is always shining. We just have to repent, which means turn around. The darkness is here. The light is here. Turn around. See the light. Come to the light, and let that light shine. Not always easy. What is the most beautiful part of the day? For me, it’s the sunrise, especially here in Longview. The beautiful colors. It’s just gorgeous. The light is coming into the morning. The birds are singing.

The sunset is also glorious as it goes down and the day ends. But in the night, God also provides light in the beauty of the moon and the stars. So we truly are never without light.

So this week, how can we bolster our focus and not just get distraught by the mistakes that we make? First of all, everybody else makes them too. Me, everybody. You are not alone in this human condition. Secondly, every night this week, when you go to do your prayers, I want you to go to your favorite room in the house and take a candle and a lighter or a match. Look around the room. Turn all of the lights out so it is as dark as you can make it. And look around again. In the dark, you can’t see things. You can’t see the color of things. You can’t see the full shape of things. Then, light the candle and see how everything transforms. It’s not the same as when the lights are on. It is a focal point in the room that casts shadows and spreads in different ways as it flickers through the room. And you experience it in a new way. It is the light of Christ. Then say your prayers, every day. and think of how God is working in your life. Every day, when you sit down and say your prayers, acknowledge when you’ve missed the mark and acknowledge when you’ve done good. And if you’re like every other human being, you will have a mixture of both. Most, if not all, days. And see how it changes your focus. Being able to think of that picture of the candle the night before, maybe when you get aggravated with someone or about something. And try to focus on the light.

For God so loved us that he gave his only son. For God so loved the world that he gave his only son. So that all who believe in him shall not perish but have eternal life. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.