11 March 2018
Fourth Sunday in Lent
Lent 4B (RCL)
Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
We all know, many of us by heart, John 3:16 – probably the most translated sentence in human history. But, I’m not sure we know what it is supposed to mean, even to the phrase “eternal life.” In the Greek, it is “the life of the age,” whatever that means. And our usual translations say, “that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” What does it mean to believe in the Only Son? The Greek might better be translated “whoever trusts him.”
The real power of this verse is in the first few words: For God so loved the cosmos. The cosmos is not the world in the sense of all the people in the world (like the French monde). It means instead, the entire ordered world. It makes reference to the creation story. God wants to restore the creation to its original order, and so God sends the Only Son. And God did not send the son to judge the cosmos, but that the cosmos might be saved through him. This is an image of the cosmic Christ, not just saving people, but restoring the whole created order.
And the judgment is this that the light has come into the world, and some came to it, and some chose to hide in the dark. We are saved, and the world is saved, through our willingness to come into the light, to be exposed to God and each other. As the author of author of the letter to the Ephesians says, we have become children of grace, rather than children of wrath. And by grace we have been saved through God’s faithfulness. It is our trust that will restore the created order.
In Numbers, the people have to look on the image of the very thing that has wounded them in order to be saved. That is why John makes reference to the serpent in the wilderness. We have to gaze on the very thing that has harmed us in order to be healed of it. The Son of Man on the cross is the very image of the worst violence we can do to one another, in order that we might bring it into the light.
Given all the wounds in our body politic, this is the way that healing just begin. We need to bring them into the light; we need to be honest about the things that divide and wound us, and expose them to the light of God’s love, knowing the power of the resurrection.