Is it possible to exercise control over circumstances that become difficult to endure? If you grew up like I did with "The Sound of Music" as a kid, you'll no doubt remember that catchy tune "My Favorite Things." In the middle of a thunderstorm, as the children of the Von Trapp family cower in their governess's bedroom, Maria sings a song that lists all of her favorite stuff. This is not to say that Fraulein Maria is in denial about all that is less than cheery in the world...or that she sees only a universe filled with good and comforting images. No, the purpose of the song is so that, "when the dog bites...when the bee stings...when I'm feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don't feel so bad." The song was an attempt to exercise a little control over the unexpected bad things of life. And as you might expect, by the end of that scene, everyone was feeling much much better about the booming thunder and pouring rain outside! Reflecting on that carefree song, I'm reminded that there indeed used to be a time when my favorite things may have distracted me from the occasional owie. Even now I like to think that I have more control over my world than I really do. But the older I get, the more I realize that unlimited doses of my favorite things (scarfing down Juli's Craisen scones, binge-watching Louie the Beagle on YouTube, etc.) aren't always the BEST things for me. And if that wasn't enough, the dog bites and bee stings of life more persistently occupy my full attention.
Enter Moses and the children of Israel. Fiery serpents made the people's impatience with life (and with God) even more miserable. When the snake bites proved fatal and the people cried out for help, Moses was told to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole. All who looked up at the bronze snake would live. This image of what had once proved fatal now, at God's hand, brought life. Only God could bring life into a situation that seemed out of control! But over time, the people's need to control their circumstances took over, once again. That same bronze snake on a pole would, over time, became an idol (2 Kings 18:4). Thankfully, though, the story of Moses and Israel in the wilderness wasn't the end of God's work to bring life out of death. To truly do that, once and for all, God lifted up His own Son on a cross so that "all who believe in [Jesus] might not perish eternally but have eternal life." All we need do is look to Jesus, lifted up, to deal with the bee stings and snake bites of life! All we need do is look to Jesus, to truly live in the light of God.
The Son of God, Jesus Christ, is there for all to see. The Son of God, given up by the Father, was put to death on a cross...for all people of the world. What more is there to do than to look up to Jesus? What more can we do than BELIEVE in Jesus? Life lived looking up, life lived in the light of God is better even than distracting ourselves with our "favorite things." But living in the light of God and the forgiveness that is ours in Christ will make whiskers on kittens and schnitzel with noodles (whatever that is) even better! Let's stop looking down and keep looking up during this season of Lent, as we give thanks for God's gift of life through our Savior Jesus.
Sermon Outline answers: 1. Petty things. 2. Ourselves. 3. Whine; Healing. 4. Idols.