We talk about the sacraments as “the means of grace”, in the everyday world we might refer to someone as a person of means, but I don’t think we really know what that word – means – means. Nor do we really plumb its depths. We don’t for two reasons. The first is that most of us are secular. We have buffered ourselves from what what Nicene Creeds calls the invisible creation. Not that it isn’t there and doesn’t effect us, simply that we deny it, usually with some fantastical pseudo-science. Although for me the best denials are the straight up “didn’t happen, who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes.” The second though is a spiritual reason. We think we want God to act immediately. We think we want the lightning bolt. This sermon is an exploration of God working through means and or reactions to that fact.
The brass snake the Moses elevated in the desert has an interesting post history. The little snippet is 2 Kings 18:4 where after hearing nothing about it for centuries, we get the notice that King Hezekiah destroys it as part of a leveling of the “high places” because Israel had been sacrificing to it. An example of how items of piety can migrate into idolatry. But that is not even in the sermon.
The sermon poses a question at the start. What is our response, how do we act, when life hits us instead of we hitting life? What do we do when we are the objects and not the subjects?
It then ponders that question through the light given both by Moses’ bronze serpent and its greater fulfillment the cross. We really have two options, either that of faith, or that of anger and despair. As comfortable perceived justified as anger, despair and victimhood might feel, they are all venom. We must leave them at the foot of the cross to live, to enter the promised land, to not die in the wilderness.
One post preaching reflection. I think this is a very effective and necessary sermon. But there is one thing that I know I did which is homiletic gold but on shaky exegetical grounds. The snakes are completely spiritualized. The venom is the effects of that sin that we must live with. I think that this is justified as the fruit of reflection. But if there are any homiletic practitioners who give this a read/listen, I’d love to hear your thoughts.