March 11, 2018
Are we saved because God rescued us from Egypt, because we understand the concepts of grace, or because of grace alone?
Numbers 21:4-9 – For a people averse to “graven images,” we find this passage strange indeed! The newly freed slaves of Egypt find ample reason to complain, which seems like a reasonable response to going the long way (around Edom), no water or food, and what was provided (manna) was no picnic… they said. We can question whether God sent the serpents to administer wrath, but certainly, being snake-bitten was no picnic either! The preacher might examine how we also name our negative circumstances as the hand of God and challenge us to decide if God works that way… for would that not imply that everyone in adverse circumstances deserved it? There is no easy answer.
Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22 – The psalmist seems quite aware of the foregoing text, or at least similar episodes in the exodus from Egypt. While he also names the troublesome circumstances, he also names God’s acts of deliverance from each of them: sin, sickness, the loathing of the food, and the nearness of death. The psalmist has the vantage point of it all being in the past. The preacher might examine how one can claim deliverance in the midst of affliction, in mid-chapter of one’s story.
Ephesians 2:1-10 – The epistle examines how it is that we are saved, and from what we are saved, by grace alone, not works. The preacher might examine the place of our “works” in response to that grace, rather than a strategy for achieving salvation. For Wesleyans, the challenge may be to align Wesley’s “three simple rules” with this text: First, do no harm; Second, do good; Third, stay in love with God.
John 3:14-21 – We may forget that this passage concludes Jesus’ encounter with the seeker, Nicodemus, a member of the ruling Sanhedrin. He comes by night to clear up his confusion about Jesus. He hears about being born again, or from above, and seems more confused than ever. Here, the preacher might examine God so loving the world, the whole world, not for it’s condemnation but for it’s salvation.