RCL Year B Lent 4
Numbers 21:4-9, Psalm 107:1-3 and 17-22, Ephesians 2:1-10, Saint John 3:14-21

The readings today are incredibly rich. In the midst of Lent, we are given the scriptural comparisons of fine desserts: Cherries Jubilee, Bananas Foster, or Baked Alaska. Southerners are free to think of Charlotte Russe or Angel Pie. You could take the portion of the Epistle to the Ephesians along with the portion of the Gospel according to Saint John, together they are only eighteen verses, and have an accurate and rather full summary of the faith Christians profess.

In the Gospel, we are reminded that the event of the Incarnation, when God takes human flesh, flows from God’s love for every human being. God’s purpose, Jesus says, is to save not to condemn. We look to Jesus, God incarnate, and live. We believe in Jesus, God incarnate, and live. But at the same time, the event of the Incarnation brings judgment. And it brings judgment in this way. Those who do not look to Jesus, God incarnate, “are condemned already.”[1] God’s purpose in the Incarnation is to save, but those who refuse that purpose are condemned. The purpose of the Incarnation requires our coöperation to succeed.

The Epistle reminds us that left to ourselves we are dead through trespasses and sins.[2] But God, Saint Paul says, “made us alive together with Christ.”[3] “This is not” our “own doing; it is the gift of God.”[4] “We are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works.”[5]

Taken together, the Gospel and the Epistle remind us that we look to Jesus and are saved, made one with him; and we are saved for the purpose of performing good works.

And as I said about the Gospel, our coöperation with God is necessary. We can either coöperate, or we can decide not to coöperate. The choice is ours. We are free to make that decision. If we haven’t chosen life, we have chosen death. It’s binary, I know; the binary quality is explicit in the Gospel. It is explicit in this verse: “Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already.”[6]

And today is as good a time as any to look to him and be saved. No more important choice lies before each of us. God had done everything but made our decision. Only we can do that.

[1] Saint John 3:18.

[2] Ephesians 2:1.

[3] Ephesians 2:5.

[4] Ephesians 2:8.

[5] Ephesians 2:10.

[6] Saint John 3:18.

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