Serpent Nipping at Our Heels

Mar 14, 2021   •  


The Reverend Michele Morgan

Sunday, March 14th, 2021 

Lent 4B 


Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned, but those who do not believe are condemned already because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”  John 3:14-21


So we had to pay our taxes and one of the things that has to happen every year is to pull out all the information that we need so we can send it off to our tax guy in RI.  (note: when I say we I mean my beloved) anyway, she needed to get into my credit union account and I had to reset my account and my security questions.   One of the choices was what is your personal pet peeve.  Michelle and I both said, “ingraciousness!”    I picked another question, yet the point is that would be the serpents biting at my heal.  


It is not all that big a deal, but when you do something for someone and it is not acknowledged it bugs me, and most times it is like a mosquito in the bedroom as you are falling asleep, it just wakes you up as it goes past your ear.  Then gone.  


But when it, piles on after a long day, of tired, or frustrated, of angry, lonely well then an act of ingraciouness can set me off.  I was driving home a couple of weeks back and I slowed down and let someone in who had been trying to get into the lane for a couple of cars.  I let them in and they did not give me the courtesy wave.  I mean no one does, it is a bygone gesture from my childhood and early driving days in the province of Alberta.  


I did not get the wave and I freaked out.  All of the stuff I had been carrying for the last bit of time kind of blew up and I am yelling, (in my car) at some guy who had no idea of the social contract forged in 1975, and 2300 miles away.  


So we have these odd readings from the Hebrew Bible and from John’s gospel.  And the only way that I can put them in a modern-day context is to think of these serpents as representations of the things that nip away at us and keep us away from the love of God.  


I honestly think that it is a better representation then God sending serpents down to bite the whiny people who did not have any gratitude about being saved from being enslaved.  They let…….., I let……, we let the petty things that push over the edge to miss the big picture, to miss where we are being called to be, and to bring the joy, the love, and the light of God into the world.  


I wonder what might be the thing that is your thing, you know the thing that keeps you from more light more love.  We are reminded in John’s gospel that by turning towards God, and god acting in the world we are able to shed that root poison that holds us in place and does not allow us to accept a new way of being in the world.  


Our shadow side can sneak up on us, and sometimes that metaphoric darkness is easier.  I know that I let that car into MY MY MY lane, because I wanted someone to be thankful to me, to have an easy win before I got home.  My shadow side was to place all that on a stranger.  


Yet my practice of prayer and meditation has helped me to have some space in my life that I am not dependant on a stranger to fulfill a need that I did not name, from a stranger that of course, I am in community with because everyone is my relative, but is not in my community. 


 We have gone so far in this last year of shut down.  And we have a great capacity to lose our cool because we are so close to the end of this section of it.  Vaccines are being taken, we are getting close, we are not like the people of Israel who are grumbling at the start.   We did well at the start of this marathon of the unexpected and now we are so close to finishing and we have to finish and I believe that we are being called to finish well.  


Ruth  Woodliff-Stanley says this, “This past year, we have looked at the serpent in our struggle with racism. We have looked at the serpent in our examination of the ease of travel and gathering we have taken for granted, absent gratitude and curiosity about our impact on others and on this fragile earth our island home. We have looked at the serpent in the immense economic disparities reflected in drastically different levels of access to healthcare, food, and shelter. We have looked. We have seen our own poison. And, perhaps, we have begun to heal.”  


Our work is to heal, our work is to not just be about the ability to gather, for gathering sake… we come to church so that we can do the work of God, in our community, with all of our relatives in the world, and knock the sharpest corners off of our pointedly little personalities, painful as it is at times and we forgive and together we move on and change the world.  


God is always calling us back, that is the point of the Eucharistic Prayer, the point of gathering, the point of receiving the eucharist, we put our out hands and get something from the very heart of God.  We are called to put our hands our and receive and in doing that we break the power of a world that we are invited to a stance where our first response is not to take but to receive and to turn around and give it back out.