Lift.

John 3:14-21

14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

16 “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.

17 “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. 18 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. 19 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. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 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.”

When our kids were little, we would take them rock climbing.  It was always a fun outing!  We would usually go to Yellow Springs, OH where they have some great cliffs for climbing (as well as good restaurants and Young’s Dairy for ice cream!).  Our kids loved to climb, and our son still does…but, back then, it often meant me or Debbie belaying them at the bottom and lifting them up the cliff wall…they were pretty light then, so fairly easy!  

John 3:14-21

14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

16 “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.

17 “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. 18 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. 19 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. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 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.”

When our kids were little, we would take them rock climbing.  It was always a fun outing!  We would usually go to Yellow Springs, OH where they have some great cliffs for climbing (as well as good restaurants and Young’s Dairy for ice cream!).  Our kids loved to climb, and our son still does…but, back then, it often meant me or Debbie belaying them at the bottom and lifting them up the cliff wall…they were pretty light then, so fairly easy!  

This morning we’re talking about being lifted up…no, we want to be lifted up in our everyday lives, out of the mundane, the ordinary, the routine.  We so often get caught up in days upon days of wondering, is this it?  Is this all there is to life?  We get caught in ruts where we possibly make decisions or begin to think in ways that are  not helpful.  Oftentimes, these decisions and thoughts, especially when made in isolation or without a sense of intentional and positive growth, change, or maturity could lead to destructive patterns.  

This is true in our own lives, as well as our life together as a community of faith.  It happened to Israel.  They were stuck in the desert, both physically and metaphorically.  They were losing faith and getting tired.  Which, I get, especially coming through this pandemic.  So many folks are tired, weary, ready to move on…and, in the midst of this, relationships have shifted.  Some, including many in this church, have grown.  Some not.  Isolation has become more apparent.  And, the mental and emotional toll is huge on a lot of folks. 

The Israelites decided to look for fulfillment in behaviors that led to destruction.  They also turned on each other.  Friends, we know that before the pandemic, our culture was divided, isolation has always been with us…and we know folks have turned to violence, destructive patterns, looking for ways to make sense of the changes, going after conspiracy theory after theory, and many have gone after other distractions, some not so bad, some that could lead towards something potentially destructive if not moderated.

A good question for us as a church universal, not just here at Fleming Road UCC but everywhere.  Have we gotten tired of waiting on God, of having faith?  Have we sought after other things such as consumer based church where we chase after program after program or worry about worship styles?  Have we chased after theologies and ideologies that are more closely related to cultural systems rather than radically challenging those systems?  Have we become more focused on ourselves and our way of doing things rather than practicing hospitality and reconciliation with our community?  I wonder what folks in this community, or the communities in which we live, think of Fleming Road UCC or the church universal? 

Within this tiredness or rut that the church finds itself in, and in the ruts of our every day that lead us to make personal decisions that may not be healthy, we get to the point where we finally realize and hope for something more.  We want to be lifted up.

God wants to lift us up, but it starts with us looking towards God for deliverance rather than the systems of this world or the unhealthy places we may find ourselves.

With Israel, God told Moses to put up a pole with a snake on it.  He did and folks were saved from death.  Now, I’m not sure of all the symbolism of a snake on a pole, but I do believe that the writer of this story was saying that Moses went to God and God gave Moses a sign.

Our gospel lessons finds the writer referring to this Old Testament lesson and saying that Jesus is being lifted up and we are called to look to him for deliverance, for justice, and for the way to to live.  

As Christ is lifted up, literally on a tree at calvary, but also lifted up daily in our lives, we find our salvation.  Friends, because Christ shares with us in our humanity and Christ is also eternal in Christ’s being, we find that our identity is wrapped up in Christ.  As Christ is lifted up, we are also lifted up.

Colossians 3:3 gives more evidence of this, “our lives are hid in God through Christ”.  WE are being lifted up with Christ.  We are given eternal life.  Now, we may be thinking, do I want to live forever if this life is a reflection of the life eternal?  Well, the folks listening to this reading in John had an understanding of eternal that we don’t have on the surface.  Eternal means the quality of life, not just quantity.  And, eternal tied in with Jesus means amazing quality that does last forever, but it starts now.

You see, Jesus is also lifted up as the one true human that we are all called to live in, just as Christ lives in us.  Now, we are not perfect, we mess up…hang out with me for a while, crawl into my head, and you may have some deep reservations about me!  Of course, the opposite is true, if I were to know your deepest thoughts and faults, I may be wanting to get out of here as well!  But, our lives are wrapped up in Christ and Christ redeems and saves all of us, our thoughts, our actions, and, well, everything.  Nothing is outside of God’s reach.

God also says that we can live in obedience with Christ and be lifted up.  WE are called to cultivate an understanding of ourselves, to find appropriate and safe places or communities to be vulnerable, and to grow.  Jesus got that.  In Jesus’ being he lived in community with the father and the Spirit.  Jesus also called a group of folks around him that were committed to him.  They weren’t perfect, they fell away and disappointed themselves by their infidelity.  Yet, God lifted them up and they changed the world.

Our text this morning talks about belief.  IN our culture, we seem to put a lot of emphasis on believing the right things.  However, I would say that this text is calling us towards something deeper, trust.  We are called to trust God and even to trust each other.  Which, can be hard and we need to make sure we are wise with some folks.  But, yes, we should grow towards building trusting relationships.  Sometimes, even with the best intentions, our trust can be broken.  Yet, as we see with God, God continues to put his trust in us.  Even after Jesus is crucified, Jesus comes to his disciples and shows them amazing trust.  

As we do this, as we become “lifted up” people, we will grow stronger as persons and we will grow stronger as a church.  We have potential to be agents of good, of change, of hospitality and deep friendships as we experience God lifting up Jesus, lifting up us, and lifting up the community around us.  We are the body of Christ, called to illuminate to the world the love of God.  T all of the community, not just those that are similar to us, but everyone…that’s good news…may we all do the lifting up of Christ in this community, following Christ’s example of radical hospitality, friendship, and inclusion and, in so doing, be lifted up.

This morning we’re talking about being lifted up…no, we want to be lifted up in our everyday lives, out of the mundane, the ordinary, the routine.  We so often get caught up in days upon days of wondering, is this it?  Is this all there is to life?  We get caught in ruts where we possibly make decisions or begin to think in ways that are  not helpful.  Oftentimes, these decisions and thoughts, especially when made in isolation or without a sense of intentional and positive growth, change, or maturity could lead to destructive patterns.  

This is true in our own lives, as well as our life together as a community of faith.  It happened to Israel.  They were stuck in the desert, both physically and metaphorically.  They were losing faith and getting tired.  Which, I get, especially coming through this pandemic.  So many folks are tired, weary, ready to move on…and, in the midst of this, relationships have shifted.  Some, including many in this church, have grown.  Some not.  Isolation has become more apparent.  And, the mental and emotional toll is huge on a lot of folks. 

The Israelites decided to look for fulfillment in behaviors that led to destruction.  They also turned on each other.  Friends, we know that before the pandemic, our culture was divided, isolation has always been with us…and we know folks have turned to violence, destructive patterns, looking for ways to make sense of the changes, going after conspiracy theory after theory, and many have gone after other distractions, some not so bad, some that could lead towards something potentially destructive if not moderated.

A good question for us as a church universal, not just here at Fleming Road UCC but everywhere.  Have we gotten tired of waiting on God, of having faith?  Have we sought after other things such as consumer based church where we chase after program after program or worry about worship styles?  Have we chased after theologies and ideologies that are more closely related to cultural systems rather than radically challenging those systems?  Have we become more focused on ourselves and our way of doing things rather than practicing hospitality and reconciliation with our community?  I wonder what folks in this community, or the communities in which we live, think of Fleming Road UCC or the church universal? 

Within this tiredness or rut that the church finds itself in, and in the ruts of our every day that lead us to make personal decisions that may not be healthy, we get to the point where we finally realize and hope for something more.  We want to be lifted up.

God wants to lift us up, but it starts with us looking towards God for deliverance rather than the systems of this world or the unhealthy places we may find ourselves.

With Israel, God told Moses to put up a pole with a snake on it.  He did and folks were saved from death.  Now, I’m not sure of all the symbolism of a snake on a pole, but I do believe that the writer of this story was saying that Moses went to God and God gave Moses a sign.

Our gospel lessons finds the writer referring to this Old Testament lesson and saying that Jesus is being lifted up and we are called to look to him for deliverance, for justice, and for the way to to live.  

As Christ is lifted up, literally on a tree at calvary, but also lifted up daily in our lives, we find our salvation.  Friends, because Christ shares with us in our humanity and Christ is also eternal in Christ’s being, we find that our identity is wrapped up in Christ.  As Christ is lifted up, we are also lifted up.

Colossians 3:3 gives more evidence of this, “our lives are hid in God through Christ”.  WE are being lifted up with Christ.  We are given eternal life.  Now, we may be thinking, do I want to live forever if this life is a reflection of the life eternal?  Well, the folks listening to this reading in John had an understanding of eternal that we don’t have on the surface.  Eternal means the quality of life, not just quantity.  And, eternal tied in with Jesus means amazing quality that does last forever, but it starts now.

You see, Jesus is also lifted up as the one true human that we are all called to live in, just as Christ lives in us.  Now, we are not perfect, we mess up…hang out with me for a while, crawl into my head, and you may have some deep reservations about me!  Of course, the opposite is true, if I were to know your deepest thoughts and faults, I may be wanting to get out of here as well!  But, our lives are wrapped up in Christ and Christ redeems and saves all of us, our thoughts, our actions, and, well, everything.  Nothing is outside of God’s reach.

God also says that we can live in obedience with Christ and be lifted up.  WE are called to cultivate an understanding of ourselves, to find appropriate and safe places or communities to be vulnerable, and to grow.  Jesus got that.  In Jesus’ being he lived in community with the father and the Spirit.  Jesus also called a group of folks around him that were committed to him.  They weren’t perfect, they fell away and disappointed themselves by their infidelity.  Yet, God lifted them up and they changed the world.

Our text this morning talks about belief.  IN our culture, we seem to put a lot of emphasis on believing the right things.  However, I would say that this text is calling us towards something deeper, trust.  We are called to trust God and even to trust each other.  Which, can be hard and we need to make sure we are wise with some folks.  But, yes, we should grow towards building trusting relationships.  Sometimes, even with the best intentions, our trust can be broken.  Yet, as we see with God, God continues to put his trust in us.  Even after Jesus is crucified, Jesus comes to his disciples and shows them amazing trust.  

As we do this, as we become “lifted up” people, we will grow stronger as persons and we will grow stronger as a church.  We have potential to be agents of good, of change, of hospitality and deep friendships as we experience God lifting up Jesus, lifting up us, and lifting up the community around us.  We are the body of Christ, called to illuminate to the world the love of God.  T all of the community, not just those that are similar to us, but everyone…that’s good news…may we all do the lifting up of Christ in this community, following Christ’s example of radical hospitality, friendship, and inclusion and, in so doing, be lifted up.

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