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Daily Encouragement - March 9

And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

Numbers 21:8-9

And 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.

John 3:14-16

What he said was one of the most disturbing things anyone has ever said to me...but he was right.

“He” was an 12 year old boy named Tristan in a Confirmation class I taught 20 years ago. In my mind’s eye, I can still see his face as he blurted out what had just occurred to him. We were discussing the Roman method of public execution known as “crucifixion” when he raised his hand and waved it vigorously to get my attention. “So, then,” he said, as if he was still trying to think it through, “if Jesus had been shot at dawn by a firing squad, we’d be wearing rifles around our necks...or if he’d been hung by the neck until dead, we’d be wearing nooses...or if he’d been killed by lethal injection, we’d be wearing syringes around our necks - instead of crosses?” Ugh, I thought. “Well, yes,” I replied, “I suppose we would be.” The thought made me feel almost nauseous, but there was no doubt in my mind that he’d gotten it right.

Which made me think, all over again, about the paradox of the Cross. (“No cross, no crown” we sometimes say, almost glibly, as if we were parroting the advice of a personal trainer in a spiritual fitness workout, “you know; no pain, no gain.” As it happens, both mottoes are true, but that doesn’t mean we can take the Cross of Christ for granted, except at our own peril.) Tristan got it: we wear crosses around our necks because the shameful, humiliating instrument of Jesus’ wrongful execution has - by the miraculous power of God - become the instrument of our salvation. The worst that human sinfulness could do - killing the very Son of God - has been transformed, by God’s grace, into the best that God’s great righteousness can accomplish- the redemption of sinners. It boggles the brain. It baffles the mind. But it captures the heart. Every single Lent, it captures my soul all over again. May the same happen for you.

UMH, #292, What Wondrous Love Is This, vs.1,2

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul,

what wondrous love is this, O my soul!

What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss

to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,

to bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul,

what wondrous love is this, O my soul!

What wondrous love is this, that caused the Lord of life

to lay aside his crown for my soul, for my soul,

to lay aside his crown for my soul.

O merciful God, in compassion for your sinful children you sent your Son Jesus Christ to be the Savior of the world. Grant us grace to feel and to lament our share of the evil that made it necessary for him to suffer and to die for our salvation. Help us by self-denial, prayer, and meditation to prepare our hearts for deeper penitence and a better life. And give us a true longing to be free from sin, through the deliverance won by Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.

Pastor Susan Pate Greenwood

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