Scripture/Sermon of the Day. March 14, 2021

Scripture Readings: Numbers 21:4-9

The bronze snake’s healing power
4 They marched from Mount Hor on the Reed Sea[a] road around the land of Edom. The people became impatient on the road. 5 The people spoke against God and Moses: “Why did you bring us up from Egypt to kill us in the desert, where there is no food or water. And we detest this miserable bread!” 6 So the Lord sent poisonous[b] snakes among the people and they bit the people. Many of the Israelites died.
7 The people went to Moses and said, “We’ve sinned, for we spoke against the Lord and you. Pray to the Lord so that he will send the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
8 The Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous snake and place it on a pole. Whoever is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 Moses made a bronze snake and placed it on a pole. If a snake bit someone, that person could look at the bronze snake and live.

John 3:14-21

14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so must the Human One[a] be lifted up 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. 16 God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. 17 God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him isn’t judged; whoever doesn’t believe in him is already judged, because they don’t believe in the name of God’s only Son.
19 “This is the basis for judgment: The light came into the world, and people loved darkness more than the light, for their actions are evil. 20 All who do wicked things hate the light and don’t come to the light for fear that their actions will be exposed to the light. 21 Whoever does the truth comes to the light so that it can be seen that their actions were done in God.”

Reflection/Sermon

I. In an article from Psychology Today, a therapist wrote an article about “complaining.” He said when he’s at an airport, waiting for his flight — he listens to people’s conversations. He said he hears a lot of complaining. People complain about delayed flights and uncomfortable seats, bad weather, wars, the economy, nosy in-laws, health issues.”

II. He says there are three types of complainers:
1. People who are never satisfied, which he calls “chronic complainers.” This is where complaining becomes a constant state of mind where the brain is “wired” so this kind of thinking becomes habitual. Complaining becomes like an addiction. Like the poor man in the Rolling Stones song who Can’t Get No Satisfaction, no matter what he does —he tries listening to the radio — but it’s all useless information. He can’t wash his shirts white enough. He doesn’t smoke the right cigarette. He can’t pick up a woman —He can’t get no satisfaction anywhere!!!!

2. Another type of complaining is what’s called “venting” we express emotional dissatisfaction — anger, frustration, disappointment, and we’re not trying to solve anything — we just want attention and sympathy.

One harmful side-effect of these two types of complaining is that they bring down people’s moods. If we listen to enough of this, we become like a tire with a slow leak in it, eventually becoming flat and useless.

III. The third kind of complaining is good. It’s called “THE INSTRUMENTAL COMPLAINT.” This is the complaint that has the goal of solving problems. The prophets in the Bible were instrumental complainers. They identified problems — like wealthy and powerful people not taking care of the poor and weaker members of society — to fix them.

IV. The main solution for the first two types of complaining— the ones that bring people down — is to limit our exposure to them. Which is how God handled the problem of the chronic complainers in the wilderness. When people went on and on about the “miserable” food, scarcity of water, discomfort — God limited his exposure to these people’s complaining by killing them! God said, “You don’t like the food? Don’t like the scarcity of water, the harsh wilderness conditions? You wish I’d left you in Egypt? Alright — these poisonous snakes will put you out of your misery!”

V. There is a saying from one of the Desert Fathers, Macarius. He said, “This is the truth, if you regard contempt as praise, poverty as riches, and hunger as a feast, you will never die.”
And similar advice was given by a spiritual father named Abbot Poemen, who was approached by a monk who said to him: “What should I do, father, for I am in great sadness?” Abbot Poemen said, “Never despise anybody, never condemn anybody, never speak evil of anyone, and the Lord will give you peace.”

VI. Spiritual wisdom is often counterintuitive — it can seem like nonsense or irrational.
What did Macarius mean? If someone treats us with contempt, we should consider it as praise? But aren’t we supposed to defend ourselves? In some cultures, we would settle any treatment of contempt or insult with a duel to the death. Like the iconic scene at the bar in a western movie where the two people face off and have a gunfight. What if one cowboy insulted another, the insulted cowboy, treating the insult as praise, when called a liar or when told his mother was a prostitute — what if he said, “Thank you. I am deeply grateful for your generous and insightful words.” You know what would happen? We’d have no good movies!!!
Or, what if we were happy with less? What if we said, “Well, I don’t have much. But I do have all this air, this sunlight, the wind and the stars at night. Actually, I am so rich. Thank you, Lord.”

VII. And that is what our readings are saying today. Repent — change the way we see other people, and our own lives. Be thankful. When the poison of dissatisfaction and complaining bites us — shift our gaze to our blessings, and what God gives us every day.
It’s a vision of God’s amazing grace powerful enough to break the cycle of dissatisfaction and complaining — and save us.