4th Sunday in Lent
Year B: March 11, 2018
First Reading: Numbers 21:4-9
Stop Following Me, Moon! by Darren Farrell
(Written for ages 3-5)
Comment: In Numbers, the Israelites have been rescued from the terrible oppression of Egypt, but then they complain about the rescue. In this passage, they are once again complaining, claiming the contradictory problem that there is no food and that they detest the food. The passage says that as a result, poisonous snakes came among them. Whether this is a direct result or simply happenstance of being in the desert, the Israelites see a connection between their complaining and the poisonous snakes. The God who rescued them, against whom they were complaining before, they now turn to once again and ask for help and mercy which is sent in the form of a salvific bronze snake. Similarly, in Stop Following Me, Moon!, a hungry bear begins a series of thefts from his forest friends but is clearly visible by the light of the moon. He grows angry at the moon, deciding that it must be following him, trying to out him and his thefts to everyone. He tries desperately to escape what he regards as a punishing moon, but when the moon goes behind a cloud and he is lost in darkness, he is even more scared and begs for the moon to return. His fear and remorse spur him to change his ways and give back what he took before. This is a strange passage and hard for us to understand today. Whether we believe the snakes were a punishment, or any kind of a result of Israelite behavior, the point of the passage is that the Israelites, and the scripture writers, viewed it as such and that such a viewpoint led them also to see salvation in the bronze serpent sent by God. Like them, the bear believed the moon was chasing him and punishing him, and also learned from his experience. Even if we don’t view our lives the same way, we can remember to think about what we say and how we act, and to seek God’s help in all circumstances.
Second Reading: Ephesians 2:1-10
The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat
(Written for ages 4-7)
Comment: This passage from Ephesians describes God’s grace through Jesus Christ, unearned by us, but given as a gift. But it doesn’t stop there. It goes to say that because of that grace, we have good works to do. But crucially, these good works are not random. They are created by God just like grace, and furthermore, we are created to do these good works. We are created for a way of life that is covered in grace and lived out in good works. That is who we are created to be. In The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, Beekle is created to be an imaginary friend—that is who he is made to be. But time goes by and no child picks him to be their imaginary friend. But he knows who he is, who is created to be, and so he goes off to find a child for whom he can be an imaginary friend. And when he finds a child—Alice—they are exactly right for each other—she, made to be his friend, and he made to be hers. We have received God’s grace, and because of that grace, we are free to engage in good works, good works that we were, in fact, created to do. Those good works are what we are created for, and when we do them, we are living into God’s grace and plans for us.
Gospel Reading: John 3:14-21
Love Is by Diane Adams
(Written for ages 2-5)
Comment: John’s gospel tells us about God’s greatest gift—that God sent God’s only Son to us, and sent that gift out of love. God knew that we needed Jesus, and was willing to share him with us as a sign of love to us. Sometimes love is being willing to offer something we treasure, and sometimes love is best seen in the freedom it brings. In Love Is, a young girl realizes the same thing when she rescues a tiny duckling and spends a year raising it and caring for it. But eventually the duck needs to return to its habitat, and because she loves it so much, she is able to let the duck go and send it back to its original home where it can thrive and be free. God so loved the world, and in that love sent Jesus to us, willing to let him go to us. And as followers of Jesus, we abide in his love, and are able to love in a way that is willing to share, and to set others free.
Thanks to frequent contributor Sara Anne Berger for writing the Revised Common Lectionary Links this week.