From Mount Hor [the Israelites] set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 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.
The Word of the Lord.
Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
Give thanks to the Lord, for the Lord is good,
for God’s mercy endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord proclaim
that God redeemed them from the hand of the foe,
gathering them in from the lands;
from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.
Some were fools and took rebellious paths;
through their sins they were afflicted.
They loathed all manner of food
and drew near to death’s door.
Then in their trouble they cried to the Lord
and you delivered them from their distress.
You sent forth your word and healed them
and rescued them from the grave.
Let them give thanks to you, Lord, for your steadfast love
and your wonderful works for all people.
Let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving
and tell of your deeds with shouts of joy. Amen.
[Saint Paul writes:] You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
The Word of the Lord.
[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.”
The Gospel of our Lord.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
“But the people became impatient on the way . . . ”
Oh my – these words speak so powerfully of the human condition – don’t they? This is the story of my life and I am guessing all of your lives too!
Are we there yet? How much longer?
How many more sleeps?
Can we move this along? Can we get things rolling?
Most of us have the attention span of a toddler who has been drinking espresso and eating Halloween candy all day!
We are truly impatient beings.
Remember in-person worship and the Confession and Forgiveness? As a part of our worship each week there is a pause for personal reflection and confession. This pause is usually about a minute or so. A mere 60 seconds. That’s all.
60 seconds really isn’t very long. After all – there are 1,440 minutes in every day and 10,080 minutes in a week. Just 1 minute of silence to consider our sins. 1 minute to sit quietly while asking for God’s forgiveness. 1 minute to talk with our Lord.
I settled on a minute – because – frankly – it is all Lutherans seem to be able to handle!
I love all of you so very much. But you are just as human as I am. I know from personal experience there is absolutely NO way to confess an entire week’s worth of sins and sinning in 60 seconds or less. Seriously – in a mere measly 60 seconds we should just be getting started with our confessing. But I have tried longer pauses – and they just don’t work. Honestly those longer pauses sorta freak people out.
60 seconds of silence and confession are all we can handle. Any longer and we get impatient. The shuffling – the shifting and stirring start. The coughing and the throat clearing. The bulletin reading – impatience and restlessness emerge.
We are impatient. We constantly push. Waiting troubles us. Think about how impatient we are when faced with any kind of waiting – not just waiting in silence considering our sins . . .
If we have to wait more than 20 seconds for anything – we quickly grow impatient. If we are stuck in traffic – often there is honking and perhaps some “creative” gesturing to communicate our impatience . . .
If we are in line – there is toe tapping and loud sighing. Waiting rooms are filled with people who are grumbling and grumping. And muttering and sighing.
We want what WE want when WE want it. And let’s be honest – we want it NOW!
Sometimes in our impatience we push right past what is good for us and others. Sometimes our impatience makes us selfish. Sometimes our impatience blinds us to our blessings.
This is what was happening in our first reading. The Israelites’ impatience was blinding them to their blessings from God. It was making them careless and self-centered. They were taking their blessings for granted. In their impatience – food – freedom and God’s presence in their lives were no longer enough. Their impatience made them demand more and more! Their impatience made them selfish.
It is hard to admit – but the same can be true for us. We too can become so impatient that we fail to see God’s blessings to us. We can become so impatient we are blind to God’s presence in our lives. Our impatience can make us careless and selfish.
Lent has traditionally been a time for Christians to practice the disciplines of reflection and self-denial. Of fasting – and waiting thoughtfully. Of working on being more patient – of abstaining. Of trying to surrender some of our wants. Of putting others’ first. Of working for the greater good.
Lent is a time to be aware of our impatience and the ways it can blind us to God’s blessings to us. To reflect.
Our reading from Numbers – leaves us wondering how the Israelites could be so ungrateful. How could they take bread from heaven for granted? Or freedom from slavery? How could they not see how blessed they were? Their lack of gratitude is puzzling – even shocking. Their impatience is troubling . . .
But before we judge the Israelites too harshly – let’s consider our own lives and think about our own hearts. Because we also receive God’s amazing and abundant blessings. We too have God’s promises. And yet – aren’t there times when we don’t really appreciate those blessings? When we grow impatient?
Perhaps we should ask ourselves – do we ever take God’s blessings for granted? Do we thank God for the air we breathe – for the sun that shines – for the rain that falls – for our homes – our families – our jobs – and the food on our tables.
It is easy to take blessings for granted – or to think – if God really loved us as much as he says he does our homes would be larger – our cars newer and our bank accounts bigger.
We ALL tend to take our blessings for granted especially once we have gotten used to them. And we get used to them very – very easily!
It is so easy to take the familiar for granted. To forget to be grateful. To become impatient with the way things are in our lives.
I encourage you to take time this week to thank God for all he has done for you. Take time to be thankful and patient and grateful. Because we have all been blessed and that is very Good News indeed. AMEN.