Little Joanne had completed her first month in Kindergarten. Having said goodbye to her teacher at the close of the day, she scampered down the hall with her classmates and disappeared from sight. But in a few minutes, she was back at her teacher’s room, her cheeks wet with tears. “I lost my steeple!” she sobbed. Puzzled and unable to understand the child’s complaint, her teacher dried her tears and invited her to sit down and explain. The tearful story came out: On the first day of Kindergarten, Joanne’s mom had pointed out a high church steeple just two blocks from the school. If Joanne would walk toward that cross, she would be walking in the right direction toward her home. But on this particular day, Joanne had left the school by a different door, and as she looked up she found to her utter dismay that she had “lost her steeple” – and with no cross to guide her footsteps she felt lost and frightened! (from a devotion from Herman Gockel)
This story of little Joanne, is a modern-day parable of the world in which we live. Isn’t a major cause of the problems people of all ages face today is that they too have “lost their steeple” -they have no sure, strong and enduring landmark by which to guide their “journey through life?” They know they can’t trust the government to solve their problems; they have experienced disappointments with medicine and hospitals. They know they can’t help themselves and others have disappointed them. So many get themselves even deeper into trouble by using easy credit to buy more things, or they try to find some brief pleasure by the use of alcohol, drugs, sex or other sensual pleasures. But none of these are the answer. Jesus is the only answer.
Both in the Old Testament reading, Numbers 21:4-9, and the Gospel, John 3:14-21, God directs us to look away from everything else to the one place of healing and life. In Numbers 21, it was the bronze snake God told Moses to lift up on the pole so that everyone who was bitten by the snakes would live; and in John 3, as Jesus teaches Nicodemus, He says, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him should have eternal life.”
We need to look away from everything else because nothing else can give us the right direction and help us in our life, except for Jesus and His leading. God, in His mercy is always seeking to lead people back to Himself through repentance so that they might receive His blessings. So, at times of rebellion, sometimes God says, “have it your way” (a fearful thing for God to say!) God said this to the Israelites when they refused to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 13), God said, “You will wander around in the Wilderness for 40 years until this generation dies”. But God never abandons His children. He provided “free groceries and free delivery” for over a million people for those 40 years! And still the people “looked away from God” and grumbled about the “free groceries” and wanted “something else” – so God again said, “Have it your way” and sent the fiery snakes that bit and killed many of them. But as they turned to God in repentance, in His mercy, He told Moses to raise on a pole a bronze snake “so that everyone who looked to it would not die.” They were to look away from everything else to the one place of healing and life that God graciously provided.
This symbol of death (snake) on the pole pointed the Old Testament believers to Jesus, and His being “lifted up on the cross” so that everyone who looks to Him (crucified and “raised up” from the grave) will not perish but have eternal life. And this eternal life is given to us through God’s Word and Sacraments – (read Romans 6:3-4 where we are given new life through Holy Baptism and directed each day to live in the new life we have.) In the daily blessings of our Baptism and in the Lord’s Supper, we are fed and strengthened to live each day in service to Jesus in all that we do. Join us this Wednesday again for our Lenten worship – Jesus suffered unjustly before Pilate – and join us each weekend for worship, the Lord’s Supper and Bible study.