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Worship, Sunday, March 10, 2024

Text of the sermon. The text is not a transcript.


We save bags. Another way to say, I keep bag. 

We say, please save that for me?

I saved a seat for you. 

Buy now and save later. 

Can you save my foot? Another way to say, please heal my foot. My please heal me. 

Save my life. 

Jesus, save me!

The ancient Israelites told a story about poisonous snakes. The poisonous snakes bit many of the Israelites. They went to Moses and asked him to pray to God. Moses did so. God replied. Moses then made a bronze snake and placed it on a pole. 

Whenever a snake poisoned anyone, the person could look at the bronze snake and be healed. 

The person’s life is saved. 

The implication is that if you did not look at the snake, the person died, we could even say, perished. 

It’s an odd story, but it frames how we read the rest of our passage. 

“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.”

It is the most recognized verse in all of Christian scripture. You can find it on billboards, underneath the eyes of football players. It’s the verse that I’m sure, like me, hundreds of thousands of people chose as their confirmation verse. 

A person doesn’t have to be a Christian to know that wherever John 3:16 is, it is automatically seen as Christian. 

John 3:16 is a good bumper sticker. It’s seen as a concise message that encompasses all of the Christian faith, and to some extent, that is true.  

This text always needs some explanation because it had been used as a cudgel to claim that some who do not believe will receive eternal damnation. Part of that is a profound misunderstanding of the word Perish. 


She was lost at sea. She perished. 

She died.

The often quoted, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Meaning that a group of people no longer exists. 

Entire animal species no longer exist. 

Each instance means death or nonexistence. Here, at least, it is not a choice between eternal life and eternal hell. It is a choice between eternal life and nonexistence. 

John 3:17

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world but so that the world might be saved through him.

This brings us back to Saved. In light of thinking of healing, let’s think of Jesus as a healer as he often is, as the Gospels portray him doing.  Let’s think of Jesus as the one who comes to be a healer. Christ did not come to condemn the world but to heal it. He wants people to be healed, to be close to God and each other, and to have Abundant lives. 

John 3:18: also considered to be confusing. Those who believe in him are not condemned, but those who do not believe are condemned already because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 

First, condemn is not to hell. 

Second, this speaks to eternal life and perishment as our choice. What we choose to do with the healing light of Christ is believe that trusting in his healing light can free us or comfort us now—not in the future, but now. 

This is underscored by his use of the terms light and darkness. People now choose to live in light or darkness. 

Light and eternal life become synonymous, and perish becomes synonymous with darkness. If this sounds like Star Wars, it’s because George Lucas got it from there. 

We are given a choice to be people of the light or be people of darkness. 

We can live now with a quality of life that is like eternal life, or we can live a life that feels like we have disappeared, as if life does not mean much. We can choose to be close to God or we can choose to be distant from him, living in the shadows. 

The light is, in fact, healing. It shines a light on the places we do not want to acknowledge about ourselves: the darkness. The light is like a mirror. 

What draws us to darkness? What keeps us there? What keeps me from being close to God? What keeps me from being close to other people? What weighs me down? What turns me nasty and revengeful? What 

Resentments can diminish the quality of our lives and immobilize us from moving forward. 

Resentments can keep us from each other and thereby distance us from closeness with God.

Unaddressed resentment fuels anger and keeps us from seeing clearly. It can lead to death. We watched Up on Friday with some kids from church. Towards the end, a great explorer, Charles Muntz held a grudge against the world. The world did not believe he had discovered a magnificent tropical bird. He promised to find the bird and bring it back to show that he had found one. His grudge led him to fight Russel and Carl. Muntz had to have that bird. In the end, Muntz’s grudge led to his demise. 

A source of grudges are conflict within a family.  It seems every family has a story of a family grudge. It might be within the family. It might be family against family. 

A deceased person’s will, or lack thereof, contributes to many familial resentments. One sister was given mom’s jewelry when the other one wanted them. One child thought that they should have received more because they cared for their parents the most. 

Some deceased carry their resentments and grudges in their wills. Cutting out one of their children completely while all the others receive something. Some use the reading of their will to get even and to the last word. 

Resentment in the workplace. That co-worker who got the job you wanted. He knew I wanted that job! And he applied for it! The manager knew I wanted that job! 

Some might even say she got that job because she’s a woman or he got into Harvard because he’s black. 

Or that a college football player has someone write his papers and take his tests.  

Here’s something to consider: The cause of the resentment may not be true, and the injustice you perceive may not be based on reality. 

Working through Resentments may require working with a professional counselor. 

From a spiritual point of view, there are a few. 

  1. First, stop forming a resentment in its tracks. Be curious. Before judging, ask yourself if you are making an assumption. If you can ask the person what they meant, ask them. If they have a grudge against you, ask them why. 
  2. Suppose a grudge has developed. Gratitude for what you have. That piece of jewelry you had your eye on, recognize that your memories of your loved one are stronger. That job promotion you wanted, maybe it wasn’t your time, maybe there, 
  3. Forgiveness: if a person has a grudge against you, ask for forgiveness. Talk to them. Forgive those who can’t or won’t come to you. 
  4. That old saying Give it up to God and Let Go. Pray for God to shine healing light into your heart and mind. 
  5. Fifth, we do not have to accept abusive behavior. Forgiveness: Give it up to God and Let Go. Gratitude is not a call to return to an abusive person or an abusive system. 

The good news of hope is we can shine a healing light on our resentments and relieve our grudges.  It’s a constant process. But the people of light are called to move towards the light’s healing. When we embrace the life, we are attempting to have a qualify of life that is like eternal life on earth. Thanks be to God for giving us the Light. Amen.