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Year B, Lent 4, 2018 – Snaaaaaaaaaake!

March 7, 2018 / Molly Douthett / Lent

Ophidiophobia is the irrational fear of snakes. I know some people who would argue that a fear of snakes is not irrational at all, thank you very much. I would argue the same for spiders. At any rate, two of the Scripture passages for this Sunday mention snakes (aka “danger noodle” or “nope rope”). In the Old Testament lesson, fiery serpents are sent into the Israelite camp as God’s response to the peoples’ complaints. In the Gospel passage, Jesus refers to this incident in his nighttime conversation with Nicodemus as a passion prediction. The Ephesians passage does not have any mention of snakes (or spiders). Instead, the passage talks about the difference between living in and for the world, which can spiral one down into death, or living as a believer in Jesus Christ, which opens one up to the fullness of life in God’s created world – which includes snakes!


This week’s texts are:

Numbers 21:4-9 [01:59]

In the book of Exodus, the people seem to complain against Moses all the time. They don’t, but the response to the complaining brings water out of a rock and manna from heaven, so the story is remembered because of the miraculous events that follow. This story in Numbers is similar. The people have been wandering for quite a while at this point. You know how cranky you can be when you are confined to a car or a plane for long periods of time, so imagine how stifled they must have felt traveling for decades and still not reaching their destination. This “Are We There Yet?” in Numbers differs from the ones in Exodus because here the people actually grumble against God. God responds by sending fiery serpents among them, and the people are bitten. This seems harsh. God then tells Moses to fashion an image of what is killing them, put it on a pole, and tell anyone who wants to live to look at it. Those who do are saved. The salvation doesn’t come from the bronze image, but from the people hearing the Word of God and obeying it. For WORD smart, we suggest taking the movement of the story and working your entire worship service around it. In EYE smart, be like Moses and make a serpent (maybe rubber instead of bronze) on a pole. Practice hearing and obeying in BODY smart by playing Simon Says. For a NATURE smart special effect, bring in a snake and its handler. The bronze serpent is a manifestation of sin; we have some ways in PEOPLE smart to illustrate this in literature past and present. And for SELF smart, what symbol would you look at that embodies your disobedience?   


Ephesians 2:1-10 [11:23]

Commentary suggests the first three chapters of Ephesians is part of a baptismal liturgy or baptismal catechumen. These particular verses teach about the abundance of God’s mercy given by grace to those dying in the flesh. Life and death are marked with clear boundaries and the transition point between the two of them is Jesus’ death and resurrection. Visually, the passage reminds me of an hourglass where the grains of sand shift down to a narrow point and then are released once again into a wider area on the other side. I wish I had thought of this for the podcast! Anyway, we have some other illustrations for EYE smart using images from television and movies, linked below. For a special effect, David found some instructions for making a swing card! In MATH smart, we suggest using numbers to illustrate the limitless value of God’s grace. Death in this passage is more about spiritual death than physical death, but we have a link to what happens to the BODY when the heart stops beating. We found two fun, easy-to-learn songs using the last verses of this passage and linked to them for MUSIC smart. The kind of death and life transformation in these verses is illustrated very well by the work of an organization called Life After Hate, which we talk about in PEOPLE smart. The relationships established in alt-right and hate groups are often the kind of connection that lost souls seek. 


John 3:14-21 [21:14]

John 3:16 is a bumper sticker verse, and that’s not a bad thing. But it isn’t the only thing about this chapter. We would need to drive tanks in order to display all the ideas and truths about God’s activity as John’s gospel presents it! Instead, we have an idea for a special effect in WORD smart that acts as a visual display in worship (see the bottom of the worksheet, linked below). Jesus refers to the bronze serpent in the Numbers passage to explain to Nicodemus why he has come into the world, which opens up the illogical idea that something dangerous can be a source of salvation. We look at that in MATH smart. We have a very cool special effect for BODY smart that includes something called God Rods. The theme of light vs. dark runs throughout John, and here Jesus speaks of the light being something that those who love the dark flee from. In NATURE smart, we think illustrating the way cockroaches flee from the light works well. Continuing with the theme of dwelling darkness, we have a list of cover-ups that did not go so well in PEOPLE smart. 


Image Credit: Copyright: pelooyen / 123RF Stock Photo. Used by permission.


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