Here are my thoughts for this Sunday, the 4th Sunday in Lent. The Scriptures for this Sunday are Numbers 21: 4 – 9, Ephesians 2: 1 – 10, and John 3: 14 – 21.
There are those who proclaim that these days are the End Times and that God will surely destroy the world. But I wonder if God needs to do that; after all, we are doing a great job of it ourselves. As I thought about the Scriptures for today and what they mean in this day and age, a quote from long ago but not far away came to mind, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
This was uttered by Pogo, the carton creature created by Walt Kelly. Developed in part to explain part of his thinking, the ultimate quote became the “battle cry” for the environmentalist movement in the early 1970’s (see http://www.igopogo.com/we_have_met.htm).
For a long time, we, the people of this planet, felt that we could do what we wanted with the environment of this planet. We felt that we could dump our wastes in the rivers and streams, lakes and oceans of this world and the planet would detoxify the wastes and eventually purify it. When there were very few of us, many eons ago, we could do that. But as the population of this planet has increased and the amount of waste that we generate has increased, the amount of water and air from which we gather the basic requirements of life has remained constant. Not all the water on this planet is drinkable and as we pollute our rivers and streams, we reduce the resources available for fresh drinking water. And without fresh drinking water, life is limited in scope. Remember that any search for life on other planets begins with a search for water.
The amount of air in the atmosphere is also fixed and as we pollute the atmosphere, we reduce the amount of fresh, breathable air. There is a limit to how much “recharging” the planet can do; one day we are going to find out that there is no more fresh air and no fresh, drinkable water and then we will wonder what is going to happen.
From the book of Numbers we read that the people of Israel were impatient, demanding food and water and complaining virtually every step of the way on the Exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land. And their complaints were numerous enough that God basically said that He had enough; “the Lord sent poisonous snakes among the people and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died.” (Numbers 21: 5)
But it is not just the environment that has brought us to this point in time and space. It is our relationship with other people and us. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul points out that we all have lived among the passions of the flesh, following the desires of our flesh and senses (Ephesians 2: 3).
As long as we walk a path that says that what we want as individuals is more important than anything else, then the path we walk is a path of destruction and desolation. We have long understood that the causes of war are rooted in poverty yet, despite this knowledge, we do little to remove the causes of poverty.
In the end, we are faced with a decision, individually and collectively. We can continue the path that we are currently on; we know where it leads and what we will find when we get there. The problem is that what we find when we get there is not what we expected during the walk.
Or, we can change our ways and the path which we are taking. We have that opportunity. John’s words in the Gospel for today point out that God cares for the inhabitants of this planet. Jesus came to save all those who would believe; the next step is up to us.
As we continue that journey through Lent, to Palm Sunday, and through Holy Week, we are reminded that we are being given an opportunity to change our path, our lives, and the future. We know what the outcome will be if we do not change our ways; and if we do not change, we will lose. That is not a good outcome.
If we change our ways, if we heed the words of the prophets, of the Baptizer, and of Christ, we will repent, we will change and the outcome will be positive.