Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Snakes On A Pole (and yes I stole the title)

[Wonderments about Numbers 21:4-9 and John 3:13-21]

What kind of father
when his son asks for a fish
gives him a snake?
Isn't that all they were doing?
Complaining about the food,
like a picky teenager standing at the open door of the fridge,
claiming that there's nothing to eat?

Yet this same God,
The one that Jesus tells us to pray to
with a faith that we'll be treated
like beloved children;
Keep pounding on the door, He says
Don't give up, He says,
You can trust this God, He says;
This same God
Sends snakes.
Poisonous snakes, with burning bites.

We know Jesus knows this story,
He uses it to talk about
His own crucifixion.
"Just like Moses
lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,
The Son of Man
must be lifted up."

Did the Hebrews in the wilderness
"know it was a snake
when they picked it up?"
When they spoke
not just against Moses,
but also against God?
Was this a lesson aimed at a whole community
about the dangerous consequences
of walking away from covenant?

It certainly worked.
After God
had beaten them up with the serpents,
whipped them with them til many of them died,
The people begged Moses to make it stop.
And so God told Moses
to put a snake on a pole.
The way our grandfathers
hung their razor strops
where they were always a reminder
of what happens
if you piss off the old man.

No one seems to complain
that this is how God handled
His rebellious people.
Isn't this what gods do when you mess up? Beat you into submission?
The big difference here
is that God offered a way to fix it.
That was certainly new.

Maybe that's Jesus's whole point.
That this God
the One walking around
in His skin
doesn't do that anymore.
That this God
would rather suck the poison
out of the whole world
Take it into His own Self
and die
Than try to beat this creation
into submission.

But don't stop Jesus's explanation there.
Don't make it that soft and easy.
Cause Jesus went on to tell us that
We can still refuse
to step into the Light.
Continue to pick up the snakes
of injustice, disobedience, and greed.
God doesn't have to send them,
we go looking for them on our own.
We know what they are
when we elect to pick them up,
when we choose the denial of Darkness,
rather than the Light of awareness.
We can hide in the Darkness;
refuse to look at the faces
of chemical warfare in Syria,
of hunger next door.
And we will still die,
already judged for loving the Darkness.
There are still choices to be made
in the free will of being God's children.
Some of those choices can kill us.

I don't know
I still don't understand
what's going on out there in the wilderness.
Is God changing? Or are we? Or both?
What I do know is this:
From rainbows in the sky,
To snakes on a pole,
To crosses on a hill beside the road;
This time
what gets lifted up
Is different

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