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"Look Down, Look Up!"

We learn a lot of phrases, habits, and postures from our parents and those whom we grow up around. For some people, they receive the example of a solid work ethic. Others learn moral characteristics like honesty or generosity. Some people learn to approach the world with suspicion or fear. I learned many positive things from my parents, and there are two phrases that will always stick with me. I’m guessing some of you are familiar with the expressions, “work smarter, not harder” and “if you want something done right, do it…yourself.” It’s this last expression that I want to focus on here.

As upwardly-mobile and ruggedly-individualistic Americans, we learn that hard work is what really matters in life. Getting things done, and getting them done correctly, is important. So, if you aren’t sure you can count on others around you, do it yourself.

While this might be useful advice in grade school, or even setting out on a career path, it isn’t useful advice when it comes to our faith and spirituality. I find that when I focus on myself, and strive to rely on my own resources, the situation can quickly turn bleak. When it’s “all up to me,” sometimes I panic or despair. “Oh no! What if I’m not good enough,” I wonder, “What if I fail?”

In our scripture readings for this coming Sunday (Numbers 21:4-9 and John 3:14-21), we are reminded about the Israelites and what happened when they tried to do things themselves. The Israelites, wandering in the wilderness, would complain; cry out to God; God would intervene;  they would find something new to complain about; and repeat (over, and over, and over). In this instance, God was fed up with the Israelites and He sent snakes. The snakes created chaos, death, fear, and confusion. Then God commanded Moses to put a snake up on a pole. If the people would look up, they would be saved. Focusing downward on the chaos and confusion of snakes slithering around their legs and ankles, the people would surely perish. With faith to raise their gaze and look up, they would be saved.

This Lenten season, we journey with Christ toward the cross. Jesus’ upcoming death is not cheerful or happy…but will you have the faith to look up? To see God on the cross? Or, will you be focused on the daily details that keep us worried and busy? We have these options always.

What “snakes” are most distracting for you? How do you remind yourself to look up? Let’s share our challenges and successes.

Very Truly,

Pastor Adam

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