“. . . but the people became impatient on the way.” (Numbers 21:4b)
It was just two days ago that Seeker how the called and chosen people after the time of Moses go so far astray several generations down. The human trait of impatience might have been one reason. Do you remember, beloved reader, that at the foot of Mt. Sinai they had become impatient and constructed a golden calf? Preacher made the observation that modern Christianity has done the same thing, albeit it took comparatively longer for it happen. Of course that depends on your perspective of how Christianity has veered off course. Actually the called and chosen people throughout time have veered off and back course – again, subject to what your faith traditions state as on and off course.
Today, Holy Cross Day, the time we consider what the cross means for our faith. Not the crucifixion but the emblem of the cross as salvation.
“And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.” (Verses 8 – 9)
The gospel of John makes reference to this event from the Jews’ past, tying it to the instructions to Nicodemus where Jesus talks about being born of the Spirit as opposed to being born as a baby.
“And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14 & 15)
And this small passage comes just before the declaration that God sent Jesus as a beloved son to the world because of the love the Divine felt for humanity. The cross can be seem as a symbol and emblem of that love – both from the Divine and Jesus Christ.
“For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)
Paul speaks to the message of the cross and that is causes bewilderment to those who do not understand it message. Maybe over time the message of the cross and its importance have lost it import and importance. And not just the message of the cross but the good news that Jesus brought, that the disciples preached, and that convicted Paul on the road to Damascus.
If you read Paul closely, you can tell that some of the believers were (already) growing impatient and muddling the message or rephrasing it in ways that suited their human spirit rather than being faithful to what was preached to them. And maybe down through the ages humanity got impatient with the restrictions that were placed on them after being called and chosen. Certain segments of the Israelites did, if the teaching of the prophets major & minor is an indication.
“Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, “ (Psalm 78:1-2)
It is good, beloved reader, that we return to the basic preaching that was presented to us by Jesus Christ. The New Testament preaches the news with love and compassion, hoping that the listener will become a believer and turn over their life to the Lord. The Old Testament . . uses a slightly different approach.
“When he killed them, they sought for him; they repented and sought God earnestly.
They remembered that God was their rock, the Most High God their redeemer.
But they flattered him with their mouths; they lied to him with their tongues.
Their heart was not steadfast toward him; they were not true to his covenant.
Yet he, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them; often he restrained his anger, and did not stir up all his wrath.” (Verses 34 – 38)
There was a time, beloved reader, when I could see humanity living as New Testament beings. Maybe it was my innocent and sheltered youth and young adulthood. Maybe it was a desire to not see what the wider world looked like. Or maybe, just maybe, our world has changed that much. It seems to me we are more in Old Testament times; the hatred and violence. The desire to destroy anything and everything that is not done, said, or lived according to personal or corporate view, perspective, and desire.
Oh, beloved reader, how sad a realization that is for me. That our world has so changed that life, human and wider creation, is not valued. And that being the case, we need emblems like the cross to show us what the Divine truly expects. I feel like I am peeking over the edge into an abyss where the Divine who is an Angry God rages at the sins of corporate humanity. And it is to the cross I cling, the reminder that the Divine did send Jesus Christ with a message of love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness and urges us to a gentle, compassionate, merciful belief.
And if that has been a theme that arises over time in my writing, I want to add an new one. In light of the way society is going, I suggest that those who cling to the cross and then meaning that is embedded there determine themselves to be a “faithful remnant” as were many of the Hebrews/Israelites/Jews. People who clung to faith as a directive for their lives and they way the lived in harmony with others. Shalom & Selah!