March 8, 2020, Hungry For A Full Life by Pastor David Tatgenhorst
(No audio this week)
Spring forward into life - into an “all-in” life. Spring forward. I love these days of hope and new life, as we move toward Easter. Allee - allee in-free - it reminds me of playing tag or kick-the-can in the back yard on spring and summer nights. Those were times when I felt fully alive without even thinking about it.
I remember feeling fully alive after having a deep cry, feeling totally committed to loving people as they are, so committed that I cried over being able to see people in all their hurt and all their beauty. I call on that moment of full ‘alive-ness’ even when I can’t feel it in the moment. I know it’s there. I know that we can be fully alive and awake - that God intends that and lives in those moments.
Do you have memories of times when you felt fully alive and awake? On this International Women’s Day, I remember feeling fully alive and awake when I claimed being a man. I don’t think that’s ironic. I feel fully alive as a man and in that aliveness I know that being a man has nothing to do with oppression or abuse. I have nothing to fear from a free and alive and empowered woman. It was wonderful to experience that this week in the Laurel House conference on domestic violence for clergy.
(By the way, notice that in this week’s passage from John, Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night, in fear, and has trouble keeping up with what Jesus is saying. Next week, the woman at the well meets Jesus at midday and engages in a spirited debate with Jesus. think John was trying to say something? Nic at night is all confused about whether Jesus means born again or born from above and we have the same confusion)
As our society and our world gets more and more frightened about the spread of the Covid 19 virus, we need to remember our hunger for a fully alive life, free from fear. Let me pause for a moment here and talk about the virus. The virus is something to pay attention to. They are saying it is now in Montgomery County and that it’s not a matter of if, but when it spreads in our area. You have seen suggestions to not touch your face - or to touch your face and doorknobs with a tissue. That makes sense. I’m alright if we make it a shared understanding for a while not to shake hands, but to bump fists or elbows or whatever. Do you want to do that?
Now you know lots of people have also touched your money, so you might want to take whatever bills you have out of your wallet and put them into the collection plate. I don’t think you have to worry about your coins, but if you want you can throw them in too. … No, seriously, take whatever precautions you think you need to and if and as things get more serious, we will talk about what else to do. I know they have already cancelled school in Bucks county this week. We will be there for anyone who gets sick and we will find ways to worship, no matter what, and to pray for each other and with each other. So bringing our fears and giving them to God is a good thing to do.
I imagine that the community of the gospel of John was dealing with fears in their time and place that made this passage from John particularly powerful for them. Sometimes we need reassurance that God is not about destruction and hurt. God is not sending the novel coronavirus to punish humanity no matter what some televangelists no doubt are saying.
That kind of fear may well have been present even in the first century, causing John to reassure the people that Christ came to save, not to destroy, to bring life, not to perish, but have eternal, fully alive, life. Remember that eternal life does not begin when you die, but when you start to live. We can come fully alive in Christ in almost any moment, whether you are a teenager or a grey-head like me.
In this passage we notice the reference to Moses lifting the serpent on a staff in the desert to heal the people who were following him. That serpent on a staff has become a modern symbol for the healing professions. In this passage John also relates that image to the image of Jesus on the cross as a source of healing and life for us all, a symbol that God is never about destruction, illness, and death. But God is with us in the midst of any of those occurrences. God is with us in the epidemic that is spreading. God is with those who are scared. God is with those who are at risk and God is with those who are dying.
Today, I invite you to be hungry for life, be hungry for life today - not for next week or ten years from now. Live today. That’s when eternal life happens - in the joy of a game of tag, in the commitment to love each other as we are, in the tears we share with other. Be hungry for life as you are, as God knows you are. Revel in your particularity and in your community. Celebrate women on this International Women’s Day, and the model that strong women are for all of us.
OK, last piece of advice: Do what they are saying to do to protect yourself from viruses like Covid 19. Wash your hands - as we should be doing all the time. Don’t touch your face, and when you do, use a tissue. Meditate and pray for yourself and others, that we will have the strength to live - fully alive. And know that God, the Holy Spirit, the root of life, is with us all in our joy and in our fear, in our wounds and in our recovery, in every part of this glorious creation!
This is God’s good news.
Responsive hymn 2121 O Holy Spirit, Root of Life