Out in the dessert, Moses lifts up a cross-shaped stick. This is the moment of maximum anxiety. The people have reached the end of their own resources. They are lost. They are sick. The are, what Jesus would later call, the poor in faith. They are entering a 12 Step program for irreligious people — which begins with admitting that we are powerless to save ourselves. On the stick is a brazen snake. This drains the last bit of rationality and ‘this is how we do things’ out of the situation. Imagine going down the aisle of your church with a snake on a stick.
The people just have to look at the snake pole to be healed. This is a pretty good analogy to the free nature of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. That’s why the story of Moses and the snake-stick precedes our favorite verse, John 3:16.
This is a good time to speak about those moments in our lives when we are overcome by anxiety. My next blog (September 11, 2014) will speak about the difference between anxiety and urgency. Anxiety rarely leads people to do the right thing. The reason that 12 Step programs are so effective, is because they walk the addict back to the moment when they are most anxious (that is, most aware of what they are in danger of losing) and offer grace. There is a free gift. The solution comes down to us from a higher power.
This Sunday, in the shadow of 911, we lift high the cross.