Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Numbers 21:4-9

Lent 4 – Year B

Numbers 21:4-9

The Lord gives and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Serpents were sent and bit and many died. Artisan Moses was sent and the power of the serpents was abrogated.

Sympathetic magic, yes, but what else? Surely it can't simply be a one-to-one correspondence or we would have folks sticking a dollar or a stock option on a stick to recuperate from being bit by the invisible hand.

- - - - - - -
Why have you brought us out here? To die?
Sure, have some death! Surprised it didn't come from thirst?
Ouch! Got us there.
Tell you what, I didn't bring you out to die.
So, here's another surprise. Moses, what do have you been doing?
See, a sky snake, not one in the grass.
- - - - - - -

Is the bronze snake antidote over the past or antecedent to idolatry (2 Kings 18:4)?

If the pattern is snake, snake lifted, snake idolized – how does Jesus fit into that and is the danger of his being lifted that he will also be idolized?

Looking at this story raises additional questions about both/and. Who are the fiery, poisonous seraphim disguised as snakes and why are they flitting through this story. Did they also attend Jesus in the wilderness? How about being with Adam and Eve at a tree as well as guarding a gate back in? Were they holding the memory of all this within an ark, a promise?

Might they be a helpful clue about needing to look more deeply than the surface – to see life and its consequences and its hope in the wriggly and the static? Perhaps the bronze serpent helped folks see the angelic host even in the snake that bit them and in that deeper view find the resources to go on. What art work helps you see past the surface?

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