Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on a gift on the porch, should we open it?  Listen to this podcast of his reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Lent and send us a  comment . Please read John3:14-21.

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For Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 3/18/2012The 4th Sunday of Lent.

Please pause this audio and read John 3:14-21.
    I think one of the most unfair comments about Christianity is that it is a judgmental religion.  You might think that Christianity is judgmental because of who Jesus Christ is, but I do not think that Christianity, when lived fully, active seeks to judge at this point.
Emerson Colaw likes to tell the story of how he approached a young man in Times Square one day who was wearing a sandwich board that said, “There is no Truth.”  When he reached the young man, he pointed to the sign and said, “That’s not true.”  The young man replied, “Yes, it is.” To which Colaw said, “O.K., young man, which is it?”
There must be truth.  Whether or not we end up agreeing with that truth, truth forces us to make a decision.  We must say, “Yes, I believe,” or “No, I do not believe.”  There is no going back.  To even say that all religions have the same God is to say that there are some who are wrong.  Truth excludes by its virtue of being truth.  Are you completely confused now?
     When Truth is proclaimed, there will be those who will say it is true, others will say it is not true, but everyone must make a decision about it.  Some are included in the “yes” group.  Others are excluded in the “no” group.  Truth itself excludes.
But when it comes to Christ, is that exclusion on purpose?  I don’t think that it is.  Let’s take a look.
In verses 14-15, Jesus says that just like the serpent lifted up in the wilderness by Moses, the Son of Man must be lifted up.  In the account from Numbers, it is said that the people came to Moses because the Lord had sent fiery serpents among them to punish them for their sinfulness.  Moses interceded for them and the Lord told Moses to put a bronze serpent on a pole.  
Every time someone got bit by the fiery serpents, if they looked at the bronze serpent on the pole, they would live.  The serpent was an act of intercession between God and man.  The serpent on the pole was an act of grace that allowed humanity to be forgiven.
     Jesus, the Son of Man on the Cross is the same for us.  Jesus is the eternal offering for our sin.  When we are enslaved in sin and have done what God doesn’t want us to do, we only need to look to Jesus and we will be forgiven.  Jesus, like the serpent on the pole, is an intercessor, someone who goes between God and humanity.  Jesus is a gift of grace from God so that we would not be killed for our sins.  So, the purpose of Christ is not to condemn, but to save.  St. John tells us that “the Son came into the world, not that the world would be condemned, but that the world would be saved through him.”  Jesus came to save, not to condemn.
There was a man who had a gift sent to his son.  The son was angry at his father and refused to pick up the gift.  So, there the gift sat on the son’s porch.  Day in and day out, the gift sat.  Night and day, the gift sat.  Rain and shine, the gift sat.  Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall, the gift just sat, sat, sat there.
 
We cannot deny that the father sent the gift, this is true.  We cannot deny that the son knew the gift was sent, this is true.  But there the gift sat on his porch seemingly forever.  The gift is true and the gesture from the father is true, but the son cannot know the benefits of the gift until he opens the package.
Jesus Christ is a gift from God to us.  He was, as St. John says, “given” for the world.  There is no one who is excluded from having this gift sent to them.  But Jesus Christ can be offered over and over and over, but until he is received as the One who died for our sins and is there as the go-between for the Father and ourselves, we will never know the benefits of his grace.  We may even experience the benefits of his grace, but until we recognize him and trust him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World, we cannot experience fully the benefits of the Holy Gift from God, the God-man Jesus the Christ.
    So, Jesus is relief from sins for all people for all times.  But God isn’t usually going to twist our arm to make us follow him.  So, like the gift of the father to the son, the Relief of the Word (Jesus Christ) sits there under bow on the porches of people we love and respect.  But are we excluding anyone from accepting this gift?  No.  Are we wagging our heads and shaking our finger?  No.  We are not leaving people out.  Christianity doesn’t leave people out on purpose, at least not true Christianity.  The Truth of the Gift of Christ for the World makes people make a choice.  
But I think that we must remember that in the story that I told you about the father sending his son a gift that I did not say that there was any special occasion.  The occasion was that the father loved the son.  That’s it.  Out of sheer love for you and me he sent the Son to die for us.  So, don’t think that you are not loved.  You were loved even before you knew to ask for it.  You were loved even before you committed your first sin.  You were loved even before you drew your first breath.  You were loved because God sent his Son to be the way out of a life of sin.
 
So, this fourth Sunday of Lent, let us rejoice!  Let us sing praises to the Father in heaven as we give thanks to the Son and dwell here in the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Let us rejoice that it is not the intent of God, at this point, to separate us, but to have us united in Christ.  But that doesn’t mean that some will not accept this gracious gift.  But for those who do, the gift is priceless and eternal.  So, I encourage you to let someone know about this gift this week.  Let them know about Christ when the opportunity presents itself.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall have eternal life.  For the Son was sent into the world, not that he would condemn the world, but that the world would be saved through him.  Amen?  Amen.
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