Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sermon; Lent 5B; John 12:20-33

I’m going to do something a little risky at first.  I’m going to ask you to think back to the sermon for Lent 1.  What do you, or can you, remember from that sermon?  If you are having trouble, here's a hint: And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.  He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan.

I asked two questions:  how many temptations did Jesus endure; and, when did those temptations end.  The answers were, “According to Mark, we don't know,” and, “Maybe not until the cross.”

That led us to consider the implication of daily temptations and the doctrine of fully human/fully divine.  He lived as one of us, yet without sin.  It is this fully human aspect of Jesus that tells us we are not alone.  It is this fully human aspect of Jesus that tells us we worship not only a high and lofty, omnipotent, mysterious being, but we worship a God who loves us enough to walk in our shoes.  The Incarnation is as much about us understanding God as it is about God understanding us.  And it is this fully human aspect of Jesus that is a big part of today's gospel.

But as we go through our lives, and probably most especially as we go through our worship lives, the humanity of Jesus tends to get overlooked.  We worship God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  We hear Scripture passages telling us of discipleship, healings, feedings and other miracles.  We participate in Communion where bread and wine are changed into the mystery of Christ’s real presence.  Jesus has become synonomous with God.

This is the God we worship and this is the God we long to see.  We want to see the miracles.  We want to see the signs.  We want to see water turned to wine.  We want to see your kingdom come.  And this is exactly what those Greeks in today's gospel reading are asking to see.

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”

Philip goes to Andrew and they both go and tell Jesus that there are some people here to see him.  We don't know if those Greeks ever got to see Jesus; but what we do know is that Jesus gives an answer nobody expects, and one which provides the basis of exactly how we are to see Jesus.

They ask to see Jesus the miracle worker; what they get is much more profound.

“I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

The first thing Jesus says is what we call the paradox of Christianity – in order to live, we must die.  This has permeated Christianity since before Christianity.  We must die to self.  We must die to the world.  Sometimes we must die physically.  For it is through death that we are given life.

Easter is two weeks away.  Everywhere plans are being made for brunches and dinners and gatherings and white shoes and egg hunts.  Everywhere plans are being made for celebrations of all kinds.  But we must never forget that to get to Easter we must go through Good Friday.  To get to resurrection, we must go through the cross.

This is not what those Greeks were expecting to hear.

The second deeply profound thing Jesus says is, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.”

A quick reading gives us a, “Yeah, that makes sense,” understanding.  After all, if we are servants of Christ, and if we go where he goes, then it makes sense that wherever he is, we, his servants, will be also.  But we should know by now that Jesus deserves more than a quick reading.

The question then becomes, “Where, then, is Jesus?”  He is confronting corruption.  He is talking theology with anyone who has questions.  He is crossing boundaries.  He is treating foreigners as equals.  He is welcoming the sinner, the impure and the unclean into his midst.  He is among the crippled, sick, dying and dead.  He is bringing food to the hungry.  He is protecting the powerless from the powerful.  He is speaking to outsiders.

That is where Jesus is.  That is where we must follow.  And when we follow Jesus into those places, we meet him there.  Amid the hungry, the broken, the beaten, the sick, dying and dead, the foreigners, the outsiders and powerless – amid those people is where Jesus is.

If we go to those places expecting to see a miracle of water walking, mute talking, deaf hearing or blind seeing, we might miss seeing the miracle of his humanity.  But if we go to those places understanding that that is where Jesus is, then we might be more open to experiencing the miracle of his humanity.  We also might experience the miracle that changes Them to Us.

And it is in that miracle, Them to Us, that a part of us might die.  What might die is our fear of outsiders.  What might die is our distrust of those who don't look like us, dress like us or smell like us.  What might die is our fear of being contaminated.  What might die is our desire to keep up the walls and divisions that define us.  If those things die, then we will bring forth much fruit.

Sir, we wish to see Jesus.

He's here.  But we probably need to change where we look.



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