Scriptures: Jeremiah 31:31-34 Ps. 51:1-12 John 12:20-33
LET US PRAY: O God of limitless love ~ You call us here to be in community with You. Open our hearts and minds, that we may hear and accept Your awesome Word. Amen.
A couple of days ago, I had the great privilege to be present at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Culinary Arts Institute for Montgomery County Community College. With the sun bright and a gentle breeze blowing, everyone present kept saying that we couldn’t have asked for a more glorious day.
SO: let me ask: What does GLORIOUS mean to you? (magnificent; beyond words, something filled with great beauty and splendor)
AND: What IS Glorious to you? WHY?
OUR SCRIPTURE readings for today both speak of the GLORY of God in Christ!
GOSPEL lesson is definitely typical of John’s gospel … filled with stilted language that is sometimes a little confusing. However, I believe, with its dark images, it is also a very appropriate reading for end of Lent. Because it is these dark images that so dramatically point to the glory of God in Christ.
As we ENTER the story:
- It is the time of the FESTIVAL; that is: Passover
- Some Greeks are inJerusalem~ they want to see Jesus. So, they come to Philip who goes to Andrew … and the both go to Jesus with the request.
- Jesus’ reply to disciples is very typical for Gospel of John … basically Jesus does not give a DIRECT answer. Instead, we hear ~
- Time ripe for Son of Man to be glorified AND to glorify Father’s name
- Image of need for a seed to die in order to burst forth into glorious new life
- LOVE you life & you haven’t got a snowballs chance of surviving … HATE your life ~ turn your back on the world ~ you will have life in eternity
- Those who serve Jesus follow Him and the Father will love the servants
HOWEVER, the heart of the Gospel message is in Jesus’ last statement:
- “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all people to myself.”
- LIFTED UP; that is, death on the cross, to fulfill God’s will for Jesus and the world
- Draw people to HIM … to know and love Jesus
- Draw God to the people
- Draw us into a healing community of the forgiven
- In that moment, through Jesus, one special kernel of life is offered up … and God will glorify the world and bring forth abundant and renewed life for all who follow and serve Jesus.
Jesus’ analogy of drawing all people to Himself is the perfect example for life today both in our world and in the church.
- Greeks came to the disciples wanting toSEEJesus and, perhaps, needing to know more about God.
- Today, there are many of the unchurched who are seeking a better way as well as more and more folks who are trying to find their way back to God
- In our world and church for todayANDfor the future: Jesus’ willingness to draw all people to him reinforces OUR call to walk that journey with our neighbors …
- Explore and, hopefully, eliminate the fears that separate us;
- Break down barriers
- Open everyone up toALLtraditions, backgrounds and faith
- Welcome the stranger, and hopefully:
- Form us into new COMMUNITIES of
- Open dialogue
- Living in harmony
- Working to improve life forALLnot just who we know best
We hve the foundation for tis type of community from the prophet JEREMIAH. His words came at a dark time for Israel … Temple in ruins … Israelites living in captivity … Hope all gone … these were NOT the glory days for God’s people … BUT, through the prophet, God reminded them that He is:
- Making a new covenant with the people
- Covenant written on the heart and not on stone that can be easily broken (both physically and metaphorically)
- Filled with the PROMOSE of PRESENCE \: “I will be their God and they will be my people.”
- Embodied in Jesus ~ GOD WITH US ~ promise that offers forgiveness of sin and creates community within the world
- This COVENANT = establishes an abiding relationship of belonging between God and His people. AND, this covenant is one of the pillars of our faith to this day.
IN this dark time of Lent … IN the dark times of our readings from prophet Jeremiah and the gospel of John … we have one glorious ray of light … God’s deep and abiding love for all of us. How deep and abiding do you think THAT is?
I was doing some of my research for this sermon at Barnes and Noble book store … take breaks and walk around, looking at books (always dangerous … always come home with a new book!) Well, as I walked around, I came across one of my favorite children’s books: GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU. This is the story of Little Nutbrown Hare, who stalls while getting ready for bed by asking Big Nutbrown Hare: “Guess how much I love you!” Big Nutbrown Hare says: “Oh, I don’t think I could guess that!”
Little Nutbrown Hare then:
- Stretches out arms as far as they could go … “THIS MUCH”, he says.
- Big Nutbrown Hare stretches out his arms even wider … “And, I LOVE YOU THIS MUCH!”
NOWCONTEST BETWEEN THE 2 really begins in earnest ~
- Little Nutbrown Hare says that he loves his Daddy:
- As high as he can reach
- All the way up to my toes, when I stand on his head
- As high as he can hop
- ANDAll the way down the road to the river
- AND, Each time, Big Nutbrown Hare goes even farther and deeper and bigger with his love.
Finally, a very sleepy Little Nutbrown Hare says: “I love you up to the moon.”
- AND, as Big Nutbrown Hare tucks his sleepy son into a bed of soft, sweet-smelling leaves, he lays down next to him and says, “I love you right up to the moon … and back!”
Again, I ask you: How IMMENSE is God’s love for us?
The simple answer to my earlier question is that God’s love for us is SO immense that it will always trump our own deep and abiding love for God. It is SO immense that God would willingly reconcile the world to Himself through the sacrifice and glory of His Son. It is SO immense that, with our human intellect, we can’t even begin to imagine the depth and breadth and scope of God’s love.
Our Lenten season is beginning to draw to a close. Seven days from now we will enter Holy Week, surrounded by the crowds who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalemwith palm branches and shouts of Hosanna!
And, as we prepare ourselves to walk that journey with Jesus ~ to the cross … to the grave … and, ultimately, to a glorious resurrection … I believe that this is a good time to ponder:
- Can we die to the world around us ~ even for just a brief time ~ as a way to show God how much we love Him?
- Can we move beyond ourselves … out of our comfort zones … and plant fresh seeds of faith that, one day, will blossom into glorious new life for our communities and the Body of Christ?
In Other Words:
- How will we live life fully each day so that our life ~ our actions ~ our words ~ will GLORIFY our crucified and risen Savior?
Tough questions, aren’t they? My friends, in these days ahead: Trust in God’s abiding presence. Trust in God’s promise. My friends, simply trust in God.