Sunday, March 18, 2018

5 Lent

March 18, 2018

Jeremiah 31.31-34; John 12.20-33

+ For any of you who became a member of St. Stephen’s during my time  here, you probably took my “Episcopal 101” class. I love teaching that class. And, I think, it’s been a fun class.

One of the aspects of that class that people always love—and this is something I used to do when I taught at the University of Mary—was offer a  “Stump Fr. Jamie” time.   To “Stump Fr. Jamie” the students can ask any question they would like regarding theology or spirituality or the Church.

Let me tell you, occasionally I had people who did a very good job of trying to actually stump me.  And once or twice, maybe—just maybe—they came close to actually stumping me.

Now, that’s not really fair. Because any time I might not be able to answer their questions, I just concede to that wonderful thing in the church we have called “mystery.”  Some things are just mysteries and we should accept the mysteries of our faith.

I know. I know. What a rotten thing for a priest to say. What a cop-out, right?   But what I have discovered every time a student asks questions is that, in actuality, they really are seeking.  And they are sometimes surprised to find their priest himself is a seeker as well.

The fact is, I have never made a secret of the fact that I am also a seeker, just like all of us this morning.  We’re all seekers.  We’re here this morning seeking something. People who aren’t seekers don’t need to come to church.

They don’t need to listen and ponder the Word.  They don’t need to feed on and ponder the mysteries of the Eucharist that we celebrate at this altar. People who don’t seek, don’t come following the mysteries of their faith.

I have discovered in my own life as a seeker, that my seeking, my asking questions and my pondering of the mysteries of this life and my relationship to God, are what make my faith what it is.  It makes it…faith.  My seeking allows me to step into the unknown and be sometimes amazed or surprised or disappointed by what I may—or may not—find there.

In our Gospel reading for today, we also find seekers.  In our story, we find these Greeks seeking for Jesus.

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus,” they say.

This one line

“we wish to see Jesus”

is so beautifully simple.  There’s so much meaning and potential and…yes, mystery, to it that I don’t think we fully realize what it’s conveying. And what I doubly love about it is that as beautiful and as simple as the petition is

“we wish to see Jesus”

—we never, if you notice, find out if they actually get to see him.  The author doesn’t tell us. We find no resolve to this story of the Greeks seeking Jesus.

However, despite it being a loose end of sorts, it does pack some real meaning.  What’s great about scripture is that even a loose end can have purpose. 

One interpretation of this story is that that the Greeks—as Gentiles—were not allowed to “see” Jesus until he was lifted up on the Cross. Only when he has been  “lifted up from the earth,”  as he tells us this morning will he “draw all people to [himself].”

Jesus’ message at the time of their approaching the apostles is still only to the Jews.

But when Jesus is lifted up on the Cross on Good Friday, at that moment, he is essentially revealed to all.  At that moment, the veil is lifted.  The old Law has in essence been fulfilled—the curtain in the Temple has been torn in half—and now Jesus is given for all. It’s certainly an interesting and provocative take on this story. 

And it’s especially interesting for us, as well, who are seeking to “find Jesus” in our own lives. Like those Greeks, we are not always certain if we will find him—at least at this moment.

But, I am going to switch things up a bit (as I sometimes do).  Yes, we might be seekers here this morning.  But as Christians, our job is not only to be seekers.  Our job, as followers of Jesus, as seekers after God, is to be on the receiving end of that petition of those Greeks.  Our job, as Christians, is to hear that petition—“show us Jesus”—and to respond to it.  This is what true evangelism is.

Some might say evangelism is telling others about Jesus. Possibly. But true evangelism is showing people Jesus. And, let’s face, that’s much harder than telling people about Jesus.

So, how do we show Jesus to those who seeking him?  Or, maybe, even to those who might not be seeking Jesus?

We show people Jesus by doing what we do as followers of and seekers after Jesus.  We show people Jesus by being Jesus to those around us.  Now, that sounds impossible for most of us.  The fact is, it isn’t.  

This is exactly what Jesus wants us to be. Jesus wants us to be him in this world.  We, after all, are the Body of Christ in this world.  He wants to be our hands, helping others.  He wants to speak through our voices in consoling others, in speaking out against the tyrants and despots and unfairness of this world.  He wants to be our feet in walking after those who have been turned away and are isolating themselves.

When we seek to bring the Kingdom into our midst, we are being Jesus in this world. We might not always succeed in doing this.  We might fail miserably in what we do. In fact, people might not find Jesus in us, at all.  Sometimes, whether we intend it to or not, we in fact become the “Anti-Jesus” to others. But that’s just the way it is sometimes.  In seeking Jesus and in responding to others who are also seeking him, we realize the control is not in our hands.

It doesn’t depend on any of us.  Which, trust me, is comforting.  I personally don’t want all that responsibility.  Nor, I’m sure, do any of you.  Who would?

In today’s Gospel, we find Jesus saying:

Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls on the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

In those moments in which we seem to have failed to be Jesus to those around us, when those who come to us seeking Jesus find, rather, nothing, or, worse, the “Anti-Jesus,” we find that even then, fruit can still come forth.  

God still works even through the negative things life throws at us.  God still works event through our failures and our shortcomings. Jesus can still be found, even despite us.   Jesus can still be found, even when we might not even be seeking him. Jesus can be found, oftentimes, when we are least expecting to find him.

Certainly, Jesus is here this morning in our midst.  He is here in us.  He is here when we do what he tells us to do in this world He is here when we open ourselves to God’s Spirit and allow that Spirit to speak to us in our hearing of the Word.

Jesus is here in the Bread and Wine of our Eucharist.

Jesus is here in us, gathered together in Name of Jesus.

And let me tell you, Jesus is definitely out there, beyond the walls of this church, waiting for us to embody him and bring him to them.

He is never far away.

So, let us, together, be Jesus to those who need Jesus, who are seeking Jesus.  Let us show them Jesus.  Let us together search for and find God, here, in the Word where we hear God speaking to us. Let us search for and find Jesus in this Holy Eucharist, in which we feed on his Body and Blood.

As we near the end of this Lenten season and head into Holy Week, let us to heart those words we heard God speaking to the prophet Jeremiah:

“I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more.”

Let us, a people whose iniquity has been forgiven and whose sin is remembered no more,  search for God. In going out from here, let us encounter those people who truly need God.  And, in encountering them, let us also help those who are seeking.

“We wish to see Jesus,” the Greeks say to the disciples.

And people still are saying that to us as well.

“We wish to see Jesus.”

Let us—fellow seekers of Jesus—help them to find him in us.

No comments: