Preached on 22 March 2015 at St. Luke’s Memorial Church, Tacoma
Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B
We wish to see Jesus. That’s why we’re here, isn’t it? We want to see Jesus. We long to know God. Not just know about God, but to know God with all of our senses, with our heart and with our spirits. Sometimes it is easier to recognize our experiences with God through reflection on our past experiences.
Think about your Lenten observance and disciplines. How has Jesus been revealed? What has been revealed to you about yourself and your relationships – with family, friends and loved ones, with yourself, with Jesus and with God?
Think about your prayer your study and meditation on Scripture your fasting or self-denial your self-examination and repentance or some other discipline or practice you took on during Lent. Perhaps you weren’t aware of God’s revelation through your practice itself, but perhaps your practice prepared your heart to see or hear God someplace unexpected, like something you heard on the radio or TV; or maybe even in a friend or your child.
We wish to see Jesus. Now, in John’s gospel, Jesus’ response to the Greeks who expressed their wish was a little puzzling at first glance.
This was Jesus’ last public discourse. The Greeks come along with other worshipers to Jerusalem for the festival and they come seeking Jesus. Jesus responds by talking about grain dying in the ground and losing your life to save it, and servants and followers. This is as close as John comes to a prediction of the Passion. There is no agony in the garden in this account. Jesus is troubled, but he is ready to face it head on. He is preparing his followers, here and in the more intimate farewell discourses that follow, for the time when he is no longer with them.
It’s as if he is saying to those who want to see him, “I’m not a sightseeing attraction or even the goal of a pilgrimage. It’s not simply seeing me, but following me that’s at stake. It’s losing the life you have always known for a new life.”
It’s discipleship – following and serving – now and after Jesus is lifted up. Lifted up on the cross, lifted up from the tomb, lifted up from the earth and returning to God the father, bringing the Incarnation full circle. Jesus will return to the intimate relationship he knew with God from before the beginning of time.
It’s all there. And in being lifted up, Jesus will draw all people to himself. It’s all about relationships – pointing us toward the new covenant we celebrate at Easter.
Covenants shape our relationships and covenants reveal God to us. What have we found as we listened to the stories of God’s covenants all throughout Lent? We have found a God of steadfast love for us and for all of creation as was emphasized in the covenant with Noah. We found God who becomes involved in our human concerns. God promised Abraham and Sarah that they would have land and children and descendants too numerous to count. We found a God concerned with our well-being, teaching us how to live good lives in the Covenant at Sinai. And today, we hear God’s promise of yet another covenant, written in the hearts of the people, as written in the prophet, Jeremiah.
This writing comes from the last few chapters of Jeremiah, which are called the Book of Consolation. Jeremiah is writing to his people in exile in Babylon. Imagine being among the movers and shakers of your day, the rich, the powerful, the elite – those who have made it to the top. And then suddenly, foreigners invade and conquer your country. They take you on a forced march to a land far away where you don’t know the language or the culture and you are demeaned and enslaved. For decades. You are sure it is because God has not just allowed it to happen but caused it – because you have broken God’s covenant.
Now, the word of God comes to you through Jeremiah. He assures you that God remembers you and has not abandoned you; God remembers the covenant of old, “I will be their god and they will be my people.” God forgives all that is past – your faithlessness, your iniquity, your sin. This time, God will write the law upon your heart – make it a part of your very being – not something outside of yourself that you must learn and might possibly forget. No, you will know the Lord. Imagine how those words would speak to your soul – to know the Lord.
Where have you seen Jesus? What has God revealed to you this Lent?
We wish to see Jesus, we long to know God. And God longs for us. God desires our well-being in relationship with each other and with God. In the covenant stories, God is revealed to us. Over and over we see the steadfast love of God. We see God’s forgiveness and mercy. We see God’s desire for relationship with us.
Perhaps St. Augustine says it best,
“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”