Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fifth Sunday in Lent

John 12:20-33

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. 27 "Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say--"Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." 30 Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

            “And when I am lifted up, I will draw all things to myself” says the Christ, and how that had already begun. For here we with sit Christ at the Passover feast and all those whom has drawn to himself, his disciples and the crowd that witnessed him bringing Lazarus back from the dead, not to mention those drawn in by the sweet fragrance of perfume, as Mary, in an unencumbered display of gratitude,  anoints Jesus for his death.  And now, this drawing is beginning to expand in wild and unpredictable ways.  All of a sudden, some Greeks happen upon the scene, and they too have been drawn by this Jesus.  They, in spite of their ethnicity and right in the middle of this Jewish High Holy Day in this most Jewish of cities, they too wish to see this Jesus, this most Jewish of Messiahs. Past the stiff borders of ethnicity, wealth and class, they, too, wish to see Jesus and they, too, are invited to come and feast with this Messiah.   To comprehend, as if they could, the fullness of this God in the flesh,  this one who welcomes sinners and literally dines with the formerly dead.   They, the Greeks come to glimpse, if only for one brief moment, a man, indeed a God, in whom all of life might begin to rest, a God who forgive them their sins and ease their troubles, a God in whom the creation can begin to breathe and be given back to itself.   Yes, the drawing has begun and indeed has continued, so enticing is this Christ.
Please notice, though, the chaos and crisis mingling with the sweet smell of perfume. The hour is rapidly approaching, and this Jesus knows.  Though they may feast and dance in Jerusalem on this day, cruel forces are near.   Right in the midst of this drawing, right as the disciples, Lazarus, Mary and the Greeks are drawn to the heavenly glory that radiates from this Son of God, malevolent forces are being drawn, as well.   Forces that see the Son of Man bestowing life and forgiveness, forces that observe Christ gathering together Jew and Greek, male and female, pious sinners and holy fools, these forces too are drawn to this Christ and they are drawn not to celebrate him, not to glory in his mercy and kindness, but they are drawn to control and destroy him.  Forces that coldly observe the sweetness of this Messiah, forces that will work his destruction, these forces, too, are gathering and near. 
And in all of this, the hour is approaching.  The hour in which the Son of Man will be left alone, those whom he had once been drawn now calculating the risk of staying near him and thinking it too much, yes, that hour is coming.  The hour in which he will gaze down at his dear mother from the cross and give to her another son. The hour in which the Son of Man will be abandoned to the dark forces, left alone even by his Father to do battle with the prince of this world, with the one who wishes not just his destruction, but the destruction of all good things.  And so this is not just any hour, not just some ordinary passing of the minutes.  Instead, it is, as Jesus has said the hour.  The hour in which all of cosmic history will be forever and irrevocably changed, indeed in which cosmic history will be resurrected and the burning love of the divine will be released from on high.  Yes, this that hour.  The hour in which Jesus will draw the sin of the world to himself, will draw all malice and envy, all greed, all fear, all pride, all rage and all fear, yes, Jesus will draw all of this to himself.  He will take all of this onto his own body and will see the love of his Father eclipsed by a seemingly impenetrable darkness.  His once loving Father now turned to absolute judge, and the Holy Spirit of communion now weeping in discord, as a Father loses his son and a son loses his Father. 
 Ah, but how deep the mystery that this is actually the way that the victory is won.   That in, with and under this hour is the song of perpetual bliss.  That this Christ draws these sins to himself only that he may defeat them.  And that he will defeat the powers of hell, will drive out the ruler of this world, the enemy of us all, by drawing that enemy to himself and letting him do his worst. For once that terrible beast has exhaled all of its rage, Christ himself, Christ in all of his love and forgiveness, will be the only truth that now remains.  And though we will be scattered, though we will leave him alone in this, the time of trial, he will refuse to do the same to us.  Instead, he will look upon us, look at us from on high, and will again draw us to himself.  And it is of the most importance that we are drawn now, drawn after the hour and not before it, after the betrayal and the scattering, after we, too, have calculated the risk and the cost of all this and have decided that we, too, must leave him.  For it is only when we are drawn in this way that we begin to understand the incredible cost, the unspeakable difficulty, of the thing that has been accomplished.  It is only when we are drawn to this Christ after the hour that the truth is told and revealed about both God and ourselves.  For, as the Christ says, we must die in order to live: and this is the death that we must undergo: the death that believes that we would come to the cross, that we would stay with Jesus during his hour.  Yes, we must die to the presumption that we would, that we could, chose him if he did not first chose us. We must die to the presumption that we know how to love our neighbors without Christ’s empowerment and instruction.  We must die to the notion that we know who we are apart from Christ’s love and can work out this problem of our will and by our own strength.  And this is why we are drawn, along with the whole of creation, as the Son is lifted up.  For it is then and only then that we are drawn as we actually are: as frightened sinners. Yes, for when he does so from the cross, Christ draws us as we actually are and therefore there can be no doubt as to the certainty, indeed the truthfulness, of his forgiveness.  For you are drawn to this Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, by the one who sees you in the fullness of your humanity and forgives you still.   And this is true freedom.  To know that you have been drawn to this cross, to this place of abundant life, just as you are without plea, as the old hymn goes.  This is the freedom that gives you a new and everlasting identity as a beloved child God and it is the freedom to leave your doubts and fears behind.  It is indeed the freedom to love each other, to love all whom you meet. You are drawn here, here to this place by the love that was present at the beginning of creation and the love that will be there at the end.  And it is this love that names you and your neighbor.  It is the love of the Christ whose hour it always is.  In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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