March 29, 2009 V Lent (RCL B) John 12: 20-36
The gospel for this Fifth Sunday in Lent in our new lectionary has two points of special interest for us in this place.
First as we notice the critical role of our patron Andrew at this critical moment for Jesus and his ministry, as Andrew and Philip bring Jesus the news that these Greeks, either gentiles or perhaps Greek speaking Jews of the wide diaspora, have come seeking him, and this news somehow marks a turning point, a new chapter, not simply for Jesus but for the history of all creation: the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Andrew, in this ministry of bridge-building, of introduction. Bringing people into the presence of Jesus. A way of thinking about the life and ministry we share, certainly, as this particular community under the patronage of St. Andrew for the better part of two centuries.
And then just a few verses beyond, as Jesus begins this prayerful monologue and address to the Father, the words that are inscribed right here over us all on the great Rood Beam of St. Andrew’s Church, over us to inform and shape our prayer and worship each time we have gathered now since Easter morning of 1906: And I if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men to me. This the core interpretation of the glorification of the Cross, the great work of Atonement, the healing of all brokenness, the reconciliation of all separation—bringing safely home the lost, lifting up the fallen, in the deepest possible, widest possible gesture of embrace, forgiveness, and divine love. On the old calendar, as Bishop Johnson reminded some of us yesterday at a diocesan meeting, this was Passion Sunday--the propers of the day turning our eyes with greater emphasis and focus to the Good Friday destination just ahead.
Sir, we would see Jesus. Words that are often inscribed in the pulpit lectern. Certainly words to be inscribed in the heart of every preacher, and of every Christian, as the One lifted up on that Holy Cross commands the central place in our hearts and in our lives. As we remember the famous saying of St. Francis, “preach constantly; when necessary use words.” Each of us in the sermons not simply of Sunday morning but in the sermons of our lives. Sir, we would see Jesus.
And so this morning, nearing the end of yet another Lent. Lots of sunshine this past week, and all around Highland Park anyway folks were out with rakes and brooms, clearing away the debris of winter and looking forward to the season ahead. A little too chilly still to sit outside comfortably in the evening, but those days are coming, and coming soon. We can feel it. The darkness of the late afternoon has been pushed back, and there is light and life and new energy all around us.
I wonder sometimes how preachers preach Easter in the Southern Hemisphere, as the leaves fall from the trees and the nights grow longer and the temperatures fall. But of course, there will be simply other vocabularies, other images, to convey the same news. The strife is o’er, the battle done, the victory won.
The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Long ago and far away, and here and now. The Cross now looming before us on the horizon, nearer day by day, not as a word of defeat, but as a sign of his triumph. As we had that symbol before us in the reading from John 3 last week, Moses and the Bronze Serpent, and that miracle of healing in the wilderness, so the Son of Man, lifted up on the Cross, our healing, our peace.
Pray that he would open our hearts to receive this gift. To be transformed in him, to be made new in his presence and to be made fully alive in his service. To be forgiven, healed, refreshed in mind, body, and spirit. To be his agents, to be ourselves all about forgiving, healing, bringing light and life to the dark places all around us.
The deepest medicine of all time, for us this morning, as we come to the altar, as we go forth into our world, to be in our words and in the manner of our living, windows. To find in ourselves a kind of transparency, to be answers to the one request the world will speak this season and always, in every language, at all times and in all places, we would see Jesus.