Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Sunday, April 14, 2024

YEAR B 2024 easter 3

Easter 3, 2024
Acts 3:12-19
1 John 3:1-7
Luke 24:36b-48
Psalm 4

“While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.”
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Okay, first thing we need to do today is look at the epistle reading from First John.  You’ll recall last week I pointed out the challenge of him saying he was writing these words so that you may not sin, while at the same time saying “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves.”

And today we heard, “No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him.”  John says we abide in Jesus; John also says no one who sins abides in him; John also says, if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves.  I’m as comfortable as the next priest with holding contradictions when it comes to our faith life.  But this section of First John the past two weeks makes no sense to me.  Point being, if you find it confusing, you are not alone.  I am right there with you.

Moving on.  “While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.”  This is a key part of the gospel reading we just heard.  While in their joy, they were disbelieving and still wondering.  Now first we need the context for this reading, because I'm afraid we got dropped off in the middle of a story.  In Luke’s gospel, we go from the empty tomb to the Road to Emmaus.   That’s when Jesus appears to the disciples, but they don’t recognize him as they walk together on the road.  It is only after they sit down to eat together that something changes:  “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he vanished from their sight.”

Right after that, those disciples get up and rush back to Jerusalem, where they find the 11 disciples gathered in a room.  “Then they told what had happened on the road and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”  This Road to Emmaus story is one of my favorite stories in all of scripture because of that very line: He had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.  Ahem.  [points to Altar]  Anyway, while they were recounting this amazing story to the disciples, that’s the moment when Jesus shows up in the room in this morning’s reading.  And “While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.”

But let’s back up again, to the empty tomb.  When the women get to the tomb, the stone is rolled away, and two men in dazzling white clothes appear beside them.  And they say, “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to the hands of sinners and be crucified and on the third day rise again.”  Remember how he told you.  And then the women remember, and they run to tell the disciples.  

And as Jesus is walking with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he says to them, “how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”  Remember how he told you?  Remember what the prophets said?  He’s been telling them this would happen.  Over and over he’s been telling them.  They knew it was going to happen, and yet, while in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.

This past Monday, April 8th we had an eclipse around here.  Perhaps you heard about it.  Hopefully you were able to see it, because it was amazing!  We’d been hearing it was going to happen for months.  For years in fact.  Here comes the eclipse.  Here’s how it happens.  Here’s how big the sun is relative to the moon.  Here’s what will be amazing about it.  Here are some tricks you can do with a colander, or by wearing red and green.  We knew all about it, we knew precisely when it would happen, as it had been foretold by the . . . scientists.  And yet . . .

While in out joy we were disbelieving and still wondering.  Everyone I’ve talked to who experienced the full eclipse has said they knew it would be awesome, but they didn’t know it would be that awesome!  We knew it would happen, we believed it would take place, but while in our joy we were disbelieving and still wondering.  We all understand the science, but it is still somehow an impenetrable mystery.

Jesus told them over and over that he would be handed over to people who would kill him, and then rise from the grave on the third day.  They heard him say it, many times.  And then when he shows up, well . . . While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.  But maybe after Monday’s eclipse I kind of understand them a little more.  

Because the eclipse was awesome and scary, and beautiful and terrifying, and understandable and mysterious, and light and dark, and every other contradiction you can think of.  Joy, disbelief, wonder.  While in their joy the disciples were disbelieving and still wondering.  

And Jesus.  Still.  Shows.  Up.  

You notice that Jesus did not require their understanding to show up?  He didn’t need their belief, or their faith, or their personal commitment, or even their memory of the words he had already told them.  Just like the first step in experiencing the eclipse is for it to happen, so the first step in a life of faith in the risen Lord is for him to show up.

You and I have doubts, in the midst of our joy.  And Jesus still shows up.  You and I have trouble believing that a person can actually rise from the dead and eat a piece of fish.  And Jesus still shows up.  You and I do not fully understand what happens with the bread and wine on that Altar.  And Jesus still shows up.  While we are in our joy, we are disbelieving and still wondering.  And Jesus still shows up.

Listen again to the collect for this day:
O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

YEAR B 2024 easter 2

Easter 2, 2024
Acts 4:32-35
1 John 1:1-2:2
John 20:19-31
Psalm 133

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Taken together, these lessons could be called, “Aspiration vs. Everything Else.”  With the subheading: Shouldn’t we at least try?  But first off, we should talk about the Path of Totality!  There’s going to be a big event tomorrow afternoon with a full solar eclipse over our heads . . . if we can see it.  There are those who say, unless I can see the moon blocking out the sun, and endanger my eyes by staring at the sun for a half hour, then I will not believe.  

If you’re unfortunate enough to have spent any time on Twitter lately, you know that there is already talk of conspiracy theories, and false flag operations, and chem-trails regarding the eclipse.  And there are definitely people saying, if I don’t see it, it didn’t happen.  But other people have traveled across the globe for the chance to experience this event.  Some have the aspiration to experience it, and some have the aspiration to be taken away by the rapture that it supposedly foretells.  But, bottom line, even if it’s a cloudy day tomorrow, shouldn’t we at least try to see it?

Which brings us to the reading from Acts.  You know, the radical leftist Marxist utopia of the early church.  How did that reading make you feel?  Uneasy?  Scared?  Skeptical?  Dismissive?  It sure sounds a lot different from the church we know today, doesn’t it?  But I should tip my hand and tell you that in the very next chapter of Acts, Ananias and his wife Sapphira sell some land and give just some of the money to the apostles.  And you know what happens to Ananias?  He falls down dead, that’s what!  This early Christian utopia falls apart one verse after the reading we heard.  It is aspirational, but not practical.  They kind of overshot the goal of living in community here.  But it also raises that same question, shouldn’t we at least try?

And then the reading from First John.  “If we say that we have fellowship with God while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true.”  And, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  Fair enough, writer of First John.  But then we also get, “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.”  Huh?  You just said if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves, but then you say you’re writing to us so that we may not sin?  What gives?  Well, in this case, living a sinless life is aspirational, but with a safety valve.  Like, John is giving us this information so that there is a possibility that we might not sin, but when we inevitably do, we have an advocate.  The idea that we might not sin is aspirational.  And raises that same question, shouldn’t we at least try?

And then we come to our gospel reading, from John’s gospel.  You’ll recall, the disciples are cowering in fear and doubt in a locked room, and Jesus appears to them and says . . . Peace be with you.  They rejoiced when they saw it was Jesus.  But there is no indication in the text that anything changed for them.  They just . . . rejoiced.  Because the next week, they are cowering in fear and doubt in a locked room, again.  But when they tell Thomas about their experience, he says, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”  

I think we automatically hear this as defiance.  Like Thomas is saying, “I am choosing not to believe,” rather than, “I am unable to believe.”  Personally, I take it more as a confessed inability.  That is, Thomas sure would like to believe.  But he knows himself; he knows his weaknesses; and he knows that he needs to have the experience himself because—let’s face it—this story he was just told is hard to believe!  Thomas aspires to believe; but he cannot.  His belief is aspirational, but needs the experience.  What does he need in order to believe?

Jesus.  He needs Jesus.  And the next week?  Jesus shows up, and again says . . . Peace be with you.  And then he gives Thomas exactly what Thomas needs.    “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”

Does Jesus throw Thomas out for his lack of faith?  Or turn his back to Thomas for not believing the incredible story about his appearance?  Of course not.  And, perhaps more importantly, he does not require anything of Thomas.  He doesn’t say, “I told you so;”  he doesn’t call him Doubting Thomas.  No, Jesus meets Thomas right where he is and says, “Stop doubting and believe.”  But that’s just our bad translation getting in the way.  Because what Jesus says is, “Do not be faithless, but be faith-filled.”

And just like that, Jesus speaks the faithfulness of Thomas into existence, because the next thing we see is his profound confession of faith:  My Lord and my God!  Jesus tells Thomas that he is filled with faith, and he is.  Thomas does not set out to acquire this faith.  He does nothing apart from hear the words of Jesus, and he goes from being faithless to being faith-filled.  Jesus speaks, and it is so.  And not in a half-hearted way, either.  Thomas hears these words, and immediately proclaims Jesus as his Lord and God.  Didn’t see that coming, right?

Which brings us to the overarching lesson for you and me from these texts.  The aspirational side of our life of faith together.  Those first disciples aspired to live in a world where no one was hungry, where no one went without.  And with what happened to Ananias and Sapphira, we can see that world is not possible.  Because some people are going to end up dead!  But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

And in the reading from first John, we heard that if we say we have no sin the truth is not in us, but he’s telling us that so that we may not sin, which we will certainly do, as he just told us.  To be without sin is aspirational, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

And with the story of Thomas, we can hear that he truly wants to believe, but he knows himself well enough to know that he is unable to believe without the physical proof in front of him.  His desire for faith is aspirational, but he needs Jesus to give him that faith.

All of which leads me to the Baptismal Covenant, which we just renewed at the Easter Vigil.  After the part that sort of reworks the Apostles Creed, we come to the outlandish promises that we can never keep, but which we say anyway.  Together we promise to

Continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the Prayers.
To persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever we fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord.
To proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.
To seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves.
To strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.

Every time we attend a Baptism, and several other times throughout the year, we make those impossible, beautiful, lofty, aspirational claims . . . and they come with a safety valve: the phrase, with God’s help.  That’s what gives us the gumption to make these promises together.  With.  God’s. Help.  All these promises are indeed possible, with God’s help.

Thomas freely admitted that he could not believe without Jesus, without God’s help.  And Jesus shows up, and Thomas says, "My Lord and my God!”  He’s the only disciple who makes this profession of faith.  The one we often call Doubting Thomas turns out to be the most faith-filled disciple, with God’s help.

Lots of things in this life are aspirational rather than practical, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.  And with God’s help, we might find we actually can do the impossible.  To paraphrase from the Rite of Ordination, May the Lord who has given us the will to do these things give us the grace and power to perform them.  With God’s help.


Sunday, March 31, 2024

YEAR B 2024 festival of easter

Easter, 2024
Isaiah 25:6-9
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Mark 16:1-8
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Happy Easter to you all!  I am so grateful that you are here this morning.  Last night we lit the new fire and the Paschal candle, this morning we shared a delicious potluck breakfast, and when we’re done today we’ll have an Easter Egg hunt after this morning’s service.  There’s something for everyone.  And speaking of something for everyone, did you know that there’s more than one ending to Mark’s gospel?  

Fair warning:  If your faith is based on the inerrancy of scripture, turn away now.  If you don’t know what “inerrancy of scripture” means, then stick around.  But, yeah, there’s an alternate ending to the gospel of Mark.  It’s not really called an “alternate ending,” though.  It’s called “the longer ending.”  And that’s because the shorter ending of Mark is the part we just heard.  It ends with, “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”  So, to sum up, there was an empty tomb.  The end.  Happy Easter!

It takes a certain amount of faith to let the story end there, doesn’t it?  Jesus was killed, placed in a tomb, and when his friends came to anoint his body with spices, we was not there.  It takes a lot of faith to be satisfied with that ending.  Which is probably why there is also now that longer ending, where Jesus shows up and talks to people.  The story felt unfinished.

It would be like stopping the Wizard of Oz with Dorothy still stranded in the Emerald City and trusting that she wakes up in Kansas.  Or like the prince not finding Cinderella to have her try on the shoe.  People really want to know how the story ends, and it’s quite a cliffhanger to end the gospel with, “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

Now, just because that longer ending exists doesn’t mean it is not also true, of course.  The physical resurrection of Jesus is kind of a key feature of our faith . . . obviously.  And that longer ending does line up with the other gospels, so it’s not like somebody just made it up.  But it takes the gift of faith to believe the resurrection at all, and especially when it just ends with the empty tomb.

And it’s really not fair that we get this shorter ending right now, given all the uncertainties in the world.  It feels like we deserve the longer, more certain ending from Mark.  The one where Jesus actually shows up.  Physically.  In person.  Eating fish, and lighting fires on the beach, and telling Peter to feed his sheep, like we have in John’s gospel.  Reminding us that it’s not just an idle tale.  But this year, we get this short ending, “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them.”

But here is the good news:  If we only have Mark’s shorter ending to work with—the gospel reading we just heard—we don’t really know where Jesus is.  But we do know where Jesus is not:
In. The.  Tomb.  It’s empty.

And that really is the most important part of the whole story if you ask me.  This shorter ending of Mark really hits on the thing that matters most.  Because Jesus could be many places right now, but we know the one place Jesus is not . . . in the grave.  He is risen!

And that is the good news for you and me.  The news we need to hear right now.  Because as any honest preacher will tell you, we don’t really know where we go when we die.  Yes, yes, of course we trust and we believe in the promises of God in Jesus.  That’s why we call ourselves Christians.  But any certainty about the beyond is . . . beyond our knowing until we get there ourselves.

But what we have heard this morning is the key:  The tomb is empty.  And that means that death is not the last word.  The tomb is empty.  And that means death itself has been destroyed.  The tomb is empty.  And that is why we have faith that we also will rise from the grave on the last day.

And when that happens, on that last day, we will be reunited with all those whom we love, and see no more.  We will be pulled up from our own graves by the one who was the first to rise up from the grave.
All because the tomb is empty.

Alleluia, the Lord is risen.  The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia!


Friday, March 29, 2024

YEAR B 2024 good friday

Good Friday, 2024
Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Hebrews 10:16-25
John 18:1-19:42
Psalm 22

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

When we lose someone we love, someone who means the world to us, people often try to make us feel better by saying the only things they can think of saying.  Things like God needed a voice for the choir, or a rose for the garden.  Or that somehow God needed our soulmate more than we did.  These things don’t help, to say the least.  But people don’t know what to say, and they feel like they have to say something.

But they don’t have to say anything.  And in those times of painful grief, it is usually better to say nothing.  There is no positive way to spin having someone ripped out of our lives, having our hearts broken, losing someone who means so much to us.  There is no upside, and there is nothing you can say that will make things better . . . except, “I am here.”

And this is where we sit today on Good Friday.  We have heard once again how Jesus has been killed in a most horrific way.  We have listened to everyone trying to justify their own complicity in this gruesome execution.  We have watched as most of his friends and companions have deserted him in his final hours.  

And in this moment, we want to say something, at least to ourselves.  To remind ourselves that Sunday is coming, because we’ve read ahead in the book.  We want to tell his devastated mother Mary about the rose in God’s garden and the voice in God’s choir.  We want to tell Judas about the redemptive power of forgiveness.  We want to acknowledge to our Jewish brothers and sisters that centuries of anti-semitism and genocide come from this version of the story—from the gospel of John.

We feel like we have to say something.  Just as people throughout history feel like they had to say something.  Find some words that will make everything better.  And that is why theologians come rushing in with all their fancy atonement theories to explain why this horrible story is actually a good thing, or is a necessary thing, or that God’s ways are not our ways.  All of which are just fancy ways of saying God needed another angel for the choir and a rose for the garden.

Sometimes, it is best to say nothing.  Let the story speak for itself.  Ponder our own place within what has happened.  Bring a bag of spices and wrap the body and place it in the ground.  And then sit in silence and wait for God to say something.  Because God will say something.  And if we’re so busy talking and explaining things, we might not be able to hear what it is God is saying.  So for now, let us sit and wait and listen.  Because God will indeed say something, and we don’t want to miss it.


Thursday, March 28, 2024

YEAR B 2024 maundy thursday

Maundy Thursday, 2024
Exodus 12:1-14
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Psalm 116:1, 10-17

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Maundy Thursday.  We get the word Maundy from the Latin word, maundatum, which is also where we get the words mandatory and mandate.  It’s related to com-mand and commandment.  All these words give us the notion of being told what to to.  What is required of us.  And in the gospel reading we just heard, Jesus gives us a commandment.  He says it’s a new commandment.  

What is that commandment?  Is it to wash one another’s feet?  No.  Is it not to eat pork?  No.  Is it to reject people who don’t think or look like us?  No.  The new commandment from Jesus, the maundatum of Maundy Thursday is to love one another.  Just love one another.  And a necessary part of that commandment is the “one another” part.  Because you cannot do what Jesus commands without other people.  It requires community.  There is no me and Jesus in this commandment.  It requires us.  Together.

Four days ago, on Palm Sunday, when we got to the final verse of our closing hymn, I was suddenly overwhelmed by it all, my eyes teared up, and I had to stop singing.  I just couldn’t do it.  And though I could not sing, the song did not stop.  Because of the community.  Congregational hymns are not solos, thank God!  We sing them together.  And if the priest or anyone else has to stop singing, the song goes on.  When you cannot sing, the community sings for you.  When you cannot pray, the community prays for you.  When you cannot believe, the community believes for you.

Last Sunday, I could not sing, but the song did not stop.  And when one voice stops, the song is changed, though it still goes on.  In our community, in our worship, in our singing, you add a part that only you can add.  A certain flavor, a certain tone, a certain shakiness, a certain wrong note even.  The song is different because you are there!  When you can’t sing, or when you stop singing, the song changes, but it keeps going.  The song goes on, and it was made different because you were there.

At the close of this service, after we have set aside the reserved Sacrament for tomorrow, we will adjourn for a time into the parish hall for an Agape’ meal.  The word “agape’” means love.  Unconditional love.  And the reason churches have that meal on this Maundy Thursday night is to remind ourselves of the commandment we have received.  That we love one another.  As Jesus said, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

There will come a day when each and every one of us stops singing.  But the song will go on, because we love one another, just as Jesus loves us.


Sunday, March 24, 2024

YEAR B 2024 palm sunday/passion sunday

Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday 2024
Isaiah 50:4-9a
Philippians 2:5-11
Mark 15:1-39
Psalm 31:9-16

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

There is not much a preacher can say, after what we just heard.  Let me start over.  There is not much a preacher should say, after what we just heard.

This is the most bifurcated day of the church year.  Or, maybe it’s the fullest day of the church year.  Because it shows us the full range of the fickle nature of who we are.  Sometimes, we start by saying something encouraging, like Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord, and we just keep talking and talking until we find ourselves saying, “Give us Barabbas.”  We might shout “Hosanna,” and we might then shout, “Crucify!”  And the words we choose to shout in this story—and in our lives—really do make a difference.  Because words matter.  And sometimes, what we all need to do is just. stop. talking.  As I said, sometimes, a preacher can say too much.

Everybody in this story has a lot to say.  And the more people say, the worse things get.  They just keep saying things that make the situation more and more dangerous, and no one says “STOP!”  All talking, and no peace.  Give us enough space and we will talk ourselves to death.  

In Mark’s version of this story, the one we just heard, nobody seems able to stop talking.  And once he gets sent to Pilate, Jesus speaks only two times.  First, when Pilate asks him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answers him, “You say so.”  And then all that horrible stuff happens because people can’t stop talking, and . . . Jesus remains silent.  At the end, from the cross, Jesus quotes the opening of Psalm 22 and says, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Those are the only two times he speaks.

The 22nd Psalm opens with “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  And that psalm ends with, “They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn the saving deeds that God has done.”

A people yet unborn.  That’s us.  We are those people.  And God’s saving deeds have been made known to us, because people have used their words to make those deeds known to us.  Those are the words we need to hear.  All of us.

When you and I speak, may God give us the wisdom to choose words that are doing that same thing: Making known to a people yet unborn the saving deeds that God has done.  Let’s stop with all the words and speak only of this: The saving deeds that God has done.  To God be the glory.


Sunday, March 17, 2024

YEAR B 2024 lent 5

Lent 5, 2024
Jeremiah 31:31-34
Hebrews 5:5-10
John 12:20-33
Psalm 51:1-13

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Well, as you can see, this week we have another fine example of John being John in this gospel reading.  There’s a lot of mystical-sounding language that we’re not quite sure we get, and—just like we had a couple weeks ago—John feels the need to explain the one metaphor we do get: that is, Jesus’ being lifted up indicates the way in which he is to die.  But let’s jump in at the beginning . . .

The scene is the Passover Festival, and people have come from all around to celebrate, or to watch the Jewish people celebrate.  (In the same way you don’t need to be Irish to go to the St. Patrick’s Day parade this afternoon.)  It’s, you know, a festival.  So people of a different faith—or of no faith—want to come and partake in the celebration.  That’s why “some Greeks” are there.  And they come to the one disciple who likely spoke Greek, Philip who was from Bethsaida, and they tell him that they wish to see Jesus.  Phillip goes to Andrew, and then they both go to Jesus.  End of story.  Poor Greeks.\

We never hear whether the Greeks got to see Jesus.  It’s like they’re just left in the waiting room and the story moves on.  Strange, right?

And in typical John’s gospel fashion, after Jesus hears that these Greeks want to see him, his answer has nothing to do with their request.  Instead, Jesus starts telling the disciples something else: The hour has come.  To us, that sounds disconnected from the request from the Greeks, but that’s because we forgot about the rest of John’s gospel.  So let’s leave the Greeks reading their magazines in the waiting room and think back to what “the hour” means in John’s gospel.

Early in the second chapter of John, Jesus is at a wedding in Cana, and they run out of wine.  His mother, Mary, asks him to do something about it.  And Jesus says to her, “What concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”  In the 7th chapter of John, Jesus is teaching at a festival and the religious leaders are worried that he is winning over the crowds, and they try to arrest him, “but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come.”  And then in the 8th chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus is teaching in the Temple, and the Pharisees are challenging his authority on technical grounds, “but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.”

And then today, in the 12th chapter of John, Andrew and Philip go and tell Jesus about the Greeks who wish to see him. And Jesus answers them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”  This is it, you see?  It’s a turning point in the gospel of John.  Twelve chapters in, and the hour has finally come!  Great!  So . . . um, what exactly does that mean?  We’ve been waiting for the hour of Jesus to get here, and now it’s here, but now what? 

Well there’s the second half of that to look at: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”  The Greek word doxazo is the one that gets translated as “glorified.”  (You can probably see that it’s where we get our word, doxology.)  Doxazo.  This word comes up in John’s gospel 23 times!  It is an important concept in John.  Doxazo: Glorified.

So, the hour has finally come for Jesus to be glorified.  But what does that mean?  What does it mean for Jesus to be glorified?  Jesus tells us, “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.”  So it sounds like to be glorified means that Jesus has to die.  But that is certainly not how we think of someone being glorified.  We think of glory as being full of life, with winning and adulation, right?  Gold medals in the Olympics and stuff.  But here we have Jesus saying that he will be glorified by dying.  It’s not right.  You bring honor and glory by living, not by dying.  At least to us.  To be glorified is to grab hold of life, to love life.

But, Jesus contradicts our view: “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”  But that’s kind of an unfortunate translation, because it misses the sense of the present tense.  When put that way, it sounds like, if you sacrifice now, some day you will have life.  Which suggests a cosmic retirement account.  But in the original text it is all present tense:  That is, those who love their life now lose it now, and those who reject their life now keep it forever.  But here again, it’s some of that tricky metaphor stuff that John likes to give us.  We’re not sure what it means exactly.  

I like to think of it as a call to turn away from focusing inward.  To be open to others rather than focusing on ourselves.  Not, lay down your life for others so that you will have eternal life some day.  But more like, lay down your life for others right now, because in doing so you will experience the glory of God today.  If you want to truly live, stop focusing on living.  If you want to know how to be alive, well . . . remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.  

Have you ever known someone who collects toys simply for the purpose of the monetary value of them?  Closets full of toys still wrapped in cellophane that no one has ever played with.  It’s kind of like that.  You don’t know the true joy of a toy until you are willing to unwrap it and hand it to a child so they can play with it.  And you can’t know the value of truly living if you are sitting in a box on a shelf, afraid that you might lose your life.  Take your life down off that shelf and give it away; then you will know what it means to truly live.

And speaking of sitting in a box on a shelf, let’s go get those Greeks out of the waiting room where we left them.  Back in the 7th chapter of John, there’s this interesting exchange after they fail to arrest Jesus because his hour had not yet come.  Jesus tells them, “You will search for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.” They say to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks?  What does he mean by saying, ‘You will search for me and you will not find me’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”

And right after the gospel reading we heard this morning, the crowd says to Jesus, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah  remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?”  Jesus responds with some metaphors about light and darkness, and then, “After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.”

Jesus hides from the crowds.  Jesus hides from the Greeks.  Those who seek him cannot find him.  He goes with his disciples to share a final meal, and then he is handed over to the authorities to be lifted up . . . on the cross.  “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”  The Greeks had come to Phillip and said, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”  Do they?  Well . . . has Jesus been lifted up?  Yes, and he draws all people to himself.  You, me, Greeks, Pharisees, Phillip, Andrew, and the family that keeps toys wrapped in their original cellophane in the guest room closet.  Jesus draws all people to himself, because his hour has come.

And since we’re all floating around in John’s metaphors and deeply symbolic language already, let’s go ahead and press forward.  If someone comes to you and says, “Sir, Madam, I wish to see Jesus,” what should you do?  You should point to Jesus, who has been lifted up, and draws all people to himself.  If someone asks, “Madam, Sir, where can I see Jesus?”  You can point to the places where he is lifted up: where relationships are restored, where the outcasts are welcomed, where the good news is preached, and at the Altar, in the moment where the bread is lifted up and you say AMEN, which means, let it be so.  All caps.  In italics.  That’s the point where you are saying, “We wish to see Jesus, and by God’s grace he is here.”

Jesus draws all people to himself, because his hour has come and he is lifted up.  Lay down your life, and God will lift you up.  Kneel down in Confession, and God will lift you up in forgiveness.  Go down to the grave, and God will raise you up in glory.  God is always lifting us up, so that God’s name will be glorified.  This is all God’s doing, and it is wonderful in our sight.