A sermon preached on Lent 5 at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Del Mar
RCL / Lent 5 / Year B
Jeremiah 31:31-34 / Psalm 51:1-13 or Psalm 119:9-16 / Hebrews 5:5-10
I know that it is not Palm Sunday until next week, but I wanted to share a little story to get you prepped and ready. A little boy was sick on Palm Sunday and stayed home from church with his mother. His father returned from church holding a palm branch. The little boy was curious and asked, “Why do you have that palm branch, dad?” “You see, when Jesus came into town, everyone waved Palm Branches to honor him, so we got Palm Branches today.” The little boy replied, “Shucks! The one Sunday I miss is the Sunday that Jesus shows up!” Have you seen Jesus yet today?
In our Gospel reading today we do indeed jump forward a little to the events of Holy week. In our Gospel reading today Jesus has already entered Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. We of course come back to His triumphant entry next week as we celebrate Palm Sunday. But today we find him in the midst of all of the activity of Jerusalem itself. Stories about Jesus, this man from the countryside, were spreading wide and far. A group of Greek’s had heard of this amazing man. They may have heard about him raising Lazarus from the dead. For whatever reason they desired to see Jesus. “Sir we wish to see Jesus” they ask Philip, a disciple with a good Greek name, Philip is not quite sure what to do and so he turns to Andrew and together they approach Jesus. It was a simple request “there are some guys over there who have heard about you and want to meet you”. Jesus could have said yes, invited them over and did the biblical equivalent of signing a scroll or allowed them to sketch a selfie with him. But Jesus knew that his time had almost come. Now was the time for him to reveal the reality of the week ahead.
Jesus does this of course by telling a parable. A grain of wheat is no good by itself. It must fall to the ground and die. Having been trampled on it finds itself in the ground and over time soaks up water. And then the miracle of life occurs. Life emerges from death and something new is created. Jesus knows that he must die in order for us to gain eternal life. Jesus’s death on the cross is sufficient for us all. But the parable is more than just a way of conveying what must happen to Jesus. It is also aimed at each and every one of us. For if we are to truly follow Jesus, then we must also be like that grain of wheat and let ourselves die in order to experience new life.
“Those who love their life lose it”. These words, or words very similar, are repeated six times throughout the gospels. Once each in Mark and John and twice in each of Matthew and Luke. Six repeats give us a hint that this is important.
If we truly want to see Jesus then we must seek him out in all places including places that we may not want to go. And when we find him, we should not always expect a nice happy face, because sometimes, maybe often, we will see him in pain, suffering and sharing in the brokenness of the world. But there is more, when we have found Jesus and gazed upon his face we must also listen to what he is calling us to do.
The Greek seekers said “Sir we wish to see Jesus”, a wise person in the crowd would have shouted back “are you sure?” And so my friends when we shout out “we want to see Jesus” we better ask ourselves “are we sure? Are we ready to see his suffering and to share in his death?”
Of course we can see Jesus, here in church. It is easy to see him in the beauty that is all around us, and there is a lot of beauty here in Del Mar. As we look a little harder we can see Jesus sitting alongside our homeless guests who come to our helping hands ministry. But I think that Jesus is calling us to seek him in even more places, especially in places where we may not want to look. Maybe in our workplaces there is a coworker that really is annoying and nasty to their co-workers. Can we take the time to look where Jesus may be in a situation like that? Maybe our kids sometimes tease another kid in our community, for whatever reason – maybe they have red hair, are over-weight or extremely introverted. What is teasing to some is bullying to others. Can we take a hard look and she where Jesus is in this situation? In this season of Lent we reflect upon our own lives. And I pray that we keep it real and see Jesus in situations where there is pain and suffering. For that is where he is calling us to find him.
Having found Jesus are we prepared to respond to his message? Jesus said “Those who love their life lose it”. What does this mean for us today? In order to answer that we need to reflect on our own lives and also on the world around us and whenever we see something that separates and pulls us away from God then that is what we need to let die. We need to let go of those things that keep us from God. Maybe that means letting go of the bad feeling towards the awkward co-worker and reaching out to them to try and understand what it is that is making them so angry. Maybe it letting go of pride and talking to our kids when we see them being less than friendly to another. When we die in these ways we are opening ourselves up to experience new life.
Seeing Jesus is not always pretty. Jesus calls us to look for him in the places that we not only do not want to go but rarely dare to enter into. Jesus calls us to look for him not only in the world around us but also in the depths of our own being. And that can be hard, and it can be scary. I hope that as we continue to journey through Lent, towards Jerusalem and the cross that we take time out of our lives, out of the churchiness of Holy Week to stop and to look for Jesus, in the world around us and in ourselves. I pray that we will make Jesus real.
When we find injustice, hatred, greed or anything else that keeps us away from truly being united with God. I pray that we will work to make a change, no matter how small. For it is in making that change that we let the old way die. Just like the grain of wheat must die before it can experience new life, so we must let the old ways of the world and ourselves die in order that we experience new life in Christ. And that is the Good News. In Christ we have new life. And we are certain that for every Good Friday there is an Easter Day. That following Christ’s crucifixion we experience his resurrection.
I want to see Jesus. Are you sure? Even when you know what that means and what Jesus is asking of us? My prayer is that each and every one of us responds “Yes, Sir, I want to see Jesus.”