The Fifth Sunday In Lent: March 21, 2021
Year B: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:1-13; Hebrews 5:5-10; John 12:20-33
This is Jesus’ final public speech. It is Passover; Jerusalem is full of people who had gathered to celebrate the festival. Among those were Greeks who were among people who would be called “God-Fearers”. God-fearers were people who were attracted to Judaism by its message of one God and by its religious laws. But, they were repelled by its nationalism and the requirement of circumcision. They worshipped in the synagogues but did not become converts.
The presence of these Greeks is significant because up until then, Jesus had taught his disciples not to minister to the Gentiles. Now John tell us the Greeks were coming to Jesus and want to “see him.”
Current news and the social unrest of this past year have probably left us with the same request as the Greeks in today’s gospel: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
Of course, right before this passage, many people had witnessed Jesus calling Lazarus from the tomb, so they wanted to meet and listen to this man. Jesus was drawing crowds, and this understandably caused a lot of concern among many, including the religious authorities.
And then there was a voice that Jesus heard. Some thought it was thunder and others an angel, but they all heard something. Like the crowd, we may sometimes confuse the voice, or even deny it. But Jesus reminds us that this voice is for our benefit. That we must pay close attention to what God is doing and saying.
If we have been listening, this year has been one where this is much to listen to. If we are listening, we have heard the voices of so many. We have heard the voices of our neighbors who are black and people of color, perhaps in ways that we have never heard before. We have heard the stories of Asian Americans in ways we have never heard and perhaps never opened ourselves listen to.
We have heard the stories of families in need. We have heard the voices of anger, despair, and rage. We have heard the voices of the marginalized, the once forgotten.
Question? Have we heard and found God in these voices, too?
Today, we can decide to be intentional about listening to these voices. We need to educate and inform ourselves in what matters to those who do not look or think like we do. We need to make space to welcome them into our lives, our communities, our churches, and our families. We need to welcome them in authentic ways that leave nothing to the imagination – because our actions make clear statements that we embrace all.
As we come to the end of this Lenten season, can you stop and wonder where you have heard that voice? From whom the voice came? Or even with whom have you shared this voice?
In answering and understanding these, you will also find love. You find God. You find forgiveness. You find that even in the midst of chaos, there is love. Even in our struggle, we will find love. You hear God saying that you are enough – that listening to God’s voice is transformative and healing.
Perhaps you have been feeling like this unrest will never end. Although we are slowly coming to a new normal, we know that nothing will entirely go back to what it used to be – nor should it. Be reminded that the same Jesus who cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” will do the same with us even when we don’t see it. Even now, God is calling us with a loud voice, saying, “Come out!”
It has felt like an extremely long season of Lent, but Easter is coming. We believe in a God who gives life.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry reminds us in his book, Love Is the Way, “The journey is always a struggle. But the movement is always forward.” He adds, “Now, if you ask me why, I’ll answer I don’t know. But as Fredrick Douglass put it, ‘If there is no struggle there is no progress.’” We cannot learn from blocking changes or denying our struggles – and this is difficult to understand. There will be days when we will not get all of the work done, days when we will not know which voices to listen to – but God will remain with us. We must take our time when listening to the voices around us and decide where we can find God in them. We must decide to love because we know that hate is too much to carry. We must continue to say, “We wish to see Jesus.” Let us continue to boldly claim this for our lives and for our world.
In seeing Jesus, we can be transformed into a vibrant new life.
As disciples of Jesus we are called to refocus our lives in this world. We are called to love each other. We are called to release control of our lives and give that control to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Not so easy to be sure if we look at the world around us. Disease is killing people around the world. Children and young women are being trafficked for sex.
The world around us has been frightening at times, especially with the increasingly violent expressions of racism and intolerance. There are wars still being waged. People are killed because of the color of their skin.
Say these names in prayer:
Xiaojie (Zsa-zhee) Tan
Daoyou (Dow-yoo) Feng
Soon C. Park
Hyun (Hwan) Jung (Yoong) Grant
Sun Cha Kim
Yong A. Yue
Delauna Ashley Yaun
Paul Andre Michels
Remember that Jesus weeps with us as we weep.
One year ago, tomorrow we had our first Zoom service. We have tried our best to worship together and maintain support for those in our community. It hasn’t always been easy.
But if we allow ourselves to see Jesus like the Greeks did, we continue to see Jesus over and over again, we continue to believe. We continue to learn to have faith, to trust. And it takes continued reminders about Christ’s light in the world, it takes continued conversations with God about the commandment “love our neighbor”.
In his book By Grace Transformed, the Gordon Cosby discusses just how it is that others “hear the voice” and come to see Jesus. Gordon puts it this way:
“Every single one of us is significant to somebody else. The people to whom we are significant will catch this thing from us if they know that we are, beyond a shadow of a doubt, absolutely devoted and loyal to the Lord Jesus Christ. But the trouble is that in those moments we think of as off moments, others decide whether or not we are truly committed. The times a person says, ‘I must talk to you,’ or when we are weeding the garden. Or, working in an office. Grading a road. Nailing on a molding or painting a room. Cooking a meal. Speaking to a child. These are the times and places where the other person decides who we really are.
We need to listen for the voice. The voice that is for our sake, not for his. The voice speaks to us so that we might know how beloved we are. So that we might know how well pleased God is with us. Once we hear this voice and believe it, others will see Jesus, in all that we say and all that we do. Amen.
Before the Covid-19 caused us to cancel services inside our churches, the sermons were usually recorded at St. Andrew’s and uploaded by Kemp Miller, for whose ministry we are all grateful. To access the entire library of audio files for past sermons, CLICK HERE.