Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sermon Ponderings, Lent 5

The Gospel John 12:20-33:
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. 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. Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
This sermon could take two directions, and despite the fact that it's 10:48 on Saturday night, I'm still undecided about which direction to take. And, I fear that the ideas are too disparate to blend them into one sermon.

Whichever direction, the sermon ultimately takes, this introduction will work. It's important to note that some who have studied John's Gospel talk about it's having two distinct books or sections. The first section is the Book of Signs. It begins with the opening and then moves into the miracles. Those start with Jesus' changing water into wine at the wedding at Cana and it ends with the raising of Lazarus (with a bunch of other signs in between). The second section is the Book of Glory, which begins immediately after the raising of Lazarus in John 12. Mary anoints Jesus with nard (and makes Judas angry). The authorities plot to kill Lazarus. Jesus rides into Jerusalem in triumph. And then this passage. The Greeks come to see Jesus. And Jesus responds (as he often does in John's Gospel) with metaphorical language.

The first direction has to do with the Greeks who come looking for Jesus. There's much scholarly debate about who the Greeks are. The could be converts to Judaism who chose not to be circumcised. Or they could be a group called "The God-Fearers." Whoever they are - they are not Jews, they are not the usual followers of Jesus. And, they seem to be completely uncertain about how to proceed.

I wonder who comes to us, wanting to see Jesus? We've been reading
The Shack as part of our Lenten book study. One of the broader critiques of the book is that it doesn't treat the church, as institution, very kindly. In fact, if anything, it's pretty negative about "Church."

How do we show the people who come to us in this building, or the people we encounter in our lives, Jesus?

The other option could take the seed image and run with that. I learned today about a lesson in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (a Sunday School program) where you plant a series of seeds, with each planting being one week apart. At the end, you dig them all up. And what the kids see is that as the seeds germinate, and the plant develops, the seed literally vanishes. After all, one planted bean yields a plant on which many bean pod grows. It's the same with virtually every seed. One kernel of corn yiels many ears. One tomato seeds yields a plant with many tomatoes.

As followers of Jesus, we're called to die to our selves, so that we, like the seed, will yield much. That feels like one of those cliches that doesn't actually mean anything. It need some nice concrete examples to liven it up. And I am feeling fresh out of concrete examples.


The Vagabond Priest said...

It's 11:15 and I"m also still pondering. Annoying, non-directional readings, in Lent. John year. Pblth! I'm fed up with it! Esp as solo clergy where I can't find time to really wrestle with stuff over the course of a few weeks... Ugh.

Fran said...

Yes, I know what you mean.

Ellie said...

I had a rare opportunity to preach today. I framed John in the promise in Jeremiah to make a new covenant and talked a little about what "glorify" means. I don't know if it's harder to preach from passages which are so packed with images or from those lectionaries that seem so devoid of anything very meaningful. You see, I'm keeping track of you, Fran.
With love,