Year A Proper 19 WEDNESDAY, 16 September 2020
Video Service from St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
Collect: O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
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. The crowd answered him, “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 said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.
Jesus is in a unique position in the way that John tells the Gospel story. And we need to unpack why this is so important. Through the Gospels, Jesus has come to start a devotion to God that will begin in Israel, and then fulfill the Hebrew Scripture prophecy that this little nation caught throughout history between conquering and warring empires was to bring a light to illuminate the whole world, or all the nations/peoples of the world.
When the Greeks approach Jesus’ disciples during the religious festival, Jesus takes it as a sign. His time has come. Those who were apart are seeking to be in on what he is bringing. And this causes a crisis.
Do not be wary of that word crisis. Often it can be a bad thing. And that is usually the only way we use that word. But with every crisis we are given a decision point. And with every decision point we are given an opportunity. You may have heard this before, but the Chinese ideogram for Crisis is the symbol for danger and the symbol for opportunity. I tend to see it that way, Crises are dangerous opportunities.
And as positive as that is, there is a cost. “...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.” There is a price to be paid for anything of worth.
One of the deeply moving parts of the book The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis is this reality. This book, and especially the movie made from it, was controversial. Parts were taken out of context without the comprehension of what it was trying to impart. In it, Kazantzakis is exploring the human side of Jesus. It explores this very idea of sacrifice. It is human nature to get as much as one can while giving as little as possible. Jesus is given a vision of life if he let it all go, and he did not give himself up as a gift. He immediately chooses to give himself up when that decision point comes, but in today’s passage he is very clear that to get what we want we have to pay the price.
The old joke about the world famous pianist at Carnegie Hall, after the final ovation he is walking offstage and a gushing fan cries out, “Oh Maestro! I would give my life to have what you have!” And the Maestro responds, “Oh, but I did.”
Another way we can look at it, decide what you want your life to be, and say no to anything that is not that. Easy? No. Clear? Yes.
To live NOW in the KINGDOM OF GOD that Jesus talks about we need to follow him. “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.” Jesus shows us the way to live fully in the Kingdom of God right now.
Heaven is not the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is when God reigns on this earth, in our lives, in our hearts. They way we live shows that we get it, that we comprehend what Jesus was saying. Grace is free, and living it out takes everything we’ve got. Amen