Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Sermon from March 22, 2015; John 12:20-26

Rev. George Miller
John 12:20-26
March 22, 2015

Life can have a circular pattern about it, if you are able to pause, look about and to see.

For example, 33 years ago in the Gospel of Matthew, the baby Jesus was born and a group of magi, gentiles from another part of the world, traveled to pay honor to the “King of the Jews.” Upon seeing the child, the magi kneel in respect, offer their gifts, and afterwards, they go home another way.

According to the Gospel of John, 3 years ago the adult Jesus goes to Galilee where he finds Philip and says “Follow me.” Philip finds Nathanael and tells him “We have found him about whom the prophets wrote.”

Today, the circle continues as we stand with Jesus in Jerusalem during a festival. Just a moment ago, the Pharisees, speaking of Jesus, have said “Look, the world has gone after him.”

And just like that!, as if on a cosmic cue, a group of Greeks come up to Philip and say “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Then Philip, along with Andrew, goes and tells Jesus.

Circular: as a baby, foreigners come to see Jesus; as an adult, foreigners come to see Jesus.

In the start of his ministry, Philip brings people to see Jesus. At the end of Jesus’ ministry, Philip brings people to see him.

See- circular.

Though the stories of the magi and the Greeks come from 2 very different gospels, they both serve a purpose- to fulfill prophecy and to show how the world has come, and will come, to Christ.

The magi and the Greeks have traveled so far so that they can see. Why is this important?

The magi and the Greeks were known for their wisdom and knowledge, showing that faith does not necessarily mean you leave your thinking brain behind.

The magi and the Greeks were most likely gentiles, demonstrating how Jesus did not come for just one select group of folk, but for all.

The magi, Philip, the Greeks, the Pharisees- they see. What did they see?

Well, if you follow the book of Matthew, they would’ve seen Jesus, as a Messiah, cleansing lepers, and not being afraid of them. They would’ve seen Jesus healing servants, not hurting the hired help.

They would have seen how Jesus was able to cast out the demonic, give voice to the silenced and opened up eyes so folk can see.

They would’ve seen how Jesus restored children to health, blessed children and drew them near.

They would have seen how he challenged the political and religious hypocrites of the day, and how he ensured that thousands of folk did not go without food.

They would’ve seen the masses flock around the Messiah as he told them stories about weddings in which everyone is invited, of seeds sown extravagantly, of lost sheep being found, and the benefits of casting out nets instead of letting them sit idle.

They would’ve seen and heard how Jesus called everyone blessed, reminded the citizens that they are the light of the world, who talked about issues from anger to oaths, adultery and love for enemies.

The magi, Philip, the Greeks, the Pharisees- they see. What did they see?

Well, if you follow the book of John, they would’ve seen Jesus, as a Messiah, being one who attended community events, who wasn’t above turning water into wine, who talked with women at the well in the heat of day, who gave sight to the blind without worrying if their condition was caused by sin.

They would have seen Jesus as the Son of God who challenged religious institutions and overturned tables. They would have seen Jesus as the one who stood up to a judgemental mob and forgave an adulteress.

They would have seen Jesus as a man who wept over the death of a friend, who was not above washing his own followers’ feet.

The magi, Philip, the Greeks, the Pharisees- they see. What did they see?

Nearly 2,000 years later, what do we see when we encounter Jesus?

What do we want to see?

There is a multitude of answers. We might say we want to see our Savior. Or we want to see our Shepherd, Healer, Teacher, Judge, Advocate or Friend.

Inspired by today’s “hymn of reflection”, one justifiable reason to see Jesus is so that we can be more like Jesus.

Not so we can be Christ, but so we can be more Christ-like.

Perhaps today, we want to see Jesus because we want to better emulate what he was about and how he acted within the world.

We’re not talking about the Jesus created by political leaders like Constantine over a millennia ago to control the masses.

Nor the Jesus created by religious leaders over the centuries to strike fear of damnation into the public and to make docile followers.

Not the Jesus created by televangelists decades ago to manipulate people so they can build their own personal wealth and purchase their own personal airplanes.

Nor the Jesus fabricated by so called Christian extremists to keep citizens silenced and to keep women, gays, aliens and perceived enemies in place.

No, we are talking about the Jesus we encounter when we read the Gospels.

The Jesus who reminded us that when we visit folk who are sick or incarcerated, when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked and quench the thirst of the least of these, we are doing it for Jesus.

The Jesus who would have stood before an angry mob for any of us, who would have gladly spoke to any of us at a well in the hot afternoon sun.

The Jesus who humbly rode towards his death on a donkey and who made his way to the cross so we could see just how much we are worth.

That’s the Jesus we’re talking about today.

We want to see Jesus, so we can be more like Jesus.

Not like Pastor George, not like Rev. Lawrence, not like Conference Minister John Vertigan, but more like Jesus.

We want to see Jesus so we can be more like Jesus.

Not like Joyce Meyer. Not like Mahatma Gandhi. Not like the Pope, but more like Jesus.

We want to see Jesus so we can be more like Jesus.

Not like the Prime Minister of England, not like the Shah of Iran, not like the President of the United States, but more like Jesus.

Nearly 2,015 years ago, magi came from far away to see him. Nearly 1,985 years ago Philip got to see him.

Nearly 1,982 years ago, Greeks traveled to a festival so they could see Jesus too.

The whole world wants to see him.

Today we still want to see him, even if we have seen him before.

The Good News is that we can.

We see Jesus when storms of life are subsided. We see Jesus whenever and wherever children are welcomed and respected.

We see Jesus whenever lost sons are welcomed back home, whenever sinners are forgiven, whenever the hungry are fed and the sick given a fair chance to be healed.

We can see Jesus when we allow our nets to be cast out instead of sitting idly by.

We can see Jesus when we allow seeds to fall to the grown and when we extravagantly sow seeds anywhere we can.

We will know we’ve seen Jesus when those seeds have grown into mighty trees where all the birds of the air find a place to land, shelter from the storm and ability to sing their song.

Oh Jesus- why do we want to see you? Let it be today so that we can be more like you.

More like you, Jesus, more like you.
Amen and amen.

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