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Mar 18, 2018

Dark and Dangerous Times

Dark and Dangerous Times

Passage: John 12:20-33

Speaker: Father Will Lowry

Series: All

Category: All

Keywords: lent

We live in dark times. People around us are desperate for hope and meaning. What are we willing to put to death in ourselves so that they might see Jesus? Are we willing to “die” so that a harvest can result?

We live in dark and dangerous times. The stability we all crave in life seems shaken every time we turn around. Jobs are continually downsized, the mutual funds that were to give us security in our retirement go up and down with each statement we receive, and our streets, schools and even places of worship do not seem as safe as they used to be.

The world is a dangerous place as we hear about disease and epidemics that we thought were long gone and other sicknesses that vaccines no longer work on. We turn on the television and the eminent threat of another war is center stage (and let’s not forget that we are still, unofficially, fighting the longest war in our history); many of our religious entities are seemingly at battle, the discord of our government seems to be the headline of every news broadcast no matter what channel you flip to, and there are senseless tragedies seemingly every week.

We need a savior. We need release. We need hope. We wish to see someone who can save us from it all.

A group of Gentile outsiders had watched Jesus heal the sick, give sight to the blind and make the lame walk. They came to some of the disciples and said, “We wish to see Jesus.” The outsiders thought that this was the one who could give hope and meaning to their lives. They were on the outside looking in and they wanted more.

When Jesus heard this, he replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” The one who had repeatedly said that the time was not yet…. now says that it is. The time has arrived for the message of the One who has come to save all people to be spoken for all to hear.

“We wish to see Jesus.” Can you imagine what that might even be like? To see Jesus in the flesh?

Jesus tells us stories of what it would look like. “Do you want to see me? Then you must die as a seed dies. You want to see me? Then you must let go of your life with all the security and comfort you have accumulated. You want to see me? Then you must follow me and serve me.”

Jesus is talking about a real life of risk.

Now, farmers and gardeners know about risk. Every year seeds are put in the ground not knowing what conditions will greet them. Will there be enough rain? Will there be rain at the right time? Will the wind and the sun of summer whither the crops?

All questions that are asked once the farmer has risked the seed, willing to let it die so that it might germinate and create life. Not to risk the seed is to give in to the urge of safety and by doing so, receive nothing.

This is what Jesus is talking about. We must be willing to die, knowing that only by doing so can life result. Watching farmers and gardeners is one thing, but Jesus gets personal.

Those who love their life and see their creation of life as all-important will ultimately lose it. It is only those who hate their life in this world to the point of being willing to let it die, will have a harvest of new life and hope. (That’s strange isn’t it, to hate life?)

What does that death look like for us? Is there someone asking us to see Jesus; hoping that our lives might display who Jesus is?

What abundant and life-giving crop might come from the planting of your and my seeds? Are we willing to take the risk?

There is a story of a young girl who was sick and desperately needed a blood transfusion. Her younger brother was a match, so he was asked if he would give his sister a transfusion. He agreed and was placed on a bed next to his sister and the transfusion lines were established. Just as the procedure began he looked up at his mother and asked, “Will I begin to die right away?”

The boy didn’t fully understand the process, but he was willing to die for one he loved as much as he loved himself.

We live in dark times. People around us are desperate for hope and meaning. What are we willing to put to death in ourselves so that they might see Jesus?

One of the critiques of mainline churches today is that we are not well enough equipped to lead the “unchurched” to “see” Jesus. Too often congregations are only concerned about themselves and their own members. Are we willing to “die” so that a harvest can result? What would the planting of us look like?

What does following and serving Jesus look like for us in this community and this neighborhood? What does following and serving look like for us in the world in which we find ourselves daily, a world caught up in terror and warring with each other? What needs to die, to be planted, in order that life can result?

Jesus answers the question by telling us what will happen to him. He is troubled greatly by it, but he tells us that he will be lifted up.  He tells us he will be crucified and killed, but he will be planted.

The “harvest” of this planting will be eternal life; life as God intended life for ALL of us. The harvest will be an absence of fear in the midst of all that would seek to destroy us, hope in a world desperate for it, victory over evil which seeks to destroy us by fear, by hurt, by desperation.

We are coming to the end of Lent. Holy Week is near. This year we need to experience Holy Week as much as ever before. We need to remember the events that are the core of our faith. We need to experience the walk with Jesus into death because we need to know once again, in a very real way, the intimacy of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday.

We need to walk the way to the crucifixion on Good Friday and experience the emptiness of Good Friday and Holy Saturday. We need the hope of Easter Sunday. But it is the most powerful only after we have walked the way of death.

We need to experience this on the deepest of personal levels, not simply as an idea or a story. We need to experience Holy Week, because in the world today we need to know that we can stare down evil because Jesus meets us in the midst of the worst possible evil.

As Douglas John Hall says it,

If Jesus is to be anything more than another name, another historical mythic figure for us; if he is to become in any way, “Christ,” “Savior,” “Lord” -- if his name and story are to arouse in us anything like “faith,” then we shall have to encounter him and not merely some ideas about him.

We need Holy Week this year because so much seeks to tear us down. We can walk the walk of Holy Week surrendering to death, but in doing so we also claim life.

As resurrected “seeds” of God, we become bearers of the news. The good news - the gospel - is that as we face whatever evil that confronts us, Jesus is there - to give up life and power - to tell us that we are not alone and that this will not be the end. This is the good news we celebrate as we take and are touched by the sacraments. This is the good news that brings us new life, new courage, and nothing can take that hope from us.

As seeds, we have nothing left to do but bloom and grow.



Quote: Douglas John Hall, Feasting on the Word, Year B, Vol. 2, pg. 99
Photo credit: Johannes Plenio on Unsplash