Summary: In these dark times we need to walk with Jesus through the darkness of his crucifixion and death so that as he is "lifted up" we can know that in the darkest of times he will be there for us to bring new life.
5 Lent B John 12:20-33 6 April 2003
Rev. Roger Haugen
We live in dark and dangerous times. The stability we 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 send out notices of negative returns again this year. Our streets do not seem safe as we hear about home invasions and street gangs. The world is a dangerous place as we hear about Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and wonder when it will come here. We turn on the television and war is centre stage. We need a saviour, 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.” They 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, Jesus 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 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.” What does that look like? 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 hate your life in this world 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 life of risk. 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. To not risk the seed, to keep it in the bin, 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 be willing to let it die, will have a harvest of new life and hope.
What does that death look like for us? Who is asking us to see Jesus, hoping that in our lives we would display Jesus with absolute clarity? What would such surrender look like? What abundant crop might come from the planting of your and my seed, our lives as we have come to know them? Are we willing to take the risk? Remember the farmer, remember the little seeds we put into the soil, expecting a profusion of colour in our flower beds.
The story is told of a young girl who was sick and desperately needed a blood transfusion. Her younger brother was a match and 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. He looked up at his mother as the transfusion began and asked, “Will I begin to die right away?”
What would dying to our lives look like to us? What would dying look like to Zion congregation? 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 equipped to lead the unchurched to “seeing” 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 neighbourhood? 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 war? What needs to die, to be planted, in order that life can result?