Summary: We reflect upon the reality of God’s Law of Love, written on our very hearts, and made possible in our lives by the sacrifice of Jesus, and the new life God brings through the wonder and glory of Jesus’ resurrection.
Sermon Series: Lent 2009
We reflect upon the reality of God’s Law of Love, written on our very hearts, and made possible in our lives by the sacrifice of Jesus, and the new life God brings through the wonder and glory of Jesus’ resurrection.
A SERMON FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT 2009 (‘Passion’ Sunday).
’Journeying with Jesus through Lent #5: ‘Along the way of Love and Life in all its Fullness’’
We are presented today, through our Gospel verses, with an atmosphere of heightening tension and anxiety on the part of Jesus and the disciples, as Jesus’ journey towards the cross nears its conclusion. Six days before, Mary had anointed Jesus’ feet in preparation for his death and burial and, shortly before that, Jesus had wept at the death of his friend Lazarus. It was then that the full power of God’s love was seen by all present as Jesus raised his friend to life – a time of wonder and deep joy that prefigures Jesus’ own resurrection.
Indeed, great crowds had come to celebrate Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem. They had heard all about the wonderful acts of healing and teaching he had become famous for, and they had welcomed his arrival for the Festival of Passover with great acclamation, waving palm leaves and carpeting the road he rode upon with the cloaks from their very backs! They had come also to see Lazarus whose very life was evidence for them of Jesus’ power, and the reason why so many people were coming to believe in him.
Now some Greeks came to see Jesus, they were anxious to speak with him. And their arrival seems to spark a new sense of urgency in Jesus’ heart. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” he exclaims. “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies [Jesus says], it remains but a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
The significance of this image of the seed, and his words about his time of ‘glorification,’ would have had great impact on the disciples and the other people who heard Jesus’ words that day. For the image and his words were intimately connected. Jesus was the seed, who would die, so that the great harvest of fruit would become possible – in the drawing-together of all people in his name. Jews and Greeks alike would acknowledge God’s glory and power in Jesus’ name, and would follow him in faith from that time onwards. That time was close – and getting nearer.
But this was not a time free of doubts, pain, of anxiety. “Now my soul is troubled” Jesus exclaims. And in his deep anxiety it seems as though he asks himself the question, “What should I say, ‘Father, deliver me from this hour’?” Then he immediately answers his own question, “No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.” It is his purpose to die, as a seed, so that all people may have the possibility to live in faith and truth, and that a great ‘harvest’ of people may be gathered together in his name to the glory of God. And the way of his death was to be a way of pain and suffering beyond imagination – to be ‘lifted up’ on a cross, for all to see. But this would happen so that God could lift him up out of the darkness death into the wonder, the beauty, of the light of the resurrection, and open the way for all to follow him into life in all its fullness.
But this ‘Passion Sunday’ it is easy for us to be overwhelmed by the suffering, and the pain, of the events leading to Jesus’ crucifixion. It is right, indeed, that this remains part of our Lenten reflections. But let us not lose sight of the over-riding power of God who is at the heart of all that happens here. The over-riding power of God, who is Love.
It is for the love of God that Jesus walked the road to ultimate sacrifice – that of suffering and death. Love is the key that makes sense of that which seems non-sensical. And it is only through the eyes of faith that Love can be seen to prevail in the midst of such passion [‘passion’ = suffering], such suffering, such sacrifice – that is, in the midst of JESUS’ passion and sacrifice.
For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son – as a means by which a new relationship of Love could be opened-up between God and all people. Not through the old covenant, but through a New Covenant of Love. The promise of God was that the Kingdom of Heaven is freely available, life in all its fullness, in this world and the next. In the verses from Jeremiah (31:31-34) we heard this morning we hear the prophet speaking of a time when just such a New Covenant would become a reality. “I will put my Law within [the people], and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” That is, the Law that Jesus spoke of as having at its heart the love of God, and the love of one’s neighbour. Through Jesus, God’s Law of Love is placed deep within God’s people – it is as if it is written on our very hearts. For JESUS is the means by which the New Covenant of God’s Love is brought into being, that is, made a REALITY in our lives. Through Jesus’ sacrifice of his very self.