Sunday, March 25, 2012

"We Wish to See Jesus", part 2

"Trust me."

These are words we hear on this 5th Sunday in Lent, as Holy Week approaches, as the shadow of the cross falls nearer.  "Trust me."  These are words we hear as well in the early spring, as we're looking for signs of life.  We're looking for signs of life, and I don't mean just spring, or even primarily spring, since in most places other than my yard there are plenty of signs of spring.  There are lots of ways that we might be looking for signs of life:  maybe in our own families, maybe in our communities, maybe in the world.  Like the Greeks, "We wish to see Jesus.  We heard a story about him raising the dead."  We want to see life.

I need to tell you, that the verses we just heard, the verses about the seed falling into the earth and dying -- the verses about bearing fruit -- these verses I associate with cemeteries, because that's where I often hear them, and that's where I often say them.  I say them while I am standing at a graveside with a family, saying goodbye to someone they love.  I say them while I am standing in front of a casket, or an urn.  And I love to hear the words about the seeds, because they do remind me of unseen new life.  I remember hearing more than once a story about a little boy, who was driving by a cemetery with his parents.  "Oh!"  he cried out.  "That's where we planted grandpa!"

It's the words that come after that bother me -- words about how the ones who love their lives inn this world will lose them, and those who hate their lives will gain them for eternal life.  When I read these words at cemeteries, I think about how the person who died loved hte life they had been given, loved the families and friends they had been given, loved the work God had given them to do.  And I think:  I don't believe Jesus means that we are to hate this life, the beauty around us, the work God has given us to do, the abundance of friends and family.  I don't think Jesus means we are to hate that life; I think he means us to glory in it, embrace it, love it, live it.  To "hateo ur lives in this world" doesn't mean to hate our created lives, it means something different, I think.  It means to hate the world that has turned its back on God; it means to hate the world that judges people by their success, or their power, or their money, or their beauty.  that tells us that some people are more valuable than other.  It means to hate the world that teaches us to fear people that look different than we do, or who come from a different place than we do.  To "hateo ur lives in this world" means to hate the forces that tempt us to harden our hearts, to despise the weak, to live only for ourselves.

There's a popular book out called "The Hunger Games."  In fact, it just became a movie; I know some young people stood in line at midnight on Thursday night in order to see it.  The Hunger Games is a dark story about a future world where resources are scarce, and where many people had turned against one another to survive.  The games themselves are cruel tournaments where young people are forced to fight one another to the death, for the entertainment of others.  But in the midst of the story, one of the young people, a boy named Peeta, says that there is something he fears more than death.

What he fears most is being turned into someone else by the games, turned into someone cruel, and hard.  He tells one of the other players, "I want to die as myself....I don't want them to change me in there.  Turn me into some kind of monster that I'm not." 

To me, this is what Jesus means by "hating your life in this world."  Peeta knows that there is some thing worse than death, and that is becoming a part of the cruelty, a part of the "game."  Jesus tells us as well, that there is something worse than death, and that is turning our backs on God, turning our backs on love, turning our backs on compassion, honor, grace.

I read the passage of scripture from John most often at a cemetery, and I think of the life that is seen, and the life that is buried.  "Trust me," Jesus says to me there.  "Trust me that the seed will come up.  Trust me that goodness and beauty will win.  Trust me that you will see one another -- and me -- again."

But it's not just at the cemetery that I need to hear it-- that we need to hear it.  In fact, if we only hear there words of Jesus at a cemetery, I think we hear them wrong.  They aren't just for the promise that we will live after we die.  They are for us here each day, whenever we are looking for signs of life.

"We wish to see Jesus," the Greeks said to Philip and Andrew.  We do too.

We wish to see signs of life where there is death.  We wish to see signs of compassion where there is cruelty.  We wish to see signs that God is working inthe world, evven in us, that God can transform our own hard hearts. 

Jesus points to the seed buried in the ground, he points to a cross, and he says, "Trust me..... and follow me."  AMEN

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