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Advent Meditation on Joseph

The reading for Sunday, December 17, 2017: Matthew 1:18-25 This Sunday we read about an angel appearing to Joseph in a dream. We've no...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

SUNDAY
SERMON
STARTER

John 12:20-36 March 29, 2009 LENT 5
20Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.27Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say — 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." 30Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

Are you ready for some trouble?
Listen to this:
“Sir, we want to see Jesus.”
It doesn’t sound troubling, does it?
In fact, it sounds rather simple.
“Sir, we want to see Jesus.”
Now we would likely assume that any good disciple upon hearing those blessed words would immediately do what?
Sir, we want to see Jesus.
We would assume that before they could even get their mouths to work that words like this: “Of course you do – follow me ” would just come tumbling out of their own accord.
But no words come tumbling out.
Instead of being disciples for Jesus Philip and Andrew decide to play gatekeeper.
“Sir, we want to see Jesus.”
Philip does not bring them to Jesus, but instead goes and tells his brother Andrew.
Gatekeepers always see, tend to work in pairs, don’t they.
“They want to see Jesus,” Philip tells Andrew.
Then together they do not bring the people, these Greeks, to Jesus, either. They go to Jesus by themselves.

The men who wanted to see Jesus were Greeks, we are told. Not Jews. Greeks.
Perhaps there were proselytes - Greeks who believed in God and were called "God-fearers," but who had not made the final commitment of circumcision.
Perhaps they were just curious Greeks who had heard about this man Jesus and all of the miracles attached to his name and all of the wisdom and authority in his teaching.

"We want to see Jesus."
And the actions of the disciples sent a not so subtle message:
Hey, great, we'll let him know. We'll get back to you on that.

So they tell Jesus words, something like: “ Teacher, these Greeks want to see you.”
Now Jesus could have asked them where they had left those curious Greeks. Jesus could have asked them why they didn’t bother to bring them along. But instead Jesus decides to make that moment what we call a “teachable moment.”
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth,” Jesus teaches, “ I will draw all people to myself.” My death on the cross is for all – its promise is for all, the Kingdom it announces is for all.
All people.
Interesting.
Not some people or Jewish people or Greek people or some other category of people, but rather all people, both Jew and Gentile.
The Apostle Paul will later put it this way:
26for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus

This has serious implications for what it means to be the church – to be the body of Christ – and of course, then, as it must follow - for how we go about the task of proclaiming and living out the gospel.

Now time for some real trouble:
Permit me ask you a question.
Is there a difference between being a "welcoming church" and a "missional church?"
You see it is an important question because I have never been in a church that didn't consider itself to be a welcoming church.
Could you imagine? Stopping by a church on a Sunday morning…”Are you welcoming here?” And some person blocks the door and answers, “Of course not – If you can’t trace your family back three generations in this church you might as well turn around and go home.”
No, that never really happens.
"Everyone is welcome" they'd say.
"The doors are always open."
That is the church-going equivalent of "It's a free country."
Sure, anyone can walk through the doors.
Someone might even hand them a bulletin.
But God help them if they don't know what they are doing.
When to sit and stand.
What pews are open to them.
How communion works.
How to properly share the peace.
This list goes on and on. Churches can say that they are welcoming – all probably would, but churches fall prey to the temptation to draw boundaries – decide who is in and who they want to keep out.

Oh sure, people would never say that out loud in any church (we hope)
But how many might think it? Any how much do our thoughts influence our actions?
"Everyone is welcome," they would say.
But what they really meant was "as long as they are just like us."

“Sir, we want to see Jesus,” the visitors say.
Sure, sure, I'll let him know . You wait right there. (Thought to self: "What makes you think he wants to see you since you are obviously not like me?")

I once told some of young people that I could care less what they wore to church.
Apparently, if the rather animated conversations that followed were any indication, others did not share my indifference.
My indifference of course was to clothing.
What I truly cared about was the youth's presence in church...and their comfort in inviting their friends to church. And their friend's friends.
A missional church cares first and foremost about seeing Christ in all (Matthew 25) and being Christ for others (Martin Luther).

If dressing a certain way is a barrier for some people to come to worship, where Christ has promised to be present, to meet them and us, together, then our concern ought to be to remove that barrier, right?

Sir, we want to see Jesus.
Then hurry home and change into more appropriate clothes. Worship starts in five minutes. And you know, I have never found a verse in scripture where Jesus turns his back on someone and walks away because of what they are wearing or where they are from or what they look like. Or their age or their accent or the number of tattoos they have. Never. Jesus is too busy gathering all people unto himself.

So what does Jesus care about as he pours his entire life into this mission of gathering of people: That people follow him.
Whoever serves me must follow me he says and to follow Jesus is to humbly declare with Jesus “Not my will but yours be done.”
To follow Jesus is to put aside what we want and seek what Jesus wants. Chances are they may not be the same thing.

The family was new in town and the young mother brought their two children to a large downtown parish, while her husband worked each Sunday morning. The parish had lots of families, especially children, and a huge Sunday school. The eldest child had difficulty adjusting to the new Sunday school and was disruptive. The mother offered to assist in the classroom, but the teacher was adamant. Other parents were complaining. The child had to go.

Sir, we want to see Jesus.
Not in that church.
Not that day.
Not as the young mother wept holding her two children tightly around her and dozens of parents walked by oblivious or far worse, uncaring.
Was it a welcoming church? They welcomed everyone - shook their hands and everything. But was it a missional church? Did the people see Christ in all and be Christ for all?
Certainly not.

Sir we want to see Jesus.
We'll let him know....
We’ll get back to on that. As soon as we can.

When I am lifted up Jesus says, I will draw all people unto myself.
Can we as the body of Christ do any less?
Is there any barrier worth ignoring that separates one child of God from the very God who went to the cross for their sake?
Is there any hand that we would not reach out to in friendship, in welcome, in the name of Christ?

Sir we want to see Jesus.
The missional church replies “let me show you how we can be Christ together.”
Amen.

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