Saturday, 21 March 2015

Passion Sunday - We want to see Jesus (Jn12.21)

A child whispered, “God, speak to me”
And a meadowlark sang. The child did not hear.

So the child yelled, “God, speak to me!”
And the thunder rolled across the sky
but the child did not listen.

The child looked around and said, “God, let me see you”
and a star shone brightly.
but the child did not notice.

And the child shouted, “God, show me a miracle!”
And a life was born but the child did not know.

So the child cried out in despair,
“Touch me, God, and let me know you are here!”
Whereupon God reached down
and touched the child.
But the child brushed the butterfly away
and walked away unknowingly.

(Old Hindu poem by Ravindra Kumar Karnani)

“20 Now 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’ ”

In the preceding passage Jesus has raised his friend Lazarus from the dead. After raising Lazarus from the dead the Pharisees and chief priests wanted to kill Jesus because many of the Jews who had witnessed the miracle were beginning to follow him. The verse immediately preceding the passage of scripture we read as our gospel this morning records the Pharisees saying:

“Look the world has gone after him”

Then we read that some Greeks went who up to worship at the Temple came to Philip and said “We want to see Jesus”.

The Greeks, representing the whole world; the world beyond the Jewish communities of which Jesus and his disciples were a part,  make a request to Jesus’ followers because they believed Philip and the others would lead them to Jesus.

It is significant that unlike many others who met with Jesus in the days of his ministry in Galilee they did not choose to go directly to Jesus but turned to one of his disciples Philip and asked him.

The approach of the Greeks is very different to that of the sick and possessed who seek out Jesus or where brought into his presence to receive from him a touch or a word that would transform them, heal them, restore them to a community that was content to ignore and banish them.

There is no explicit indication from our Text that they ever met with Jesus, nor is any detail given of how their lives were changed, their horizons expanded and their knowledge of God enriched. Well not directly but if course Jesus’ response recorded in the next verse is for the Greeks, then it is for the world for which they are representative, and it is for us this morning – “Jesus answered The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” v23.

Today we begin, in the Anglican church, Passiontide and our focus  this week and Holy week that follows is on the Son of Man who is glorified through his passion for the world, through his love of this world that leads him to accept his cross. It is in his passion, his suffering and terrible death that we see him endure out of love for this world and in his endurance become a new light and hope that is the Son of Man glorified.

“Sir we wish to see Jesus” declare the Greeks to Philip and we see in this encounter the reality of our own lives and faith. That people will encounter Jesus when we stand beside them on the 89 bus, as we elbow ourselves onto a packed tube at Liverpool street, as we push our shopping trolley round Sainsbury, when we pummel the horn of our car at an inconsiderate driver!

In the search for Jesus that many in this world are embarked upon they will naturally turn to his followers in order to find the healing and meaning in life that Jesus holds out to those who seek him. However the sadness is that when many do they are greeted with something falling short of the welcome that Jesus offered to those around him when he trod this earth.  Will they find in us something of the passion we see in Jesus in the last week of his life? A passion that broke the rules, that showed the world that nothing is impossible for God and for those who place their lives in his hands?

This lent, using Bob Jackson’s Everybody welcome course, we have been looking together at the quality of our welcome as congregations at St John and St Matthias and last Sunday some of us gathered to look at the quality of our worship and I am glad to say that for both congregations those who took part expressed their belief that our worship scores highly when it comes to answering the question: does our church service make you feel spiritually alive as you encounter God together? And the question would a newcomer always be shown the relevance of Jesus to their lives?

What has become clear in the conversations of the last three weeks is that we need to do more to enable, by the quality of our welcome, those in our community, and those we call friends, to enter our church building when we are here, that there is still more that can be done to enable those who come in to our lives to experience the life changing encounter with Jesus.

Tonight is the last session and we will be asked look the factors that enable those who enter our building to become part of the church community and experience the opportunity of belonging to a Christian community who are engaged in the search for Jesus.

Returning for a moment to the encounter between the Greeks and Philip, this points us to the need for us to continue to build our relationship with Jesus, as we ourselves look to see Jesus, so that others who want to see God can see God through us, through our very being, through our daily actions, and the way we live our lives. There are many people around us who have given up on the church. Some of them are hurt and angry while others are kind and pleading, and they look to us to see Jesus.

Maybe all of us tonight, whether or not you able to come back to church at 5.00pm can ask of yourselves before you go to sleep tonight: how are we going to show them Jesus tomorrow?
You and I come to church because we want to see Jesus. We are seeking Jesus and I think the best way for any of us to see Him, is to see him in those around us. Notice, that the Greeks were not saying, "We would like to see the beautiful temple," or "We would like to have an audience with the high priest, Caiaphas."
I hope you don't come to church just to see a beautiful building or look at stained glass windows or the works of art. There are many beautiful cathedrals, especially in Europe, but many of them, even though they are beautiful, are empty of people. I hope you came here, saying, as the Greeks did, "Sir, we would see Jesus."

These Greeks were begging to see Jesus. In the Greek language the verb means to beg continually, not just a one-time action. These Greeks were begging Philip with the same intensity as the Greek woman whose daughter was demonized begged to see Jesus.
Philip might have been too preoccupied, to busy, to caught up in his own concerns or his own encounter for that matter to have heard the cry of the Greeks. But he did hear them and he went with them, possibly because he did not have the answer himself, and found Andrew and together they went and told Jesus.

If we open our ears we will hear the cry from those around us. There are people everywhere who want to see Jesus just as these Greeks did. They are here in this city and in every city in the world. They are in our neighborhoods, our offices, our schools, and our households. Have you heard them begging and crying, "We want to see Jesus"?

Why do these people want to see Jesus? Because they know that Jesus alone can help them. Money cannot help them. Designer clothes cannot help them. Computers cannot help them. Their work cannot help them. Only Jesus can save them.

There are Greeks in our time crying out, "We would like to meet with Jesus, the friend of sinners and publicans." They are crying to us, are we listening?

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