Wishing to See Jesus

Today’s Gospel Passage:  John 12: 20-36
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very 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. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. “Now 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. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.

Well, don’t we all…wish to see Jesus, I mean.  What does that mean?  What exactly did those Greeks want?  I’m guessing that they didn’t want a leader.  They had those.  And the Greeks are usually known for being pretty well educated, so I think a claim that they wanted Jesus to teach them something is probably questionable at best.  And I’m sure they had their own friends.  What did they mean?  My guess is that they wanted what all of us want.  They wanted proof.  They wanted it to make sense.  They wanted something more.

Nothing has really changed.  That’s what we all want.  We want proof.  We want it to make sense.  We want something more.  We wish to see Jesus.  But we want it on our own terms.  We want proof without doubt; we want sensibility without mystery; and we want something more but only if it doesn’t cost us anything.  So, Jesus, where are you?  Why can’t we see you?
This passage is hard.  I preached it yesterday and probably made a B- at best.  You see, the tide has turned.  Jerusalem is there before us.  The problem is that we’re supposed to believe without faltering in the cross. We look at that big gleaming cross in the front of the sanctuary.  We see them on the doors to the church and on the sign outside.  Good grief, we even hang them around our necks. But, contrary to what most of Christianity holds out there as “belief”, I don’t think we were meant to worship the cross.  We were meant to worship God, to hunger and thirst in the deepest parts of our being to encounter God.  Well, we can’t see God.  If we could there’d be no need for faith.  But we can see Jesus, the One who points the Way to God.  But this Jesus is more than a leader.  He is more than a teacher.  Jesus is the One on the Cross.  And at that moment, God does something incredible.  God takes the worst of this world, the worst of humanity, the worst of proof or sensibility, at a cost that no one can fathom…and recreates it.  In that moment on the Cross, God takes the worst of us and the best of God and reconciles them, redeeming us into God, pouring the Divine into humanity for all time.
But to see Jesus, we have to be there.  Where were you….?, the song asks.  There…there with Jesus…there with God…all of us together.  But to be there, you have to leave your life that you’ve created behind.  You have to leave your attachments, your wealth, your images of what and who you worship behind.  There is not room for all of that on the Cross.  (After all, God is REALLY big!)  You have to surrender all that you are so that you can become all that you should be.  But you have to do it standing at the Cross.  And there…there He is…there’s Jesus.
Go in Peace as you Journey to the Cross,

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner…

Today’s Gospel Passage:  John 12: 1-11
Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

Really…what would you do if Jesus came to dinner?  What would you do if Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Humanity, the Messiah, showed up at your house for dinner?  Well, I guess I’d use Aunt Doll’s Wedgwood China.  I guess I’d make an array of wonderful recipes for the guests and worry about the centerpiece.  I guess I’d use Grandmother Stockdick’s lace tablecloth and the blue bowl from Grandmother Reue.  And, of course, I’d use the silver from Grandmother Williams.  I would put out the best.  And I would regret that the bathroom has not yet been remodeled and that the yard still show awful signs of the past winter that was unseasonably cold for our moderate South Texas climate.  I mean, really, how often does Jesus come to dinner?

But I have to confess that I wouldn’t have thought of the perfume.  I would not have anointed Jesus’ feet for fear of getting too intimate, too close, violating his privacy.  And I would not have wiped his feet with my hair.  What a mess!  I guess I have to face it…I’m not a Mary.  I would have been concerned about what the guests thought or how the guests felt.  Damn…I’m the sister! 

Oh, how I wish I was a Mary!  How I wish I could pour out everything without counting the cost!  How I wish I could anoint Jesus’ feet and be part of this week instead of just standing on the sidelines!  But I’m one of those that probably would have saved the stupid palm branch as a souvenier!  And now Jesus has turned toward Jerusalem.  And I’m cleaning up the dinner dishes!

Please, Lord, let me be one of those who doesn’t worry about what others think or how much it costs or whether or not it belongs.  Let me be one of those who always sets Aunt Doll’s china on the table whether or not I can guess who’s coming to dinner.  Let me be the one who walks with you to the Cross rather than just sending a doggie bag.

On this holiest of weeks, may you be the one who anoints Jesus in your life.

Grace and Peace,


(Picture:  Jerusalem, February, 2010)

The Palm Sunday Road

Today’s Gospel Passage:  Luke 19: 28-40

After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem…As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

We like the idea of a parade.  We like being part of a celebration, part of the winning crowd.  This day is glorious.  Jesus winds down the road from the Mount of Olives toward the garden.  Everyone is cheering and shouting.  This is the way it should be.  So we throw our cloaks on the road in front of him.  We want to be part of the crowd.  The cheering is louder and louder.  We are going to take the city by storm.

The problem is that we like the celebration a little too much.  When the crowd begins to quiet and drift away, we follow them.  We were never really part of it at all.  We were really just mere bystanders enjoying the show.  And when the show ends as the road turns toward Jerusalem, we lose interest.  We drift away, now cloaked in silence.

Jesus never meant to be the star of a parade or the honoree at a celebration.  He really could have cared less whether or not we threw our cloaks on the ground in front of him.  I think what he really wanted was for us to finish the journey.  He wanted us to follow.  But instead we drifted away in silence.  And we left it to the stones to shout.  The road that we journey this week is not easy.  It is steep and uneven.  And the shouting stones and clanging iron against wood will be deafening.  But this is the way to peace; this is the way to glory.  Do not leave yet.  Instead, leave your cloak on the road and walk over it yourself.  Follow Jesus.  The road has not ended. 

Into the city I’d follow the children’s band, waving a branch of the palm tree high in my hand; one of his heralds, yes, I would sing loudest hosannas, “Jesus is King!” (From “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus”, William H. Parker)

Grace and Peace,


STATION XIV: Jesus is Laid in the Tomb

Before the station, pray: I adore you, O Christ, and I bless you, because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.

Read John 19: 38-42

…They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths…Now there was a garden in the place where there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

We have walked away from graves before and left the remains of a life behind us. But this…this is different. And so we strip our altars and we strip our lives and we try to make room for you. And then we wait. We wait for you to come. We wait for you to rise. We keep vigil and we enter into deep prayer, knowing the day will come. And we wait. We wait for our eternity to be born. We waited for your coming once before, for your birth. But this is different. Now we wait for our own. And you…you are even now busy descending into hell, gathering up all that ever was so that it will forever be. And so we wait for the Easter dawn.

Father, forgive.

Jesus, In the darkness, we wait for your light. Give us patience and strength. But more than that, give us the vision that you see for the dawn. Empower us to be your Easter people. In the Name of our Redeemer, the One who give us life. Amen.

STATION XIII: Jesus is Taken Down From the Cross

Before the station, pray: I adore you, O Christ, and I bless you, because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.

Read Luke 23: 52-53
This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid.

It is indeed over. There is a sickening finality to it all. Why did it have to end like this? Why did it have to end at all? We were just beginning to understand. We were just beginning to get what we were supposed to be doing. And now it is over. And then there’s this darkness. It’s never been this dark at this time of day. It adds to the pall of our souls. We have to go back now. But to what? After all, deep down we know that he changed us. How can we live now in the world? How can we go back? And yet, in this moment of our deepest despair, we remember that we have found love. Life will be different because we have found love.

Father, forgive.

Jesus, I do not like endings. I was just getting comfortable. I want to go back—to mangers, and stars, and picnics on the hillside. Your love, though, tells me to go on. Give me strength to walk in that love even in the midst of grief, to walk in the light even in the shadows. Amen.

STATION XII: Jesus Dies on the Cross

Before the station, pray: I adore you, O Christ, and I bless you, because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.

Read Mark 15: 37-39

Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s son!”

“It is finished.” As Jesus breathed his last, the temple curtain tore in two, revealing a new world in which holiness was no longer separate and hidden from view. Trembling and shaking in the darkness, the earth opened to reveal a glimpse of a future yet to be. And through our grief and tears, God entered the heartbreak and brokenness of the world and began recreating it. In this moment, God’s future enters our present. And in the most unfathomable act of love, the cross becomes God’s highest act of Creation. Because with it, we and all of Creation are made new. That which is finished is the beginning of life. In this moment, our own eternity is conceived.

Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were an offering far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all. (Isaac Watts, UMH # 298)

Father, forgive.

Jesus, Through my tears and my grief, I see your love flowing into the world. Enable me to be an instrument of that love that all may know the amazing love that I feel. Amen.

STATION XI: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

Before the station, pray: I adore you, O Christ, and I bless you, because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.

Read Mark 15: 22-33
Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him…

It is here that our regrets sink in. It is here that we want to go back. We would do it differently next time. We would not ask so many questions as to why he was doing what he was doing and to whom. We would just watch and listen and learn from him how to love. We would not fight and grapple with each other over who was in charge, over who was the most important, over who was his favorite. Instead, we would bask in his spirit and his radiance and his love of equality for all. And when asked if we knew who he was, we would not betray him. Rather, we would step forward no matter the cost. But we cannot go back.

The sounds are deafening. The clanging rings out over the land and settles into our hearts. A nail of greed. A nail of selfishness. Nails of betrayal and hatred and war. Nails of hunger and poverty. Nails of not accepting and loving each other. Nails of being so sure of one’s beliefs, so sure of one’s understanding of who God is and who God wants us to be, that we miss what God is trying to show us. It is finished. In the Name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven. Father, forgive.

Jesus, I have many regrets in my life, even though I know that you offer forgiveness for all. Open that path of forgiveness that I may forgive myself and accept what you offer. Amen.