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. 27“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. 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. 34The 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?” 35Jesus 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. 36While 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.
We had this passage week before last, but it also appears as the Holy Tuesday lectionary reading. We know about the wheat, how the seed must die so that the fruit can be, how, essentially, the seed must surrender itself, allow itself to die so that it can become something else. It’s hard for us to grasp. Those of us who live in Western society are much more accustomed to being told what to believe, for our beliefs to grow as they are added on to each other until we are so full of a collection of beliefs that we are about to explode. The idea of surrendering, of letting a part of oneself literally fall away is foreign to us.
This morning (because I’m late in posting this), the Today Show interviewed three faith leaders as part of their week-long series on faith and spirituality. The question for this morning is “Who is God?” That’s a pretty big question. It’s essentially the same question with which those in this Gospel account are struggling. Who is God? See, they said, we’ve learned from the law that the Messiah remains forever. We got that. So what is this about being lifted up? And who this Son of Man character that you keep talking about? But we are no different. We would be much more comfortable if God just laid it all out for us, made it all a bit more obvious, maybe just made that light into which we are supposed to walk so incredibly overwhelming that none of us could miss it. What we’re saying is that we would be much more comfortable if we COULD faithfully answer the question “Who is God?” and know that we are actually getting it right.
But then we are told that we have to die, give up the self that we have tried so desperately to hone and perfect. Essentially, if we let our ideas and notions about who God is die away, we will know who God is. Now that just seems ridiculous, doesn’t it? I don’t think we come to know God by learning about God. We come to know God as we discover who God is in our lives, as we walk through the wilderness where God is revealed to us without the shadows of our lives and our preconceived notions getting in the way, as we walk through the darkness and finally see the light for ourselves rather than it being something that blinds us to itself.
Jesus never really gave a straight answer to this question. (ACTUALLY, I don’t really think Jesus ever gave a straight answer to many questions.) We are instead compelled to follow, to leave ourselves behind, and to come and see for ourselves. Our faith journey, our coming closer and closer to God, our own way that God is revealed in our lives comes about through discovery rather than memorization, through doubt rather than certainty, through darkness rather than blinding light. So as we walk through this Holy Week, let us leave ourselves behind and discover our Lord anew, discover the God who will raise us up if we are not so tied down.
Religion is about transcendence, and spirituality is about finding meaning in the mundane. (Joan Chittister)
“You Raise Me Up” (Josh Groban):
FOR TODAY: Close your eyes and let yourself slip away. Open them and look for the light that you were missing.
Grace and Peace,