Thursday's Thought for Sunday's Service
March 15, 2018
This week’s Thursday’s Thought for Sunday’s Service is based upon John 12:20-33:
“Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince 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 show the kind of death he was going to die.” (John 12:20–33, NIV)
“We would like to see Jesus.” Lifting this phrase out of context and substituting my contemporary self in its place, I think, “Wouldn’t that be fantastic?” “Wouldn’t that be great?” “What an opportunity to finally see, touch, hear, experience, engage the one at the heart of the Christian faith.”
And yet, reading a little further, the idea which subtly, poignantly, flags my attention suggests some challenges, to say the least. Now I think, “Should it be any different for the disciples of old compared to modern times?”
Following Christ, dying to self, seeking a greater cause than what is immediately at hand, learning to trust despite being encompassed by a world of destructive behavior and violent action, is hard, much more so than something like simply making one’s way against a stiff breeze. It’s more like moving slowly forward in a bracing storm against heavy wind, with massive thunder and lightning, trying to carry a holy banner, where it’s flapping wildly, stretched horizontally, hardly remaining attached to the pole and crossbeam which displays and retains it… and ultimately brought to a high place and fixed to the ground so all can see.
Tattered and torn, the emblem finally succumbs to the strain, giving way to the elements. Death comes as a release – but it’s also more than this. The cross, firmly planted, the only thing remaining after the storm has passed, serves as an outline for something new… a headline, a theme, a framework for our behalf. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
A wooden symbol stood against a power which surrounds, rips asunder, and kills.
It will give witness to his resurrection, which overcomes, empowers, and fills.
Rev. Richard Wagner