01 April 2009

the fifth sunday in lent, year b


John 12:20-36

So, have you ever bought anything as seen on tv? A Salad Shooter? OxyClean? Don’t try to pretend that you’ve never been tempted to buy Debbie Meyer Green Bags. Or a Big City Slider Station? Can’t you just hear that Bill Mays guy YELLING at you about how YOUR LIFE WILL IMPROVE and YOUR KIDS WILL BE SO HAPPY if you buy a Big City Slider Station so you can make the perfect little, tiny burger JUST LIKE AT THE RESTAURANTS. And IF YOU ORDER RIGHT NOW you can get a Big City Slider Station cookbook FOR FREE. All this can be yours for 19.99. Plus shipping and handling.

We are easily seduced by the urgency of advertising.

Buy it NOW
it won’t be OFFERED
to YOU

It’s very American of us, isn't it? To be pulled into the fast-paced urgency of NOW and YES and MUST so that we can get SOME before SUPPLIES run out. I make jokes about Billy Mays and the As Seen On TV phenomenon, because it strikes me that it is who we are at our most ridiculous. It exploits our manic frantic need for a quick fix.

We are suckers for a promise, aren’t we? A promise that if we do this we will get that. If we buy this our lives will be easier. If we do this we will be more productive, efficient, happy. We’ll be beautiful. We’ll be rich. It’s all of this stuff, right?

Our culture tells us that the more we have the better we are, and, as a result we can’t get enough of all this stuff that we don’t need.

The current state of the economy isn’t helping, is it?
Everyday it is practically crammed down our throats that supplies are running out.
We’re in the middle of that manic frantic that tells us that there isn’t enough.
We’re losing our jobs. Money is running out. It seems that our natural inclination is to stretch and reach for whatever we can get a hold of.
Whether or not it’s good for us. Whether or not we need it.
Something, anything is better than nothing, and even though we don’t have nothing yet, we’re being told that any day now we’ll find our satchels hollow and our wallets empty. Everything’s gonna run out and nothing is precisely all we’ll have.

* * * * * * * *
Today’s Gospel lesson from the 12th chapter of John brings us to a time when Jesus’ ministry is just itching to go global. It’s not like in the first century they had airplanes or the internet or digital billboards in the sky, so launching a maybe-powerhouse like Jesus much past walking distance was kinda out of the question. But, at the same time, never underestimate the power of the mouth—word of Jesus and his healing and compassion spread like wildfire.

So. It should come as no surprise that just as his life was approaching crescendo, people from other places started showing up. Today, it’s the Greeks. They make a cameo in today’s gospel—they want to see this Jesus guy.

They started the game of telephone. “Hey, Philip. We wanna see Jesus.” Philip went to Andrew, “Hey, Andrew. The Greek people wanna see Jesus.” Then Andrew was like, “Well, come with me!” And together they said, “Dude, Jesus. The Greeks want to see you now.”

“Well, actually...” Jesus said. “They don’t have to see me, because the hour has come. Everyone’s about to know me. God will be glorified.”

…In today’s gospel text it’s not made entirely clear, but we know the story. We know that soon and very soon, Jesus is going to be glorified on the cross. It’s ironic that John uses the word glorified, because there’s no glory in the suffering whippings and beatings and crucifixion. But it is God’s Glory on the cross that draws us into the radical love of God. Our God who is present to all people at all times in the midst of their recession and pain, suffering and grief.

It’s beginning, folks. Until now, this kind of love was limited to a very specific region of the world.
That Grecian Cameo is an important clue for us. They play a symbolic role in today’s Gospel, because they came from a far away land to see Jesus. They show us that the love of Jesus Christ spreads beyond Judea, Samaria, and Galilee—the land he walked. Turns out that today is the day that we find that Jesus Christ’s availability is universal. His love is open to us all the time, no matter what, no limited time offer.

“The hour has come for Jesus to be glorified.”

The time has come for Jesus to be available outside the limits of his land,
through his death and resurrection,
he’s available everywhere,
all the time, to all persons.
Jesus even says that he’s about to be lifted up
so that all people will be drawn to him. All, all, all.

Rich, poor.
Black, white, yellow, red.
Friendless, needy.
Privileged, impoverished.
Educated and stuck-in-a-rut.
Prostitute and slave, doctor and lawyer.
Gay and straight.
Male and female.
Grown ups and school children.

Jesus Christ + The Cross = God’s Glory = Unconditional, Unimaginable, Unfathomable, 100%, No Doubt Everlasting Life & Love for Every Human Being No Matter What.

Of course there’s a weakness with God’s Great Love Equation. It’s the human being part. All, all, all people get to know God’s Love now, but all all all of us are too distracted and scared to accept it. The promise of God’s Glory doesn’t necessarily result in convenience. We might not be more beautiful or more rich. We might not be smarter or better. In fact, being Loved By God 100% doesn’t mean we won’t suffer in this life. Quite the opposite. What God’s love DOES do, however, is meet up where we are. At all times, and in all places, God is With Us. God’s Name Glorified might not be as handy as a salad shooter; it might not give us the immediate results of Oxyclean. But I tell you what:

God’s Love for us—God’s Name Glorified—is sufficient. It’s all we need.
Stained and miserable, God Loves You Anyway.
Depressed and mournful. God loves You anyway.
Doubtful, cynical? God loves you anyway.

And the Good News is that that this stuff is available in abundance. It never runs out, it never gets old. It’s not a limited time offer. No gimmicks. No smoke and mirrors.

No one—no one!—gets to be exempt from the love of God’s Glory. Everyone gets salvation. Everyone gets salvation. No matter what.

And you don’t have to look far at all to find the Glory. You don’t have to look any further than the people sitting to your left, to your right, before you and behind you. God’s Glory is alive and active in every one of us. God created us out of Love so that we might be able to see the face of God Glorified in each other.

I know one thing for sure and it is that the power of human relationships is strong and resilient force. And I believe that the number one way to know God’s Love is to Be In Love With One Another. To reach out, through thick and through thin, to stick together, to not isolate, but move toward community. Toward relationship.

You don’t need the stuff they sell on the tv. You don’t need your fancy handbags or good grades. You don’t need trophies, medals, honors or degrees. To know God’s Glory, you just need each other.

Your families, your friends, your neighbors. You are what God’s Glory looks like.

And it’s a beautiful sight.