Lent 5-B/March 18, 2018/Community Lutheran/Pr. Joe Vought
A flying catch in the end-zone on the last play of the game; An Academy Award and footlights of fame; Standing on the platform for Olympic Gold. Watch us humans in our moments of achievement, success and glory. If you consult a Biblical dictionary the word glory means what you might expect- Godly splendor and radiance. But glory in Biblical terms also conveys a sense of heaviness, weight and gravitas. Hard to understand? Think of a glorious time in your life: graduation, marriage, birth of a child, a new job, even retirement. Times of joy and exhilaration, to be sure, but then there is the day after.
The day I was ordained, 1000 people were there, family and friends. Twelve of us were robed in white, raised up on a dais, the focus seemed to be on us as stoles were placed on our shoulders and we knelt for promises and prayers. I will never forget it. Yet looking back over 35 years, I was a babe in the woods, I had so much to learn. It was only the beginning of a vocation, testing, challenging me and God knows I am not finished yet. Life is like that, a moment of glory and then commitment. I have had to learn again and again that being a pastor, a follower of Jesus is learning to be less, to give my life away for others.
Jesus has entered Jerusalem, the Palm Sunday Parade has happened where crowds cried out “Hosanna!” And during the festival of Passover we learn some Greeks request an audience. “Sir we wish to see Jesus!” Perhaps they lined the parade route and saw Jesus riding by. What would this charismatic rabbi do next? But then Jesus said the strangest thing: “The Hour has come for the son of Man to be glorified. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life, lose it, those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
To Greeks seeking wisdom, Jesus confounds them. To Jews looking for signs, Jesus disappoints them. In this mysterious saying we learn something about God. Our God is not like the Greek gods on Mt. Olympus, all powerful and aloof, toying with us from afar. No, Godly love descends to earth, Godly love comes down to serve and give.
We are taught early-on that living means getting and too often we are lured by world’s values: whoever has the most wealth, power and publicity calls the shots. It doesn’t help that our politics and public discourse is characterized by mean-spiritedness and competition rather than cooperation working for the common good of all people. Wordsworth said, “the world is too much with us.” The philosopher asks, “Which is more important? Fame or integrity? Which is more valuable? Money or happiness? Which is more destructive? Success or failure?”
In the Gospels Jesus has time for children, he pays attention to the marginalized and abused. He brings healing to the sick, weeps with those who weep. He shares God’s love. He calls those who have power to give it away. Greater love has no person than this than to give away their lives for others. God knows and God sees. What single mother working and sleep deprived for her children ever gets a prize? What husband caring for a dying wife ever gets a parade? What teacher who gives a lifetime in a rural school is ever given a medal of honor? What nurse or hospital care-giver tending the sick is called a star?
With the eyes of faith, we see what Godly glory looks like:
+The Word of God Planted in a Virgin’s Womb/Cradled in Manger
+A Baptized Son of God who Shares our Humanity and Temptations
+Transfigured One on a Mountain who Walks a Road to Jerusalem +One Acclaimed as King who Stoops to Wash Disciple’s Feet
+A Parade of Palm Sunday that leads to Jesus carrying a Cross
+One Lifted High on a Cross Becomes a Seed Planted in the Earth
To all of you my brothers and sisters in Christ, we receive communion today with our children who receive their first communion. We receive it again as if for the first time. We are given Jesus’ body and blood so that we may become the Body of Christ serving, loving and giving our lives away in the world that God loves. Jesus shows us love’s true measure: “The hour has come for the son of Man to be glorified. Those who love their life, lose it, those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. The One who learns to step down in Godly love and grace is lifted up in glory. Let this be our Way, our Truth and our Life. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.