First Lesson: Jeremiah 31: 31-34
Responsive Reading: Psalm 51: 1-12
Second Lesson: Hebrews 5: 5-10
Gospel Lesson: John 12: 20-33
Grace and peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Last Saturday, I was down in Lindstrom, so I went to see my Grandma Buena May in the nursing home. Buena May has been in the nursing home a little over fifteen months now, shortly after she turned “ninety”. Whenever I go see Buena May or talk to her on the phone, her message is always the same. As soon as she is able, she is going to walk out of the nursing home and move to California. She’ll generally sprinkle in some non-church appropriate language, whenever making this announcement.
The problem with Buena May moving to California isn’t that the nurses aids aren’t incompetent like she claims. The problem is rather that it’s difficult to walk when you haven’t been walking, you’re “ninety-one” years old, and a hundred pounds overweight.
I understand Buena May’s frustration. Her mind is the same as ever, her hearing is good, and I don’t know that she owns a pair of glasses which is incredible considering her age. She looks at the nursing home and figures that she shouldn’t be in there. She thinks life is only lived eating at 10 PM then cruising down the San Diego Expressway at ninety miles per hour.
While my Grandma is indeed a colorful character, plenty of people are like her trying to discern meaning from the most seemingly meaningless of situations in life. One of the great dilemmas that I face as a minister is walking into people’s lives at moments when there are seemingly no right words to say.
What do you say to the man who has just received a diagnosis of cancer and knows that his body will never be what it was once?
What do you say to the high school kid who feels that no one in the world stands alongside him and his future is meaningless?
What words do you say to the worker who goes day in and day out to the seemingly dead-end job as the only means to try scrape up a living? Where is God’s plan in all this?
I want to get back to these situations in a little bit.
Today’s Gospel lesson comes to us from John the 12th chapter. We’re fast-forwarding a bit in the Lenten season. Today’s lesson takes place right after Jesus marches into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. We remember that Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Jewish Passover. What is worth noting is that people came from all over the world for the Passover. During the Passover, a small group of Jews from Greece appears before the Disciples expressing a wish to Jesus.
Jesus reputation had spread. These Greeks knew of Jesus’ teaching, and they had heard of Jesus’ miracles. Natural human curiosity has them wanting to see Jesus (face to face).
Now curiosity is often an excellent thing. Curiosity can often lead to some of the most positive and beneficial changes in our lives.
These Greeks wanted to know more. As soon as the Disciples inform Jesus of their request, Jesus starts talking all kinds of strange.
“Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
There can be truth in the saying that curiosity killed the Cat. Curiosity killed the Cat means to stop asking unwanted questions. Stop asking questions where we may be unable to make sense of the answers.
The Greeks had built up an unbelievable anticipation about meeting Jesus, yet Jesus knew the answers they were looking that he was not going to give.
I’ve also had a soft spot for the movie, The Wizard of Oz. My parents have always owned Cairn Terriers just like Toto. Think of the journey undertaken by Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin-Man, and the Cowardly Lion to see the Wizard. They had spent their whole time traveling to Oz hearing all sorts of things about the Wizard being the sole solution to fixing all their problems. The group has to go through the Haunted Forest, be attacked by flying monkeys, fight the Witch’s guards, see Scarecrow set on fire, before finally defeating the Wicked Witch of the West to bring her shoes to the Wizard.
By the time the foursome was finally standing in the Wizard’s presence, what happened next was bound to be a letdown. Perhaps the greatest scene in The Wizard of Oz is when Toto accidentally pulls back the Wizard’s curtain. The Wizard it turned out was nothing more than an ordinary man who happened to be a lousy wizard. A reaction like this was going to belong to the Greeks from seeing Palm Sunday days before Good Friday.
“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.”
Jesus is wanting to see this group of Greeks set straight before they celebrated Passover Week. Holy Week was going to be just like March Madness nothing was going to go according to script.
Jesus knew these Greeks were not going to know what to make of him in just a few short days as he hung upon the cross.
Jesus knew the Greeks were plenty devout in their faith, yet they were not going to be able to shake the image of what they thought about God merely by meeting him. The whole world would see God’s Will in just a few days.
So what does the story of Jesus and the Greeks have to do with us?
Let me tell another story. In Lindstrom, where I grew up, my Great- Grandpa started an insurance agency named the Victor Agency. My Grandpa worked there, and My Dad has run the agency for over thirty years. When I was growing up, I figured the thing that I was supposed to do was take over the family business. What I will remember is a conversation I had with my Dad one night as I was considering whether the ministry was the best path for me.
Dad said, “I would not have the earning potential within the ministry that he did selling insurance (I’ll skip the Televangelist joke), yet there is much more to life than just making money and living in Lindstrom.”
There is nothing wrong with making money. What might be wrong is thinking that everyone’s calling in this life is going to be the same.
Mike Rowe is a TV host best known for hosting the Discovery Channel show Dirty Jobs. Rowe is known for taking on every type of job imaginable that other people wouldn’t dare to undertake: sewer inspector, garbage collector, shrimper, coal miner, logger, pig farmer, exterminator, and reptile handler. Rowe sees meaning in each and every one of these jobs precisely because they are what is needed to keep the world working right. Regardless of if other people think that they should be doing something like saving the planet instead.
As we consider the meaning of life, we remember that the purpose of your life isn’t just Jesus and You, walking around like lovers on a Spring day without a concern in the world. The purpose of a Christian’s life is not to earn salvation or even embrace some grandiose religious mission; rather the goal of the Christian’s life is to take care of the world around us. When people wonder “How do you live the Christian Life?” The answer is simple “Be the best father, the best husband, the best employee, and the best neighbor that you can be.” Your purpose as a Christian might not be to be Billy Graham and save a hundred thousand souls, your purpose might just be to be a devoted husband and father. You do not necessarily advance God’s kingdom anymore as preacher as you might by cleaning out septic tanks like Mike Rowe.
Jesus knew that the hour for his work was soon to come. Jesus knew that this work would not be glamorous according to anyone’s definition.
Today, we look towards our own callings. Your calling probably will not be easy. Callings never are. We will often want to run from these callings. Jeremiah didn’t want to accept his calling because he believed people would ignore him because of his youth. Isaiah didn't want to accept his calling, because he thought people could hold every bad word that he ever said against him. Our excuses though will ultimately not stop God’s purposes.
What is the meaning of the Christian’s life? The meaning of your life will inexplicably not be set on your own terms.
What do I say when people ask me questions about life and its meaning. I admit that it’s easy to talk about the historical context and possible interpretations of any Bible passage. What is much tougher is to try to put someone’s situation into perspective.
Why does one man live to one-hundred-five while another man lives only to forty-five? It’s not a matter of life being fair or unfair. It’s a matter of God’s purpose for them.
“Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken, and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one left.”-Matthew 24:40-41
Life is ultimately a matter of purpose. I think to my Great- Grandpa Arvid perhaps he lived till ninety-five, so he could influence me long after he left the earth behind. I doubt I’m comfortable in a room full of old people without his presence in my life at a very young age. Yet on this side of Heaven, I will never know for sure.
I think of widows who lose their spouses way too young, perhaps God uses such tragedies to develop personal character within themselves and those around them. We just don’t know. It’s ok to admit these things would be easier to accept, if only the answers we clearer.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.”
The thing about life is your defeats probably do have meaning. Your losses in fact probably have more meaning than your victories. Back to our Gospel for today, Jesus was going to hold off on meeting the Greeks until they were going to know everything that they needed to know about him.
Everything that we know about God, we know through Jesus. Everything we need to know about God’s will in regard to our life, we know from the cross. Every bit of guidance that we need for our existence comes to us in the boring, mundane, and often seemingly depressing ways that we live our life.
“Anyone who loves their life will lose it while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
As we conclude our Lenten season, always keep your eyes on Jesus even if he seems directly not to be in your presence. For this is life, yet for the Greeks who Jesus encounters today, they would come to see the presence of Jesus in their life would soon have a much different meaning than they could ever imagine. Amen
 John 12:20-33
 John 12:21
 This point how it ties into the rest of the sermon was made by Dr. Phillip W. McLarty in a sermon entitled “We Wish to See Jesus” published over at Lectionary.org.
 John 12:25
 John 12:24
 I probably have this point stuck in my head from some old Pastor Gretchen Person sermons when I attended Concordia.
 Jeremiah 1:4-10
 Isaiah 6:1-8
 Isaiah 55:8
 Luther’s Theology of the Cross
 John 12:25