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B15year17gcMessage for Lent 5 on John 12:20-33 given on March 17, 2024 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Richardson, Texas

About 30 years ago, Dan and I heard a sermon about the disciples always missing the point—they were looking to Jesus for direction and not understanding the answer. The preacher talked about Jesus blessing the children while the disciples were pestering him saying, “Come on Jesus, what are doing? We’ve got to get the kingdom the rolling, and you’re playing with kids. Let’s go, Jesus! It’s time to get the kingdom rolling.”

Three decades later, when Dan, who is also a pastor, and I are getting ready to leave for the workday, one of us usually asks the other, “so what is on your agenda for today?” We will share about the visits, appointments, or meetings we have planned. Sometimes, probably more frequently than I should admit, one of us will say, “I just gotta get the kingdom rolling.” This is a humorous way of admitting,

• I hope what I think I am supposed to be doing is what God wants me to be doing
• I need to look at the big picture and make sure what I am doing is moving toward the vision God has for me, but today I can’t see the forest for the trees or for the big pile of papers on my desk
• I am listening for God, but don’t see him today
• I am looking for Jesus, but he’s not coming in clearly
• I pray I am not missing the point

I know—it sounds a little backwards from a pastor—but as much as I love Jesus (and I really do--I am Jesus-girl through and through!), he does not plan worship or write Holy Week bulletins for me; he does not do visits, or make phone calls. It’s easy to forget to ask where God is in all this “doing”—because you know, I gotta get the kingdom rolling, and I have got to get to my list of church tasks.

I wonder if this happens to you, too. You may not say, “I gotta get the kingdom rolling.” But maybe it is more like—"I just gotta get through this day". Or “My to-do list is a mile long.” Or “Does all this stuff I do matter? To anyone? To God?”

You may be listening for God, but don’t hear him today. You may want to see Jesus but he’s not coming in clearly. You may have too much on your plate to remember to think about what God’s plan is for you. You want direction, you pray you are not missing the point of faith in Jesus, and following him—but many days, it feels a bit muddy.

You spend so much of your daily lives striving—striving to accomplish goals at school or your job, working to provide for your family, stretching to meet everyone’s needs, reaching out to help others when you can, trying to do the right thing. Even if you’re retired—you are some of the busiest people I know! So, where is God in all of this, you want to see Jesus but where is he, exactly?

In our Gospel reading from John believers like us want to see Jesus. They want to know where God is in all of this—in their life and the life of the world and if anything they did mattered. Philip and Andrew bring them to see Jesus, and they not only see him, they get so much more. And so do we.\

Jesus says a lot here (and we'll get to some of that), but to their question of, is God present in their life and does anything they do matter? the short answer Jesus gives them, is “YES!”
Yes! Everything you do matters!
God’s love is in everything and in every bit of creation—even a grain of wheat—even you!
God’s love is so deep, so wide, so high, so immense, so vast, says Jesus, that when I complete my whole human experience of dying, and reveal God’s power by rising to new life, and then I am lifted up to heaven, every single person on this earth will be drawn in and saved in love!”

And then a voice comes from heaven to affirm this truth. To those wanting to see him—Jesus says, “you are not just going to see me, you will have an eternal relationship of love with me. And the God who sent me. In this relationship, I will fill you with my eternal life and my forever-love.”

The Apostle Paul in our Ephesians passage makes it very clear what Jesus did for each of us: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast."

So, what does this mean for us about how we order our days, and trust that God is with us in our daily to-do lists, and help us know that all that life demands of us matters?

There are 2 Simple Daily Practices and I invite you to try this week to shift your awareness toward the constant presence of God with you in Jesus Christ.

1. An Affirmation, but first an explanation
Jesus says in verse 26: Whoever serves me, must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.
When we hear this, we think we have to me on a mission trip to Haiti or Africa, or somewhere else to follow Jesus. Or we have a notion that Jesus is over there with those faithful people, and up there, and that God is out there with that ministry, and in nature—and well yes of course, Jesus is with everyone, and God is everywhere. But today we are talking about YOU.

When Jesus was lifted up in resurrection, he drew YOU to himself. In Baptism God filled YOU with the risen Spirit of Christ, making you a Christ-Bearer in the world.
Where I AM there will my servant be also. Maybe we just need to reverse the sentence to really get it, where my servant will be, there I AM. God’s identity at the burning bush with Moses is, “I am who I am.” Jesus carries this I AM identity. Where my servant will be, there I AM. The “I Am” presence of God is in you, in Jesus Christ.

How easy it is forget that we are the “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19), that God in Jesus Christ is as much IN HERE, as God is out there. One of my spiritual teachers taught me recently that we actually have 3 hearts. We know this intuitively, but having her say it to me recently was a big “aha.

• We have our physical heart which keeps our body alive
• We have our energetic heart—which enables us to express love and compassion for others. We usually feel love and compassion around our physical heart in the chest area. Eastern traditions call this the “heart chakra.”
• We have a 3rd heart-which is our sacred heart—the heart of Christ—or the “I am” presence of God within us.

We can connect with the heart of Christ within us through prayer and meditation, of course, but sometimes it helps to have a more concrete way. My spiritual mentor taught me that we can connect to the sacred presence of God here, at the base of the neck in the hollow between the two small bones. I encourage you in the morning or anytime during the day when you are feeling disconnected, harried, over-whelmed, or you just want to feel centered and grounded in faith, to just touch this hollow at the base your neck and say an affirmation: Christ is in me and I am in Christ. Or God is in me and I am in God. Love lives in me and I live in love.
Sometimes I just put my fingers here and take a deep breath. “The Spirit prays for us in sighs to deep for words” (Romans 8:26)

2. A Question: Let Love Crack You Open
Jesus uses the image of the grain of wheat in verse 24—unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

One grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies, can grow a plant that produces up to110 new grains! Plant those 110 grains, and you are up to 12,000 grains; by the third harvest of replanted seeds, you are up to 1.3 million grains of wheat. Pretty soon we’re talking about enough bread for the world—seeds produce exponential growth! Jesus, as the seed of God’s love, produces enough eternal life and love to fill the universe, and draw us all to himself!

To do this, Jesus loved his way through the full human experience—that’s the meaning of the term Son of Man—or Son of Humanity—he embraces being fully human—family, grief, friendship, service, teaching, betrayal, physical suffering.

Jesus loved by asking what people wanted before he healed them, he invited people to join him—never forced them, and Jesus gave people freedom--he let people walk away if they were not ready for his love. Jesus crossed every boundary of class, race, religion, culture, gender, and politics to embody God’s way of life.

Like a seed that must crack open in order to release new growth, Jesus, the Son of Humanity fully entered all of these human experiences and allowed them to crack open his heart to greater love so he could go all the way through the cross to bear the fruit of eternal life for us.

Sometimes we think that we should be doing something else with our life to experience God or see Jesus, and if you are struggling with that question, then I would love to have conversation with you. But sometimes the truth is, we are where we are supposed to be, and Jesus invites us to let our daily life, crack us open to greater love.

Your “to-do list” is not causing you to miss the point or to miss God. It is the point. Your life is where God is—in the daily to do’s, relationships, parenting, challenges, work, frustrations, joys, and tears. That’s why everything you do matters! Experience it fully and love your way through it as Jesus did!
Remember, Where my servant is, there I AM –
I invite you to ask yourself one question: How might I love my way through this experience/task/day? (including love of God, others, self—this isn’t doormat, co-dependent love) OR How is this experience/task/day cracking me open me to greater love?

This is a dying-to-self question—because you are not asking, how can I make this the best day just for me?

It may surprise you how much you start expressing Jesus’ love, how often you start seeing and experiencing God! I talked with someone recently who helped buy lunch for a homeless man at a fast-food restaurant and then received an unexpected blessing from somewhere else a few days later. Someone else was in bind and received some help with lodging. A new property volunteer came yesterday and put the bookshelf together for the Family Area in the entryway, and then installed a new water fountain in the Preschool! All stories of expressing or experiencing God's love! Sometimes you're the giver. Sometimes you're the receiver.

Your daily life matters and all that you do in love plants seeds of Jesus' kingdom.

As we all do this in our daily lives, we participate in helping Jesus grow the kingdom exponentially!

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