This morning’s sermon featured congregational participation. We reflected mostly on John 12:20-33, with a little of the new covenant from Jeremiah 31:31-34
I spent a good part of the last three days at a conference called Evangelism Matters, hosted at St Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights, and organized by the Evangelism Team of the Episcopal Church and Forward Movement. It was amazing: more than 400 Episcopalians gathered day after day to talk openly about evangelism! The Presiding Bishop was there, and the President of the House of Deputies, and many inspiring and informative people, one of our own parishioners included. Our own white church with the red doors was featured in word and image in one of the workshops.
More to the point, at a certain moment in the proceedings, I began to make the connection between what the speakers were saying – about telling our stories, about equipping one another for evangelism, about simply being real and being there for other human beings, those we are called to seek and serve as though they were Christ – I heard these messages and began to think about this time we have together, which led naturally to considering this morning’s gospel.
Jesus and his disciples were hanging around the outskirts of Jerusalem, waiting for the Passover to begin. Some Greeks – probably God-fearers, Greeks who knew and believed in the Almighty God – had heard about Jesus. They were curious, and a little afraid. One day, at the market or over dinner or sightseeing around the Temple, they fell into conversation with Philip, and quickly realized that this was someone who knew Jesus, someone with access to Jesus, someone who could introduce them to Jesus.
Too often, we seek that attitude of humility that denies that we have anything much to say, to offer, to one seeking Christ. But the fact is that we have everything that is needed. We have our own relationship with God, with Jesus, and we have one another. Philip was freaked out when the Greeks asked him to take them to Jesus, so he went right out and grabbed his brother for back-up. We have one another. We have a place and a community into which to bring our questioning friends, strangers, and Greeks. It’s ok not to know all of the answers. It’s ok to say, I don’t know, but sometimes I have found Jesus here, in the hymns, in the prayers, in the bread and the wine, in the solid shoulders of the person who sits in front of me on a Sunday morning.
Come with me, and I’ll show you.
You know what’s coming. Imagine that someone came to you, because they know from the coffee shop or from work or from walking the dog or from the bus that you go to a church, that you have some connection to Jesus. Imagine that they ask you, “Sir, sister, stranger, where can we find Jesus?” What would you tell them? What might you show them? Where would you take them? Who would you call for back-up?
For Jesus, the approach of the faithful Gentiles was a sign that the hour was indeed coming, was upon him when the new covenant of God would be forged through his own body, through his own sacrifice. The covenant that Jeremiah talks about is one in which we will no longer need to show one another the way to God through Jesus, because we will all know, equally and fully, the heart that God has placed within us. We will be one with God and with one another. This was Jesus’ purpose, and the approach of the nations was his sign that it was time for him to be raised up, in order to draw all people to himself.
This was a hard lesson for the Greeks, no doubt, who had arrived at a crisis in the story, a moment of drama that transcended their curiosity. It was harder still for Philip and Andrew, watching their beloved Christ move closer to the cross. But after he had been lifted up, their hearts, Jewish hearts, Greek hearts, hearts drawn to God were filled with more wonder than they had ever imagined possible, and they saw, and they knew, and they told the story to all who would listen, that Jesus is alive.