Posted on Sun, Mar 22, 2015
March 22, 2015
5th Sunday in Lent
Gospel Text: John 12:20-33 “Through the Cross, We are FREED”
Some Greeks Wish to See Jesus
20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
Jesus Speaks about His Death
27 ‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ 30 Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
I believe that every person you meet, whether it is just a passing glance or a long-term relationship, becomes a part of you. I believe every experience you have also becomes part of you no matter if it is a good experience, or even a traumatic experience. The issue for us becomes, how do we let the impressions of these people and experiences influence us? We don’t necessarily like everyone we have met; we may have been terribly hurt by someone or some tragic experience, but that experience has become a part of you no matter what you think, good or bad. Will we repress the bad and only remember the good? It’s nice to only remember the good, but we would still be carrying the hurt, resentment, pain, or even the desire for revenge or payback in your heart. What can we do with these feelings, or should I say burdens?
As you know we have started a Grief Support group called “Adult Access,” and we meet every Thursday night from 6:30 to 8:00.
We have four basic premises:
If you are still carrying around any kind of grief, and you still find yourself numb, hurt or angry because of a major loss you experienced in your life, it means you are still very much in the grief process, or stuck in the denial stage. “Getting Over” grief, or “Letting time heal all wounds,” will never help you in healing and moving on, they are only clichés we use to justify our fear of facing our grief and dealing with it by “GOING THROUGH IT.”
Today’s text is very cryptic to those standing around Jesus, and Jesus also makes it clear, that He is about to suffer and die, like a ‘sacrificial lamb…’ Only Jesus understands what his destiny is, and that he is obedient to his calling, 27 ‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.’
Think about what is going on here, he is making it clear that through his suffering, death and resurrection, prophesied earlier, GOD WILL BE GLORIFIED.
God’s Glory will be accomplished through the cross. What kind of “glory” is Jesus talking about?
Today people like to sing about God’s Glory in some triumphant, powerful, yet sterilized context. Yes of course, God is ‘glorious,’ God created the heavens and the earth, and that is a very amazing and glorious thing to do… But according to God, God’s real Glory will be found through great pain, suffering, compassion, death and faith… Again, God’s reasoning turns human reasoning upside down.
What was God thinking and feeling at this time? We know God had feelings because in the Gospel, we read about an angry Jesus cleansing the temple, a compassionate Jesus caring about the people of Jerusalem and in so many other texts, a frustrated Jesus when the people want to justify stoning the woman caught in adultery according to the Law of Moses, and we also see a grieving Jesus, when his friend Lazarus died.
But God still had to witness God’s Son’s humiliation before the religious leaders, scourging at the hands of an angry Roman soldier, and then the brutal crucifixion that even caused Jesus to scream, “Father, father, why have you forsaken me?” and then only hearing silence…
We have a very dramatic faith. Our faith, trust and hope in God comes from the pure truth that Jesus was obedient to God’s promise to fulfill our forgiveness and salvation, by Jesus enduring, GOING THROUGH, the Journey of the Cross.
Why? What was the purpose? It was because God desires to be with us all the time, free from guilt and regret, joyful in knowing Jesus will be with us now, and to the end of the age… but this wouldn’t be possible unless Jesus gave his life for the sake of the world.
Did God grieve? As God is the God of Love, God certainly grieved. Every parent wishes they could take their child’s place when their child is sick, hurt or in danger. God is no different.
We have sung about, acted out, and heard the story of Jesus’ pain, humiliation and even death so many times the story has become part of us. Some of us are moved, inspired, convicted, or just horrified with the story of Jesus’ Passion, but on Easter, even though the Passion Story is part of our being, we find Joy and Freedom.
The grief process is somewhat similar. In the summer of 1983, I was working the dream job for a college student in Minnesota; I was working the boat docks at Madden’s Resort on Gull Lake near Brainerd, Minnesota. Probably the finest resort in the entire Midwest, and I spent the days cleaning the beach, loading supplies for the fishing guides, selling bait and teaching city folk how to handle the bait… especially leaches. I worked on 6 horsepower Evinrude motors, even teaching some of the top racecar drivers in the country who came to race at the Brainerd Raceway how to handle a 12-foot fishing boat. It was heaven!
Then one day I received news that a drunk driver coming home from work hit my closest cousin, Pam. I knew the exact corner where she was hit; I can still remember the curve and the farmhouse next door on that curve. I think the other driver was killed, but I was so angry with him it didn’t matter. Pam lingered in and out of a coma for several weeks that summer and the entire Mason family was on edge. That was the first time I heard of the word, “induced coma,” and every time I even hear that word today I am reminded of my cousin Pam. Then, we got the news that Pam had succumbed to her injuries. I was so mad at the drunk driver I was glad he was dead… but I couldn’t tell anyone that… We Norwegians could never imagine saying something like that, unless to a very close friend or family member… but I am sure I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.
The funeral was beautiful, Pam looked like the princess she was, and my aunt and uncle were stoic and brave… My vaudeville era grandma played piano and my other uncle Les, sang “How Great Thou Art” beautifully. At the time I didn’t realize he had such a beautiful and booming voice. Even today, whenever I sing, or hear that hymn, I am transported to that painful day, and I remember every detail.
The funeral and burial were both moving and she was buried in Anoka Minnesota. It was against the rules, but my aunt and uncle were determined to plant a tree in honor of Pam next to her grave. The tree is huge now. They also put a special photo of Pam in the shape of a locket on the tombstone.
My family would periodically go out to the cemetery after church brunch to visit Pam’s grave, and the healing began. I don’t think any of my cousins realized my pain because we were all just considered “cousins,” but Pam and I were close in age and we grew up. We lived in the same neighborhood until they moved from Coon Rapids to Anoka. But at all the family dinners and reunions, we would sit with other because we could connect.
I am fortunate that my brother, sister and I are very close, and we spoke about our pain and anger at the drunk driver who so selfishly decided it was okay to drive after drinking… it seemed so unfair as Pam had the best group of friends and was all set to start college at St. Thomas, but her life was cut short by the thoughtlessness of a man who had lived a full life. But we also spoke about how blessed we were as family to have each other in our grief, and little by little we were thankful for the time we had together with beautiful Pam Mason…
The tragedy happened. It wasn’t fair, it just happened like countless tragedies that happen to people all over the world everyday. It certainly wasn’t God’s Will, but it was God’s Will to give us the faith to get through the tragedy and know that death is never the final answer. Little by little, may anger changed to compassion for the drunk driver and his family. I supported Mothers Against Drunk Driving as best I could, and am happy to be the designated driver when I’m out with friends.
When I recall the summer of 1983, even to today, I can still feel the fear we had upon hearing the news that Pam was in a terrible accident. I also can still hear my grandma playing piano and my uncle singing “How Great Thou Art.” I also know, through the Cross of Christ, Pam is no longer mangled and connected to tubes, but is whole, beautiful and healed. One day we will be together again, and we will probably still have to sit at the card table away from the adults when we eat… but that is okay, we will have tons to talk about.
No matter what I would like to have happened, Pam’s death and life are part of who I am today. AND THE MOST IMPORTANT THING FOR ME IS TO KNOW THAT, NO MATTER WHAT, PAM LIVES WITH ME, AND I AM BLESSED. I now embrace those memories, even the painful ones, because they are a part of me, and I choose to live with those memories, talk about those memories and continue to work through the grief. Thankfully, the pain has given way to thankfulness for the love I still have for my cousin Pam.
God is glorified through the Cross of Jesus, because through Jesus’ obedience to giving his life on the Cross, we now have hope that is greater than even the power of death. For me, THIS IS OUR GOD GLORIFIED in my heart, mind and soul. And Jesus says in Matthew 28:20 “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”* Amen
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