Do you think you’d recognize Jesus if he walked into this church? I don't think I would on sight alone. As a kid, I grew up with the idea the Jesus was a white dude, long hair, white robes, and an epic beard. This whitewashed version of jesus is one which means if that is what I am looking for I won't see him. It's so easy to get wrapped up in the theological images of Jesus, the messiah, the chosen one, the king of kings. The images we have of Jesus are so vaunted via our texts that Jesus can often feel distant or unapproachable. Indeed, the distant saviour who comes down from his throne to save us can bring comfort because he is outside of us- this helps our human brains rationalize his presence. However, what if the presence of Jesus was not an idea but a tangible experience. What if it was more than just an idea, but a relationship? Our Gospel from John has something to say about that this morning.
Our gospel todays is positioned directly as the end is nearing in Jesus’ ministry. He can see the cross and knows that things are now in motion for the fulfillment of the scriptures through his death. These end times are not so disassociated from our current contexts however, as we are now nearing the end of our lenten journey. There is for me this weird space between the lament of Lent and the beginning of Holy week, where it feels like we live between two very confusing and emotionally turbulent worlds. Our senses have been restricted since Ash Wednesday, no excitement, no colours, and pageantry in our worship, just simplicity, which thrusts us into the sensory assault of a week that see’s shouting, screaming, waiting, wailing, wondering, yearning, fear, and jubilation. After 40 days of quiet, we will encounter all of that in 7 days. And yet that is what the Gospel this morning prepares us for. Through the tenacity of these greeks asking to see jesus, we are invited into a lived and real relationship with jesus in the week ahead of his death that will change the world. The greeks represent the whole of the world, the world outside the close circle of Jesus’ followers, who want to see him, not think about him. What we as church do when people ask us to see Jesus’ is we tell them about our theologies of Jesus’ our creeds and our customs. We go into our liturgies and practices. What the greeks want to know- what the world want to know is- what does being in a relationship with Jesus feel like.
Richard Rohr states “the opposite of faith is not doubt, its certitude.” Faith, as the bedrock of a relationship is our willingness to lean into someone and something because of a feeling or sense that this is a good place for us. A place where we can grow, mature, love and be loved in return. Faith is ultimately a challenge to communicate to someone else, because it's a feeling which we often try and justify by behaviours rather than simply being. When we present certitudes of faith without room for the doubt of a human heart, we remain closed to the working of the spirit to call and blow us into new places- new directions- new realities, all of which are grounded in our relationship with Jesus. God does not call us to baptism to frame us frozen in time for posterity, he calls us to baptism- which is a relationship, to set us totally free for the work we were created to do. Living in a relationship with Christ points us directly into the face of the cross, that moment and place within which we meet not only our daily deaths to ego and self importance, but are given a foretaste of the resurrection and ascension that Jesus speaks to this morning. You see, our daily lives in relationship with Christ, empowered by baptism and transformed through a eucharistic community such as this one here today is literally the hardest thing we'll ever do, because it means living through our doubts and into a stronger faith which is at its core is a feeling that transforms us.
When we hold onto a certainty about our ideas about Jesus, faith, and community in our lives, we silence the voice and power of the spirit to grow us interiorally. Over the last 65 years the voice of the spirit has been calling us into new and exciting places, with varied ministries, and different leadership. Today as we inaugurate our new parish council, we give thanks for the 65 years of challenge, love, and community this parish has been and remains for us today. As we pray for our new leaders, I want to challenge us all to hear this gospel ringing in our ears over the next few weeks- and here are a few of the ways I think we can do that.
- Continue talking to each other about your faith. Share the importance of your relationship with Jesus, and hear someone else’s relationship with the same passion you shared your own. Dare to doubt and ask questions, forming disciples with me, for the sake of the Gospel. Dare to continue doing something good for something great. Dare to let go and trust that what it is we are, will be what it is Jesus makes it.
- Let every decision we make be one at whose heart is found the person of Jesus. The life of this parish is not a business, we do not have bills to pay, a building to maintain, or a vicar to employ. We are a living relationship with a vital ministry whose laboratory is found within these four walls, whose called this vicar to work alongside it for the inbreaking of the kingdom in this neighbourhood. We feed, clothe, teach, pray, party, form, challenge, correct, struggle, ask, witness, and break bread in the name of Jesus. Let us make our decisions because of Jesus, for Jesus, and with Jesus.
- Lean into community and make your voice heard, get engaged! Tell our new council what you want to see us do, be, think about or try. Tell our new council what you want to see stopped or changed. Tell our new council what your dream is for this place, and how you are going to help in making that dream come true. There is no audience in a relationship, rather there are engaged parties. Open yourself up to engagement with Jesus through this community.
Relationships take two parties, daring to dream together in crazy and weird ways because of a shared passion and vigor for the potential of what can be, because of what we are. In a few short moments we have a chance to practice that engagement, by openly asking to see Jesus from our leadership as we assent to the installation of our new parish council. As we say yes to these people offering themselves for this ministry, we are not sending them off to do the work for us- we are saying- by our yes- that through them and with them, we want to see Jesus. We want to know, touch, taste, hear, and feel Jesus in our ministry in this place. By saying yes, we want to know how we can be part of that ministry, and where we can use our gifts to build up this parish for the inbreaking of the kingdom in this place. We want to see Jesus this year. We want to continue seeing jesus in our lives, our ministries, and our doubts, because we’ve already seen him here among us. The gospel is calling us, you and me together, into a deeper relationship with Jesus for the sake of this world.
Jesus is calling us to live, walk, and engage in a life with Jesus this morning, because the hour has come and the world needs you.
How are you going to respond?