God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God
Notes for a Message Based on John 12:20-33; “B”–Lent 5
22 March 2012Posted by on
Scripture Readings for this Sunday are: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:1-12; Hebrews 5:5-10; John 12:20-33
You can read these Scriptures here: NIV – CEV – The Message // NRSV
Liturgical Color: PURPLE
We are created with the ability to learn. As we grow we constantly learn new things: the words to Itsy-Bitsy Spider, the alphabet, simple arithmetic, the Lord’s Prayer, Newton’s Laws of Thermodynamics, how to play the piano, the theory of space-time continuum, chemical composition of table salt, fiber content of Cheerios…
Today’s Scripture is about those times when our beliefs, the stuff that we know OR THE STUFF THAT WE THINK that we know, prevents us from learning new things or recognizing that something is happening.
To give an example: A baby in rural Nicaragua will grow up with a different set of beliefs as compared to a baby in suburban USA. The lifestyles, cultures, and relationships that these two babies will be engaged in are very different.
Another example: In the 1950’s it was believed that by making foods easily digestible we were improving nutrition in our nation. Today we know that by removing fiber from foods and using high fructose corn syrup we have now achieved the highest levels of obesity in the world.
The point I am trying to make is that there is a certain “artificiality” to our opinions and our beliefs. Our understanding of God and the world that we live in is shaped largely by our family of origin and the society that we live in. How we interpret the world is largely shaped by those around us and by our past experiences.
More often than not, these beliefs are hard to break. When someone does or says something that we find uncomfortable, we tend to react emotionally and emphatically. In those reactionary moments the smartest thing to do is to pause and to ask ourselves, “Why do I feel what I feel? Where do these emotions come from? What causes the intensity of these emotions? What proof do I have? Does the argument that I am presented with make sense?”
Today’s Gospel reading begins with, “Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival” (John 12:20, NIV2010). The word that is used in the original texts (“hellenes”) refers to Greeks other than gentiles who converted to Judaism. John is talking about pagans who worshiped a pantheon of their own gods and idols and who came to celebrate Jewish Passover. In our culture it would be equivalent to a delegation of Islamic clerics from Tehran coming to Chestertown to celebrate Easter with us.
Although it does not make sense in our culture, in first century Palestine it made a lot of sense. When the Pagans heard about the God of the Jews who was powerful enough to create the WHOLE UNIVERSE, it made perfect sense to them to add that God to the list of the other gods they worshiped, and to worship the Jewish God as well. No wonder their priests showed up to celebrate the Passover.
From that perspective Jesus’ discourse that follows also makes sense. Let’s unpack it:
“24 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. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”