Sunday, March 25, 2012

Lent 5B, 2012: Continue to go deeply

Lectionary: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 119:9-16; Hebrews 5:5-10; John 12:20-33

En el nombre del Dios, Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

Well, we’re at the last Sunday of my favorite season; so let’s take a look at where we’ve been. We began our corporate Lenten journey on Ash Wednesday with a quote from Pierre Teillhard de Chardin, the French philosopher and Jesuit priest (d. 1955): “Let us leave the surface and without leaving the world, plunge into God.” To help us accomplish this, we have spent our Thursdays in Lent exploring various ways of praying, that is, various ways of plunging into God.

We remembered together on Ash Wednesday that ‘Lent’ means ‘spring’ and we talked about God sowing seeds in us that we would nourish and God would cultivate during Lent. We heard the prophet Joel telling us to “rend our hearts, not our clothing,” and we understood this to mean that we are called to open ourselves up and let God in, to go deeply into ourselves – into our hearts – and not get preoccupied with exterior, worldly things like giving up chocolate, or sushi, or television.

We also shared this prayer from Teillhard on Ash Wednesday: “…when the painful comes in which I suddenly awaken to the fact I am losing hold of myself and am absolutely passive within the hands of the great, unknown forces that have formed me; in all those dark moments, O God, grant that I may understand that it is you …who are painfully parting the fibers of my being in order to penetrate to the very marrow of my substance and bear me away within yourself… Teach me to treat my death as an act of communion… For you bring new life out of every form of death.”

As we prepare to bring our practice of a Holy Lent to a close, we hear Jesus talking about this very thing in today’s Gospel. When Philip and Andrew told Jesus that some Gentiles wanted to see him, Jesus proclaimed that now his hour had come to be glorified, explaining what he meant by likening himself (his life) to a seed.

For us, it is the seed planted in us by God, which we have nurtured during our practice of Lent. Jesus says this seed must die because unless it does, it remains only one seed. But if it dies, if it breaks open the cover that protects it, the seed can reach into the soil that is all around it, send out roots and grow strong. Only if the seed dies, Jesus says, can it bear much fruit.

Cling to nothing, Jesus is saying. Don’t put the life you think you want ahead of the life God has planned for you. Die to life as the world presents it and instead, go deeply into your heart, and there you will find eternal life – life in the eternal presence of God – because God is already there.

Remember, as we discussed last week (in our short grammar lesson), eternal life isn’t something that happens after we die. It’s a present reality for those who believe, for those who know God in their hearts. And that is exactly how the prophet Jeremiah told us God wants to be known: “…after those days, (God said through Jeremiah)… I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God and they shall be my people.”

On Lent 1 we recommitted ourselves to this very covenant, remembering that as Jesus was baptized, God tore open the heavens to let us in. Our response, the one we have been practicing during Lent, is to open ourselves in return, and let God in.

On Lent 2 we were reminded to get behind Jesus and follow him, remembering that our Savior sees with the eyes of heaven. God loves us and has a plan for us and for the whole world – and we can trust that. Following Jesus means learning to see as he did, it means developing eyes that can see the kingdom that Jesus said is at hand. If we can’t see that kingdom, we have to go deeper still.

On Lent 3, Deacon Pam reminded us that our faith in God is relational, and all about love: God’s love for us and our love for God and one another. It is our faith and our love for God that will lead us to live as God would have us live. Deacon Pam reminded us that we are called us to transform our inner selves so that we can love God with everything we are. When we do that, she said, our lives will reflect the One in whom we believe.

Last week, Lent 4, we reflected on the motherlieness of God who forgives us, cares for us, and comforts us even when we whine and complain about everything, and even when we mess up. We remembered that our God loves us so much that God “gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

I asked y’all to try to memorize the next verse, John 3:17 which says: “Indeed the Son of Man came into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”

And that leads us to today – the last Sunday in Lent. Having gone willingly into the wilderness on Ash Wednesday, where the wild beasts of our fear and self-centeredness threaten us, we nevertheless opened ourselves to be penetrated deeply by God.

Today we look at the seed planted in us by God and we realize that seed IS God. God is in us and Jesus is asking us to let go of everything else – everything we thought about and planned for – and let the God-seed that is in us break its covering and reach its roots deeply into us and bear fruit in us.

It’s a scary thing when we think about it. Even Jesus admitted that his soul was troubled as he sought to do this. Then Jesus’ doubt returned to faith. No, he said. This is why I’m here. I came to do this. Glorify your name, Father. And God answered, “I have glorified it and I will glorify it again.”

And God is glorifying it again in us. It’s why we’re here. By our faith we glorify God. By our lives, we glorify God. We are the kingdom of God in the world. It is in us. It is us.

As we journey through this last week of Lent I pray that we continue to go deeply into our hearts, breaking ourselves open to God, allowing God to penetrate to our very marrow. I pray that we let the seed of God that is in us die, having learned through our Lenten practice that death really is “an act of communion,” and that “out of every form of death” springs new life, eternal life, life in the kingdom of God.

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