Spring is in the air!

The days are getting longer, the world is waking up from its winter sleep and the sun has even come out.

One of the paradoxes of Lent is that it seems to be opposite to what we experience each day as our journey towards the cross seems to become darker and darker each week. You can almost feel all the light and colour being sucked out of the story. This is the moment in John’s Gospel when that darkness really starts to gather.

John’s story of Jesus is a book of two halves. We find ourselves at crucial moment today, the hinge that holds together Jesus’ ministry in what we call the Book of Signs and the long section of teaching that is known as the farewell discourse.

It’s just after Palm Sunday in the story. Jerusalem is mobbed. People are there from all over for the Passover. We read that some Greeks have come to see Jesus. The assumption is that these are not Jews and that’s important in the story, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

The Greeks find Philip because he has a Greek name.

That bit always makes me smile. It’s what we do when we find ourselves somewhere strange, isn’t it? We look for something familiar. I still remember the first time we went abroad, taking our caravan to France with our friends. The caravans were packed with food because who knew if you would be able to buy exotic things like mince and tea bags there! The first shop we went into had Tetley tea bags and Irn Bru!

On that same holiday we laughed as my mum tried to order 4 candy flosses from a stall on the beach in her very limited French. When she had paid she said ‘thank you’ in English and the stall holder said ‘your welcome’. It turned out he was from Manchester!

The Greeks do what we all do. They look for something familiar. A way in. A point of shared understanding. Philip is a name they know so he’s the one they speak to, and Philip goes to Andrew, and then the pair of them go to Jesus.

Em, Jesus… there’s some Greek people who would like to meet you…. Would that be ok? They’re just over there? It would only take a minute.

It’s a pretty straight forward request, isn’t it. It must have been the kind of thing the disciples would be really familiar with by now. People would want to see Jesus. To speak to him, to ask for healing or blessings or just out of curiosity.

I’m not sure what they thought Jesus would say. Maybe, ‘sure, send them over’. Or perhaps, ‘not now, I’m busy with some other stuff’. But I’m pretty sure it wasn’t ‘the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified!’.

Sorry… what?

Where did that come from? What on earth is Jesus talking about? And what has changed? How does he know it’s time?

It’s the Greeks. I told you they were important!

Jesus’ mission is to the whole world. John told us that last week in chapter 3. That most famous of verses… John 3:16… For God loved the world so much…. Not some of the world. Not just a few people in a particular place. Not just people who are a particular colour or speak a particular language or whatever other limits we might want to put on that love.

With the arrival of the Greeks the world is here. The news about Jesus has spread beyond the local gossip and made it into the world at large… and the world has come to see him. And that means it is time.

But time for what?

Time for the Son of Man to be glorified.

That’s an idea we have come across before. There’s a story where Jesus takes Peter and James and John up a mountain and is transfigured… shining… revealed in all his glory.

Glory means true nature. It’s time for people to see who Jesus really is and to understand what this is all about.

I said earlier this is a hinge moment where we move from one part of the story to another. We might call this a crucial moment. A moment where the plot turns. Where a decision is made that takes things down a particular path. Did you know that crucial comes from the Latin word crux. Which means cross. The literal meaning of crucial is ‘cross-shaped’. And this is most certainly a cross shaped moment.

Jesus is tying it all up. Summarising his teaching. You lot… it’s decision time again. Will you follow me? Will you risk it all? Are you willing to put down this life and lead a different one?

And in laying down my life, like a seed falling to the ground, more will grow.

Jesus had only just entered Jerusalem in a bizarre Technicolor palm parade of hosannas. And with just a few words we have turned to something else completely. Jesus knows there is a choice to be made. He knows he could turn away but the route to the cross is his choice. One final act of service. And, here at the the crucial moment, the point at which Jesus could call the whole thing off, a voice speaks from heaven. Confirmation. God says “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”

Now is the time for judgement of this world. Things are going to be different. Remember, a while ago we spoke about some of the other language of a trial; confession, the telling of the truth, and repentance, the changing of your way of thinking. Judgement is about separating into categories. Right from wrong. Truth from lies. Light from darkness.

That happens so that the things we don’t need,
the things that cause us problems,
the things that get in the way,
the things that separate us from God,
those things, the darkness as John calls it,
can be taken away so we are left with only the good, the true, the right…
so that we can live in the light.

The powers of darkness will be driven out. The world will be transformed.

And the world was transformed….
And it is still being transformed….
All of it, every day.

Here’s the thing we often miss about ideas like judgement.

We think a judgement happens once. Like in a trial. The judge hears the evidence and makes a decision… guilty or not guilty or, here in Scotland, the often controversial option of not proven which means you probably did it but there just isn’t quite enough evidence to meet the burden of proof. And that’s it. Judgement made.

Or we make a judgement. This or that… Left or right… we choose. And that’s it. Judgement made.

But ask anyone who has been judged or who has judged… and that’s all of us in some way or another, and not one person will tell you that judgement is a one time thing. That judgement lives with you forever. Both the good decisions and the bad. A Reminder. A challenge. A warning. But all of them are an ongoing opportunity to keep changing every day. To be better. To strive to more like Jesus.

Church is supposed to transform us by reminding us of that challenge and that opportunity.

Preaching, this bit, the sermon, is supposed to be a transformative event. You and I are supposed to be changed by this. I’m supposed to say something that makes you stop in your tracks… makes you rethink something… makes your heart burn or your mind explode with possibilities.

That’s a lot of pressure… and there are some weeks where I know that I don’t nearly live up to that task. So, I’m glad that I’m just a small part of the process. I’m glad that something else, something much bigger than me, is at work. My job is to introduce you to God and then get out of the way. To plant a seed…

But it’s your job too!

The challenge of this story is that transformation happens when people, the Greeks in the story, see Jesus for who he really is… in all his glory. How will that happen if people like Philip and Andrew and you and me don’t bring them to meet him? How will they see? How will they realise?

What is it that holds us back from that?
What is it that we are afraid of?
What permission needs granted?
What confirmation do you need?

The voice from heaven was for our benefit.
He is the one.
The time has come for things to change.
What are you waiting for?

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