Glorifying God Today

Hi friends!  I’m a week behind in posting my sermons, so I am going to post last week’s and this week’s today.  Blessings into your Holy Week!  If you live near Rehoboth, please join us for some of our services. We would love to see you and experience the resurrection together.

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Holy Week 2018 Cover Photo

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Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
March 18, 2018

John 12:20-33

Glorifying God Today

Have you ever had one of those moment where you look back and think, “Oh okay, God, I see what you were doing there”?

I was listening to James Taylor in my office this week and Mike Sullivan-Silva stopped by and commented on it and I kind of offhandedly replied, “Well, I fell in love with my husband over James Taylor.”

Which I am not entirely sure he was expecting me to say.

The short version of the story is that, I was a senior in college; I was having whatever quarter-life crisis you are supposed to have when you are 21 years old and a little melodramatic and I had decided that Christmas that I was going to write off men completely.

I was a strong, independent woman, after all; I was getting ready to go to seminary and I knew I needed to be confident in who I was in, the relationships I had with my family and friends and the options I had for the following year.

So the morning after Christmas I woke up, I decided the holiday was over (I was not waiting for Epiphany that year, the wise men were just going to have to show up without me), I put all my Christmas stuff away, pulled out a bunch of my dad’s James Taylor CDs and focused my attention on my upcoming weekend in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where I was going to be on staff at a weekend retreat for a youth leadership program.

The strange thing is, I never really listened to James Taylor before that. My parents did and I certainly enjoyed his music, but something in that moment pushed me to grab those CDs and start listening.

And about a week later, I was at that retreat, cleaning up with the rest of the staff. We decided to go see a movie and I offered to drive. One of the other leaders, a boy named Bruce, got in the front seat of my car and, when I turned it on and James Taylor, Greatest Hits, Volume 2 started playing, he said, “Oh, I love James Taylor! I always listened to him before my wrestling matches to calm me down.”

This sparked a conversation that, ultimately, changed the course of my life.

11 years later, I can look back on that melodramatic college meltdown and the strange inkling to go on a James Taylor kick and think to myself, “Oh okay, God, I see what you were doing there.”

A few weeks ago in bible study someone posed the question, “Have you ever experienced a moment where God was clearly speaking to you?” Many, if not all, of us nodded affirmatively, although, as we discussed those moments in our lives, we realized that very often, they were also moments where perhaps we might not have understand what was happening at the time, but would eventually look back and say, “Oh, okay, God, I see what you were doing there.”

In a way, as Christians living on this side of the resurrection, we can look back on a lot of the entire Christian narrative and say the same thing. It is much easier for us – 2,000 years later – to understand how God was piecing together this life-changing and grace-giving story. But think, for a moment, about what it must have been like for Jesus and his disciples, living in those moments. They did not have the hindsight we have today, the ability to look back and say, “Oh, okay, God, I see what you were doing there.

Instead, they had to walk forward in faith – not necessarily knowing or understanding what was happening – believing that God was not only present in their lives and active in their stories, but also that their actions and their lives were glorifying God.

This morning’s scripture reading comes from the Gospel of John 12:20-33. We are jumping around a little bit; this story actually immediately follows the Palm Sunday narrative that we will hear next week. Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover and this is a critical moment for Jesus; the time is coming when he will be put to death on the cross. The stakes are high and every moment – every thought and action – matters.

Jesus says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”[1] In other words, this is it. Jesus knew what was about to happen; he kept telling the disciples exactly how it was going to play out (although they never really got understood what he was talking about).

And here we see a really human moment for Jesus. He says, “Now my soul is troubled.”[2] Can you imagine what must have been going through his head? He knew he was going to die; he knew that his disciples – his friends, the people that he trusted – were going to deny him, betray him and abandon him. Did he want God to stop this from happening?

Jesus asks the question, “And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour?’” But then he answers, “No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.”

This is a powerful moment, because it is here that Jesus not only asserts what is to happen to him, but also fully submits to God’s will in this process as it is happening. Jesus did not have the luxury to look back in time and say, “Oh, okay, God, I see what you are doing here,” But Jesus believed in that moment that what he was doing was glorifying God.

This was not about Jesus the man, the disciples, the crowds who followed Jesus throughout his ministry, the Greeks who wanted to see Jesus in this story or the chief priests and the Pharisees that put Jesus on the cross. This was and always has been about the heart of the Gospel message; that Jesus’ death was not the end of the story, that love conquered that grave and that the darkness of that day and night did not win.

Jesus says, “It is for this reason that I have come to this hour.” This story – the Easter story, the journey to the cross and then gloriously to the empty tomb – is the culmination of Jesus’ purpose and existence. It is the reason that we gather in the first place.

Our bible study just finished the Gospel of Matthew and, as we were reading through the story of the crucifixion, we talked about the roles that Jesus’ disciples played in his final days. What if Judas had not betrayed him, we wondered? What if Peter had not denied him?

But then, we wondered, would we all be here today? Would we be telling this story? Would we believe in God’s promises?

As heartbreaking as the story of Jesus’ death is and as painfully human as some of the moments leading up to it were, we needed them. We need them today. We need Jesus’ death on the cross to teach us about new life in Christ. We need to experience the darkness of the tomb in order to fully appreciate the light pouring into it on Easter morning when that stone is rolled away. We need to wrestle with the humanness of Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial as we wrestle with our own humanness.

Today, we look back on this story and say, “Oh okay, God, I see what you were doing there.”

But Jesus did not need to look back to understand what was happening. “It is for this reason that I have come to this hour.” Jesus knew in that moment that he was glorifying God.

So how do we do the same in our lives?

One of things we talked about in bible study as we read through the entire Gospel was the way in which God used ordinary people to create this narrative of Jesus’ life. In the same way God used a humble girl from meek beginnings to give birth to Jesus, God also used the men who betrayed Jesus in the end to tell a different, but equally important, equally powerful and equally grace-filled part of this story.

And I believe, with all my heart, that God is using us today to continue to write this Christian story.

How do our lives glorify God? Jesus said, “It is for this reason that I have come to this hour,” and I have to believe that there is a reason we have come to this hour. Friends, we were created for this moment; God needs the lives we are leading, the choices we are making, the relationships we are fostering and the compassion we are extending today.

And who knows? Maybe one day, we will look back and understand what the heck God was doing in all of this. We might say, “Oh, okay God, I see what you were doing there.” But for the moment, we have to believe that God has this under control and we have to live our lives as a bold testament to this truth. Even if we do not know, exactly, what God is doing, we have glorify God in everything we do in our lives.

Jesus said, “It is for this reason that I have come to this hour,” but then he said something else. “Father, glorify your name.” And a voice from heaven said, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

What if we lived our lives believing that every single moment has the potential to glorify God? What if we, like Jesus did, walk forward in faith, believing that God is not only present in our lives and active in our stories, but also that our actions and our lives are glorifying God?

As we take this last leg of our journey to the cross this Lenten season, I invite you to appreciate the humanness of this story – the way God used and uses ordinary people to enact the Gospel and glorify God in this world. But then ask yourself this question, how is my life enacting the Gospel; how is my life glorifying God?

We need to live each moment as if it matters. We need to live each moment as if this is the piece God will use to tie everything together. We need to glorify God in the extraordinary moments of our lives, but also in the ordinary ones. We need to glorify God inside the walls of this church, but especially outside the walls of this church, as well.

Jesus says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Friends, the hour is now; the hour is always; the hour is here, in our lives.

God is doing some really spectacular work in our lives. We may not understand it all right now – years down the road we might look back on our lives and say, “Oh okay, God, I see what you were doing there” – but in the meantime we can walk forward in faith, glorifying God in our lives today.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

[1] John 12:23, NRSV
[2] John 12:27, NRSV

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