Anyone else have a hard time writing a sermon for today? Because I sure did, lemme tell ya. And not just because these texts are hard to preach on, they are. And not just because writing sermons in itself is hard, it is. But because I had a really tough week this past week, and I think I can put the blame square on that whole spring forward nonsense that happened last week.
Am I right? Losing an hour of sleep wasn’t ever really a problem for me, but for whatever reason… man alive did I ever feel it this year. I found myself for most of the week really tired and groggy and maybe even a little grumpy, and to top it all off 2 out of 3 of my kids, and 1 out of 1 of my wives were sick this past week.
And not just sniffly ah-choo-y kind of sick… more like full on projectiles out of orifices sick. I apologize if that sounds graphic, but it really was graphic when I was cleaning that literal puke off the carpet. I mean, it was times like these that I was just hoping for a small flood in the bathroom instead. At least water doesn’t stink. Again, sorry for being graphic, but it really stunk.
So I had another low point in my family life. Last week I talked about how I lost it on my kids for converting the bathroom into a giant puddle, this week I really lost it on a kid who couldn’t hold his cookies from spilling out all over the floor. In case you didn’t get that, by “cookies” I mean “vomit” and by “all over the floor” I actually “mean all over the floor, himself, and me.” It wasn’t pretty.
But yet, there is still a sermon to write! There is still gospel to be preached! There is still somehow someway Jesus to be seen.
Because at that moment, I really needed some Jesus in my life. As I stood there covered in chunky soup, all I could do was call out to God. As I looked at my kid also covered in this chunky soup and looking frankly quite pathetic, as I tried to fight through my fatigue and frustration and keep it together (I failed), as I thought about how on earth am I going to make it through this week in one piece, all that would go through my head was, “please, I just want to see Jesus.”
It was just that kind of week. I’ve mentioned not long ago that every time I write a sermon, I task myself with finding where God can be seen in the text, in the world, and thus in our lives. And it was really hard this week because I was just so tired, run down, and spent. I just wanted to see Jesus.
Those random Greek people in the gospel lesson had the right idea, huh? I mean, when things are going not so great, or confusing, or maybe just not exactly as planned, sometimes it feels like if only we could see Jesus then things would be made right. Maybe help us to feel better. Or at very least give us some consolation that there is a reason for all this madness of life.
Maybe we don’t name what we want to see as Jesus. Maybe we would just label it as “hope” or “relief” or maybe even “good news.” Whatever it is, we want something to brighten our day, lift our spirits, help us to see the good that life has to offer… because too often, it seems, we forget.
“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Why now? What happened that brings out this request? What has changed recently that put Jesus on the radar of these foreigners? Well, in the story, this happens soon after Jesus brings Lazarus back from the dead. I would think this would make some kind of headlines and catch the attention of educated philosophers like these Greek people would be. Actually, this kind of thing would catch the attention of anyone, really. You mean to tell me there is a dude out there that brings people back to life? Even after they’ve been dead for a few days and there is probably already a stench coming from the body? So when they’re all dead and not just mostly dead? There is a guy that can do this? Well, it just so happens that I have a laundry list of dead people that I’d like back. I want to see this guy so maybe he can help me.
Even if we didn’t have that laundry list we would probably think this. We hear about a miracle cure and we’re all over it. We’re told of a way to get rich quick and we’re interested. We catch wind of something that will solve our problems? Make life more convenient? Meet a deep seated need that has been bugging us ever since someone pointed out that we even had this deep seated need? Man, we’d be on it like white on rice. So yeah, we want to a Jesus-like something to get us out of whatever plight we find ourselves in. We want someone to improve our lives like in our political climate, levels of equality, and social justice. We want help to see the good in the world and in life so we can carry on. We need a saviour to save us.
No one knows this better than the ancient Israelites to whom Jeremiah is talking to in our first reading for today. This is Israel in exile, thrown out of their own homeland, made to look like fools for trusting this unseen God, displaced without identity or value. And in prior chapters Jeremiah really gives it to the Israelites, telling them how they brought this upon themselves, how they really dropped the ball, how they by their own disobedience should have expected to find themselves in this bad and dire siotuation. But in the passage we get today Jeremiah changes his tone a bit. He emphasizes the promise of God to God’s people, the relationship that will be maintained, and the fact that they will be saved from their hardship and be reminded that their God is the God and on their side.
Isn’t that cool? Man, I’d like to have a God like that. You know, one that will save me, that will give me hope, that will help me clean my carpets when the kids just release those cookies on it. So please, let that happen. Give that to me. I want to see Jesus.
But we don’t always see Jesus, do we? I mean, we look for help, but we continue live in hardship. We look for release, but we end up in retreat. We look for miracles, but all we seem to get is melancholy. We look for some kind of change but all we get is the same old same old. C’mon man, show me Jesus. I know he’s there, right?
You know, I think we often miss Jesus because we look in the wrong places. We hope to see Jesus in the glory of the world, the might of power, and in the punishment of our enemies. We want to see Jesus in things working out in our favour, when we have things easy, when there isn’t puke on our floors and we’re well rested. But Jesus isn’t always apparent in those times. Rather, Jesus’ glory as he tells the Greeks and all people is in the death that he will die. But not in that he is defeated by every definition the world gives it, but in that even in his death he lives, even in his defeat he wins, even in his being despised enough to be hung on a cross, he loves and forgives.
So you want to see Jesus? Look at the outcast, the marginalized, the oppressed. Look at the broken, the suffering, the downtrodden. Look at the troubled, the fearing, the shamed. Because when you look at hopelessness and see hope, you see Jesus. When you look at oppression and see salvation, you see Jesus. When you look at death and see resurrection, you better believe that Jesus is there, lifting up the beloved children of God and helping us to see a world not free of problems but a world that is full of forgiveness and grace and mercy, a world not free of hardship but a world that is full of community and support and ministry, a world not free of difficult times of being able to see God, but a world where God is largely present and revealed, reminding us and giving us welcome, love, and relationship.
See, there is hope even in seemingly endless weeks like the one I have been having. There is good news even in seemingly thrown together sermons like this one that I threw together. There is Jesus even in the seemingly godless and ungodly world in which we live.
But I get it, we sometimes want a God that will smite our enemies. We sometimes want a God that will take away our problems. We sometimes want a God that will grant us that lottery win that will allow us to live on easy street happily ever after. But that isn’t what we get. What we get is a God of ups and downs. We get a God that is present through community and relationship. We get a God that shows us that life can be better when we work together, respect each other, and show each other the love that we’ve been shown.
So the glory of God isn’t a glory that we would expect, but it is more glorious than we could imagine. It isn’t a glory in military victory, in strategic success, or commanding conquest, but it is a glory in humble service, loving mercy, and gracious salvation. It is a glory that connects us with each other where we are, in our own individual hardships and problems, in our own shortcomings and failures, in our often misguided preconceptions of how life should be, and brings us together in community, where we can be cleansed and fed, freed and given hope, forgiven and saved.
It is now, at the end of this season of Lent, where we are reminded of our need of a loving God, one that helps us not to eliminate our problems but teaches us how to navigate through them, that we might live in community and support and love with God and all the saints, through the promise of Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord, now and forever. Thanks be to God. Amen.