Here is the worship video to tomorrow’s service, the 5th Sunday in Lent landing on March 21, 2021.
The worship bulletin can be found here and it will have everything you’d expect a worship bulletin to have including the sermon in full (which is also pasted below the video). The words that you need to know will also appear on your screen.
For a fuller at-home worship experience, you may have some elements in your space to help you with that. You may have a bowl of water that we will interact with during the Thanksgiving for Baptism, something small to eat and drink for communion that will be consumed while we sing Lamb of God, and a candle that can be lit before the service starts and can be extinguished at the end of the service with the candles in the church. These are all optional but designed to help enhance your worship while we continue in this format.
Here is the video!
O God, may the power of your life-changing Word and loving grace of your Spirit fill us this day, that our eyes be fixed on you and our hearts burning for your justice, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This past week, a colleague of mine called me and led our conversation off with “so how are you holding up after the murder of six Asian women in Atlanta?” My first reaction was, “wait, what?” I had been out all day up until that point, and haven’t been online at all yet until our phone call so I hadn’t heard that news. But as she was describing what happened, I realised that I did read the headline around the press conference at which the shooter was described as having a “bad day” and so he did this. But at the time, I had no idea how many had died, nor did I know that the majority of them were Asian.
According to the police, the suspect shot and killed 8 people, 6 of which were Asian women, because apparently he was having a bad day. Really? I had a bad day before. Several, in fact. But I don’t recall even once thinking about killing anyone for it, let alone 8.
And so I went and read some articles on it, and of course, I went through Twitter to see what people are saying. On the most part, people thought that it was racially motivated and took it upon themselves to shut those who disagreed up. I was able to avoid the comments on most of the articles but the few that I did read was just the same old garbage of people being a lot more insensitive, in that they would be victim blaming or downplaying the situation or just trolling people because the internet will internet when it internets.
But through it all, I just wanted it to stop. Whatever the motivation of the shooter, I just want the killing and violence to stop. Whatever the cause of this horrific incident, I just want people making light of the situation to just stop. Whatever people feel about who deserves what and who should be blamed, I just want the gas lighting, the finger pointing, and the utter hatred to stop.
And above all, I just want to be able to see Jesus in the midst of it.
But it isn’t easy, is it? It isn’t easy to see Jesus in the pain and brokenness. It isn’t easy to see Jesus in the face of evil and darkness. It isn’t easy to see Jesus in death.
But isn’t that where Jesus said he’ll be seen? I mean, the Greeks in today’s gospel lesson were asking to see Jesus. They travelled all this way to Jerusalem for the Passover festival, checking out the sites, soaking up the atmosphere, and keeping up with local pop culture. So naturally, they wanted to see Jesus, the fabled prophet miracle worker that was causing a stir and making quite a name for himself around these here parts.
Jesus catches wind that these Greeks, these foreigners, these representatives of the world at large, want to see him, which probably meant that they just wanted to pick his brain and see if he’s really all he’s cut out to be. But instead of dancing the little dance, Jesus is like ok, they can see me, they can see what the Messiah is all about. The time has come. The hour is here. Jesus, like a grain of wheat that falls to the earth, will die and that is where the Messiah will be seen.
Whoa. That’s heavy.
That Jesus says that to see him is to see death. To know him is to know hurt and pain. To follow him is to suffer grief and loss.
Er yeah I think I can handle a bit of grief and loss. Maybe I can even take some hurt and pain. But to die? Nah I think I’ll sit that one out, Jesus, but thanks for thinking about me.
But Jesus didn’t say this to his disciples or the Greeks or anyone for that matter to scare them away like it would scare me away. He didn’t say this to them so they would go avenge his death like I would talk about doing like a big tough guy but not actually having the guts to do so. He didn’t even say this to them so they would go shoo those pesky Greeks away and tell them that the time hasn’t come yet, the hour isn’t actually here. No, Jesus told them this to indicate the kind of death he was going to die. The kind of death that changes the world.
Jesus says in his death, there will be new life. His dying will bear much fruit that there wasn’t room for prior. Because after he dies, he will be lifted up again like the snake in the wilderness we talked about last week and all people will be drawn to his light, his grace, his love. And then, we will be able to see him in all his glory.
And it makes sense. For there to be new life, there has to be an old life. There can’t be a resurrection if there isn’t a death. We cannot repent and be forgiven if we, as mentioned in weeks past, cannot admit that we have sin that needs forgiveness in the first place.
Before I start rehashing all the things we’ve talked about during this season of Lent so far, I ask you, what in your life needs to die? What parts of our old selves need to be placed at the foot of the cross? What areas or attitudes, what paradigms or worldviews, what wrongs or evils do we need to surrender to God and be changed from?
Maybe it’s our narrow view of how life should be. Maybe it’s our tendencies to look at other ethnicities as inferior to our own. Maybe it’s drawing those stark lines in sand between “us” and “them”. Let’s give these to Jesus. Let’s nail these to the cross. Let’s lean on God’s strength, wisdom, and truth to change us, reform us, and reconcile us to God and each other.
You see, it isn’t in the death that we see Jesus per se, but it is the new life that comes after the death. Jesus isn’t revealed in the pain and suffering, but in the healing and restoring that is given to us. Jesus might be present in that seed that falls to the earth and dies, but it is when that seed is graciously resurrected and recreated that we truly see the glory of God’s name.
So whatever that gunman’s motives were in killing 8 innocent people, we can let the attitudes of superiority and violence die and make room for attitudes of welcome and community. Whatever harsh feelings we might have toward this individual or those who might be defending him, we can let that hatred and anger die and make room for love and grace. Whatever might be blocking us from seeing the glory of God through God’s mercy and truth in our lives, we can let that die and make room for humble obedience and compassion in the name of Christ.
Friends, let us not try to save the life of sin that we have harboured for so long, making excuses for it, justifying by thinly veiled racism, sexism, and supremacy, or downplaying it through gas lighting and deflecting. Rather let us learn to let go of what might be holding us back from flourishing, let us see how we’ve been cleansed from our sin both known and unknown, and let us be lifted up with Jesus off the cross, drawn to his steadfast and enduring love, and be led to live in God’s eternal kingdom as God’s beloved children.
As we near the end of this season of Lent and sit in this new season of Spring and new life, while looking forward to the glorious resurrection of Christ, may we find the strength to let die the things in our lives that need to be pruned and make way for the new things and new life that God so graciously gives, lifting us to new heights and revealing to us a love that endures forever. Thanks be to God. Amen.