Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B
March 21, 2021
Lessons: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:1-12, 17-22; Hebrews 5:5-10; John 12:20-33
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people are confronted with and embraced by an irresistible and cosmic Christ. What we do with this reality is the big question.
Key Scripture: And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” – John 12:32
Lots of folks want to see Jesus, including some Greeks in this week’s gospel lesson. The question is whether this irresistible urge is just that—an urge to be part of the latest and greatest “in” thing—or whether it’s the real deal, a clarion call to discipleship. If these Greeks were hoping for autographs and selfies for their Instagram feed, they are flat out of luck because Jesus launches immediately into one of his hard teachings about just what kind of Messiah he happens to be.
Most people want to affiliate with a winner. We want to be on the “right” side of any argument, and we want to have the corner on the market of truth—even if we have to craft our own version of it to be palatable. This is nothing new. Remember Peter rebuking Jesus for saying he was going to suffer and die? Jesus continues to speak plainly about his future and his ministry, both to those gathered around him on this particular day recounted in John’s gospel and also to all of us today. Yes, the Cosmic Christ is irresistible, but only for those seeking something real, lasting, and marked by love.
I am reminded of the new Jon Stewart movie, Irresistible. It’s the story of two political operatives, one Democrat and one Republican. The Democrat operative, played by Steve Carell, believes he’s found the perfect swing-state mayoral candidate in former Marine Colonel Jack Hastings and a way to swing Wisconsin for his party. Let the spin begin. Now, don’t hold your breath for a best picture theatrical experience; there are some good laughs, painful truths, and awkward moments, and the movie is a good reminder of how human nature hasn’t changed all that much in a couple thousand years. But it isn’t the end all and be all; there’s only one of those, and his name is Jesus, the Christ.
Jesus is the one who reminds us that discipleship is an all-in commitment. To bear good fruit we have to die to self, at minimum, and may be called upon to give our life for the sake of the gospel. You can’t love and possess both the good life AND the Jesus life; it’s like mixing oil and water. Unless you shake it up really well, it’s not worth splashing on your salad greens. My friends, following Jesus will shake you up. In fact, it will change your life in an eternally better sort of way.
Yes, what we have in the cosmic Christ is an irresistible Messiah, one who has promised to draw all people to himself. So tell me, dear friends, do you find Jesus irresistible? Has he opened your eyes, heart, and mind to new possibilities and ways of being? Will you follow him no matter what or where? If you answered “yes,” then you have found what is truly irresistible. Hold on to the hem of Jesus’ garment, and get ready for an amazing ride that will never end.
How are you equipping your people to carry God’s name and Christ’s love in their hearts? What discipleship growth opportunities is your congregation able to offer? Granted, it’s been an extremely difficult year in ministry with the global pandemic and learning to use newer digital ministry tools. “Normal” post-pandemic will not look like “normal” pre-pandemic, and we must be ready to carry the gospel to the world in new ways. How about starting a conversation or study group to explore what a new church “normal” might look like? What needs to die into the past? What needs to be given space to grow and bloom?
Check out this lovely number by Gungor called “When death dies.” It’s certainly appropriate for Lent and for Jesus’ teaching this Sunday. Here’s a link to the lyrics.
How about discussing the Old Testament lesson this week (Jeremiah 31:31-34)? How has God put the covenant law in your heart? How do you know God? Who has been instrumental in teaching you about Jesus? How difficult is it to follow Jesus in your current context? What about the gift of the Holy Spirit given in your baptism? What else do you need to help you follow Jesus more closely and truthfully?
This week’s focus verse is John 12:24 – Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
(Note: If you have a farmer in your parish, invite that person to talk with the children about how a single grain of wheat is sown, grown, and harvested. If you have a bread baker, let them take over from there and talk about how the many grains of wheat harvested become bread—to nourish us and to be placed on the table for Holy Communion.)
Show the children a small bag of wheat kernels. In the bag, they don’t seem to be much good for anything. But if we sow these individual grains, they will grow and produce more grains that can be harvested and ground into flour for bread, pasta, and many other good things. We have to be willing to trust, to sow these seeds, trusting that with God’s good rain, sun, and the nourishing soil, the harvest will be a good one that will feed many people and glorify God. If possible, have some small clay pots or paper cups filled with potting mix. Help the children sow a few wheat seeds in their pot/cup, add a bit of water, let them put their name on the cup, and set them in a sunny window sill. Give them back their cups of growing wheat after Easter.
Finish with a simple echo prayer and blessing.
Dear God (Dear God),
Thank you (Thank you) for loving us (for loving us). Help us to sow the seeds of your love and life (Help us to sow the seeds of your love and life). We want to see you, Jesus (We want to see you, Jesus). Thank you for giving us real life (Thank you for giving us real life). Draw us into your arms of love (Draw us into your arms of love) so that we may tell your good news (so that we may tell your good news). And let all God’s children say Amen (Amen)!
Stewardship Bulletin Insert
This week we give thanks for your willingness to go to whatever lengths necessary to save us, Jesus. Please help us to die to self and bear good fruit for the sake of your good news. Together we can bear much good fruit for this world.
Stewardship at Home
Consider this song and its lyrics: “Us for them” by Gungor. Listen to and pray with these words and music. Pray with and read this week’s gospel lesson (John 12:20-33). How might you die to yourself and your needs so that you may produce the fruits of love this world so desperately needs?
2018 Reflection: https://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2018/03/dying-to-live/
2015 Reflection: https://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2015/03/language-of-the-heart/
2012 Reflection: https://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2012/03/god-from-the-inside-out/
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