This sermon was written for Sunday 18th March, All Saints Church, but sadly not delivered in the service as a result of the snow. You shall not escape! Betty
The readings were Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 5:5-10, John 12:20-33
The wedding season is upon us ! Amazingly, the weather on Friday was chilly but sunny for Laurie and Terry Rose and their family and friends when they were married here at All Saints Church. The BIG decision for a couple is : do we want to marry or not? It is a major step in life and one that shapes the lives of all those who marry. At the heart of it , there are two people who have fallen in love with each other, who are committing their lives to each other with the most beautiful words and profound thought ,who do it in the presence of God, through Jesus Christ.
Some weddings I know are prepared hurriedly but most of them are not. It takes a while to plan the date ,do the paperwork, plan the flowers, bells, photographs, guest list, reception, dress and suits, and meeting with those who will have a part in the wedding. There is a great deal of preparation and throughout it brings up the BIG question again and again: do we want to be married?
Lent is all about preparation and during the time of Lent, again and again, the same questions crop up for us – who was this Jesus Christ? How important is he in our life ? What does his suffering, his passion mean to us ? And how does the resurrection change the way we look at our lives ? And these are only a few of our questions that we may want to find answers to before the remembrance of Passiontide itself and those events which shape our lives and our faith as Christians
Today, the 5th Sunday of Lent, is officially the first Sunday of Passiontide, preceding Palm Sunday and the week in Jerusalem. Our readings prepare us for the beginning of that week so that we may be clearer about the meaning of what will unfold.
In our first reading, Jeremiah tells the people of Israel that God will make a new covenant with his people as they have broken the agreement that he had forged with their ancestors. The new covenant is one where “I will put my law into their minds and write it on their hearts…. I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more. “ This is a radical change for the God of the Old Testament that we hear of a great deal. Jeremiah is effectively prophesying the coming of the Messiah
The book of letters to the Hebrews was written to those who were wavering between keeping hold of their Jewish beliefs and turning to the new Christian faith. The writer, which may or may not have been Paul, tells these tormented souls that God tells Jesus, you are my Son – the Messiah – the promised one – and also that God has said that Jesus was a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek , the King of Salem who first appears in the book of Genesis. In other words, Jesus is both of the old order and the new . The writer is saying ‘Put that issue behind you and look at what it means to follow in the ministry of Jesus. ‘
In addition, the writer draws attention to the suffering Christ – “that he offered up prayers and petitions … to the one who could save him from death”. As a result of this time of trial, “he learned obedience from what he suffered and so became the source of eternal salvation.”
Christ’s humanity is shining through these words.
In our gospel reading from St. John, we hear that Jesus admits himself to his suffering, his questioning : “Now my soul is troubled and what shall I say ? Father save me from this hour ? No, it was for this very reason that I came to this hour”. Jesus admits that he has doubted his purpose in coming to earth but he has become reconciled to what will happen to him. Through the analogy of the kernel of wheat, he tells all who will hear that unless we die, we cannot live – the essence of his death that is to come and his resurrection.
In a nutshell, in a kernel of wheat, Jesus has explained what will happen to him. He says : “Now the prince of the world will be driven out.” Everyone there knows what will happen to Jesus- but not the details.
But there is another key point in that gospel that the Hebrews will have heard and also the Greeks who had asked to come and see Jesus. The letter to the Hebrews says that “ Jesus became the source of eternal salvation for all who obeyed him – not just the people of Israel then. And in the gospel we hear : ‘And I ,when I am lifted up from this earth will draw ALL people to myself.”
So often we read this and don’t believe it. God cannot be talking about me – but he is.
In remembering the Passion, we cannot but be overawed and horrified at the magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice for us.
But in grasping the essential humanity as well as the divinity of Christ ,we see that our challenges are often reflected in his challenges . We too doubt who we are and why we are here. We too can doubt our God.
We should also realise, in his words , that we are all his people .We should understand that nothing can separate us from him ,that all our burdens may be lifted and we may see the hope and joy that all Christians should feel. I pray that we may feel this in this season of the Passion.