Scripture/Sermon of the Day.  March 21, 2021

Jeremiah 31:31-34     Common English Bible

31 The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 32 It won’t be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant with me even though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 No, this is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my Instructions within them and engrave them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 They will no longer need to teach each other to say, “Know the Lord!” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord; for I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sins.

John 12:20-33

Jesus teaches about his death
20 Some Greeks were among those who had come up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and made a request: “Sir, we want to see Jesus.” 22 Philip told Andrew, and Andrew and Philip told Jesus.
23 Jesus replied, “The time has come for the Human One[a] to be glorified. 24 I assure you that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it can only be a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their lives will lose them, and those who hate their lives in this world will keep them forever. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me. Wherever I am, there my servant will also be. My Father will honor whoever serves me.
27 “Now I am deeply troubled.[b] What should I say? ‘Father, save me from this time’? No, for this is the reason I have come to this time. 28 Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
29 The crowd standing there heard and said, “It’s thunder.” Others said, “An angel spoke to him.”
30 Jesus replied, “This voice wasn’t for my benefit but for yours. 31 Now is the time for judgment of this world. Now this world’s ruler will be thrown out. 32 When I am lifted up[c] from the earth, I will draw everyone to me.” (33 He said this to show how he was going to die.)

Reflection/Sermon

I.      Whenever the Bible talks about “SEEING” — please don’t take it literally — because, as my favorite professor often said:  “The Bible doesn’t mean what it says!  It means what it means!”

II.     Which is what we’re trying to discover now.  What does it mean when these “Greeks” approach Phillip and say, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.”  Are they just curious?  Does Phillip ever introduce them?  What happened?  Is this passage “to be continued” in our lives?  Because we are like “the Greeks” — we want to SEE Jesus too.

III.    Job saw Jesus.  In the Book of Job, God is mostly silent. As Job’s suffering got worse, he and his “friends” talked back and forth to each other — for 35 chapters!  At one point Job says, “I loathe my life…I will say to God, “Do you have eyes like me?  Do you SEE as humans see?” Then why do you let me suffer like this?
        Finally God answered: “You talk without understanding!  What are you going to do, haul me to court and press charges?”
        Job is shaken!  He says, “Forgive me — I talked too much.  I will listen now.”
        God interrogated Job for two more painful chapters.  Finally Job said, “I talked about things I didn’t understand —things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. I had heard of you know by the hearing of the ear, BUT NOW MY EYE SEES YOU.  And I am ashamed.  I repent.”

IV.     In that moment of “seeing,” Job died, and was reborn.  I wonder if this happens to us.  Can we see God as Job did?  And does that “seeing”  change us into Jesus Christ?
        The Gospel of Matthew says whenever we give a thirsty person something to drink, we are seeing Jesus .  How many small gestures of kindness do we make in one day?  Every one of those is an encounter with Jesus.

V.      Do you ever wonder what color Jesus is?  And could he be — Asian?  I read an article written by a dermatologist, Dr. Haywood Brown (in the Tampa Bay Times).  He said, “The epidermis is a very thin outer layer of our skin.  It’s only 1 millimeter in thickness, but it contains one of the few things that seems to justify millennia of oppression between humans:  pigmentation.  Were it not for this tiny layer of our skin, we would all appear very similar.  So at its core, racism is bigotry against the epidermis, and yet this minute human difference was enough for many of our nation’s historical leaders to enable beliefs in racial superiority.  The justification for racism in America is thin indeed, but it continues even now to restrain us from moving forward as a society.”

VI.     We have just experienced a mass shooting where eight people were murdered, six of them of Asian descent.  Seven of them women.  The 21 year old alleged shooter, Robert Aaron Long, was reportedly an active youth group member of the Crabapple First Baptist Church.
        There’s a debate going on about whether these shootings are a hate crime.  In the last year there’s been a nearly 150% surge in anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020. People blame people of Asian descent for the coronavirus pandemic.  They think that because the first outbreak of Covid-19 was first reported in Wuhan, China, then it must be “a Chinese virus.”  But pandemics aren’t national or racial or political.   Yet some of our national leaders demonized the Chinese, and called Covid 19 “China virus” and “Kung-flu.”   THAT’S CALLED HATE SPEECH and it leads to violence.  Hate speech was used against Jesus also — he was called demonic, Beelzebul, insane, blasphemer, heretic.  That’s how the leaders of his day justified killing him.

VII.    But we are not as different as we appear, said Jeremiah.  In fact, underneath our one millimeter thick epidermis, we’re all the same, DIVINE —God’s law is engraved on our hearts.  And the more we see the divine image in others, the more we become that image.  Eventually we will all see it, so we need to practice patience and trust the power of God’s love — like Job.