Monday, March 19, 2018

Hate Your Life

John 12: 20-33
Lent 5
March 22, 2015

Some Greeks ask to see Jesus.
That’s all it says, not much else,
just that they were Greeks in town for the festival of the Passover.
In other words, they were Gentiles by birth, non-Jewish people
But they’re in town for the Jewish festival.
And they want to see Jesus.

So maybe they’ve converted to the Jewish faith.
Not unheard of, even in that time.
Or maybe they haven’t converted, but they’re spiritually curious,
like people today they’re trying out different things,
hoping to find the one that fits.
Or maybe they are just religious tourists
fascinated with other people’s spiritual practices.

For whatever reason they’re there,
now they want to see Jesus.
Maybe it’s just another part of their religious experience.
Maybe just another facet of the Jewish religion.
Or maybe Jesus’ reputation has preceded him
and they want to see the man who feeds five thousand,
and heals people, and has done so many impressive things.
They’re not followers yet, they’re seekers.
They just want to see Jesus. See what he’s all about. Observe.

So , I don’t think they were prepared for the speech that they got.
Somehow their arrival prompts Jesus to tell
them and the crowds around him that this is it.
Now is the time for Jesus to be glorified.
And for that to happen, he was going to die.

Uh, we just wanted to see Jesus.

Jesus talks about his death, he compares himself to wheat,
saying if a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies,
it spreads it’s seeds around so that more can grow.
In other words, Jesus death isn’t just a death
it’s for the benefit of all people, so that others can live.
Now, we believe that in Jesus death there’s life,
that somehow because Jesus died and rose,
that  gives us eternal life.

But there’s more to it than that,
because Jesus also says this life and death cycle applies to us:
He says, “Those who love their life lose it and those who
hate their lives will keep it for eternal life.”
The Greeks are getting more than they bargained for here.

Hate our lives?
Now I don’t think Jesus really want us actively to hate our lives.
Like to curse it, to be negative and  distrust everything
about the things of this world. Just focus on spiritual things.
Some people have taken this that way.

That actually sounds ungrateful  and unhealthy.
I actually think cherishing our life, being thankful
for the world around us, and being joyful in the face of adversity
is part of being  a practicing Christian.
I don’t think that Jesus wants us to hate our lives in that way.
I think this is another instance of Jesus using hyperbole.

Here’s what I think Jesus means:
Those who love their life lose it.
Those who cling to the things of this life: power, money,
comforts , achievements, status, reputation -- 
all the things that we often cherish -- will find that
those things are just fleeting and temporary.

Don’t cling to the things of this world so much that
you imagine yourself incomplete without them.
Don’t cling to things of this world that you’re not
willing to give them away for the good of the world
or for the sake of someone else.
And those who hate their life: Hate your life --
Know that this that we see is not the best there is, 
long for something better. 
Long for God’s kingdom, God’s ways, God’s will.
Even if gaining the kingdom means losing something that you
have grown fond of  and even love.
Hate your life. Don’t love all the things of this world so much
that you trade the gospel for them.

Were they to take our house, goods, honor,
child, or spouse, though life be wrenched away,
they cannot win the day, the kingdom’s ours forever.

Those who love their life will lose it,
and those who hate their life will have it eternally.

And all those Greeks wanted to do was see Jesus.

So this week, we saw what I think is an amazing thing:
High school kids around the country walked out of their
classes to protest gun violence and demand that things change.
This generation that we’ve insulted and called entitled,
and spoiled brats, and sensitive snowflakes,
have taken the initiative and proven themselves
to be strong, capable, and brave for their sake and for the sake of others.

They are willing to risk themselves, 
threats on their lives,
some even have faced punishment from their schools
for putting themselves out there for
one another  and for future generations.
They hate their lives in that they  can visualize something better
they long for it, and will work for it.

I for one am pleased at this, 
and a little embarrassed too.
Because we - people older than them - haven’t been doing a good job
We haven’t been creating a world that’s better for future generations.
Maybe we were scared, maybe we were lazy,
maybe we were too comfortable with the way things have been.

Maybe we love this life too much to risk change,
to risk losing something in order to make
life better for the generation coming up.
Those who only know a life with active-shooter drills in their schools.
And this week lots of older people have shown that they love their lives
and their power, and positions, and we have seen them
try to cling to it very hard in response.
We’ve seen people, adults, parents, politicians
call these kids names, threatening them, telling them to shut up,
saying that it doesn’t matter what they think.

Even if we don’t agree with what they want,
or we don’t think they should be doing this
or that this Is the most pressing thing they should be working for.
These are our children, our hope for the future, they’re all we have.

At some point, every generation needs to put down their lives
and their power, and ambition, and desires, and hand it over to the next.
It is our responsibility to guide and nurture younger people--
at the minimum, protect their lives -- and when we can’t or won’t,
then maybe we need to step aside.  At least listen hard.
Die to ourselves and let the next generation live and flourish.

Jesus did that.
He nurtured and cared for us and saved our lives,
and then he stepped aside and his followers take over.

I mean Jesus was God, and I’m guessing he had the ability
to live eternally on earth and rule forever. But Jesus didn’t do that.
Maybe it would have been nice to have him
around to clear things up and answer a few questions along the way.
But he didn’t want to be about him, he wanted it to be about us.
Jesus became the seed that bore much fruit.
Generations and generations of fruit.

Like those Greeks at that festival. We want to see Jesus.
And certainly we certainly have. We have seen the light in the world
that scatters the darkness, and we can testify to that.

But Jesus doesn’t just want us to see him. 
Jesus wants us to be him.
Jesus saved us, so we could be him.
Be his hands and feet , and do his work.
And also when the time comes, hate our lives
to let go of what we have, and let the seeds fall,
so that others can live.

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