The Rev. Jimmy Abbott
Fifth Sunday in Lent
March 22, 2015
When you were in high school, I’m sure some of you took shop class. Am I right? You learned about T-Squares, table saws, woodworking, all that good stuff. Some of you were probably in home economics. Right? You learned how to make straight hemlines and bake cakes. By the year 2001, when I was in high school, things had changed. In my shop class, I made websites. I didn’t use table saws or sewing machines, I used something called “WYSIWYG.” That’s an acronym for, “what you see is what you get.”
WYSIWYG is a very, very cool way of making websites. You could manipulate things on your screen and that’s exactly how it would appear for the world wide web. With WYSIWYG, there are no long series of numbers and computer code. Really. It’s, what you see is what you get. It’s plain and it’s simple.
Every once in awhile, it doesn’t happen too often, but every once in awhile Jesus is plain and simple. What you see is what you get. Some Greeks approach the disciples of Jesus and they say, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Philip gets a few of the other disciples together, and they tell Jesus. They tell him that even some Greeks want to see Jesus now. Remember, Jews intentionally kept their distance from the Greeks. The Jews and the Greeks came from massively different cultures. It’s like someone from Portland, Oregon moving to Houston. So this is huge, that some Greeks are coming to see Jesus. This type of thing didn’t happen everyday.
It’s a pivotal moment in Jesus’ ministry. After he hears that Greeks are looking for him, he says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.”
Now, this is the very last scene in Jesus’ public ministry. Right after this conversation, Jesus has the Last Supper with his disciples. Then he’s betrayed, condemned, and crucified. It’s as if Jesus knows that his time has come to an end when even the outsiders, even the Greeks are coming to see him. And what the Greeks see is what they get.
The first thing the Greeks see, is the glory of Jesus. That’s exactly what Jesus says. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” The ancient Jews believed that their Temple housed the glory of God. But now Jesus is the glory of God. The glory of God is now dwelling in a human. Jesus glorifies God the Father, and that’s exactly what the Greeks see. What you see is what you get.
The next thing the Greeks must have noticed about Jesus is service. Jesus says, “whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.” This would have been upsetting to the Greeks. In ancient Greek culture, the highest esteem would have been given to those who were served. The master was honored, not the servant. But here Jesus is saying that if you wish to see the glory of God, you must be a servant. Jesus models that life. Just one chapter after this, Jesus takes on the role of a servant by washing the feet of his disciples. That was a nasty, filthy job. But when you see Jesus, you see a servant. And if you want to follow Jesus, you too have to be a servant. What you see is what you get.
But most importantly, the biggest thing going on here, is about death. If you wish to see Jesus, you must also die with Jesus. “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.” Christians know that story very well. By Jesus’ death, there comes resurrection. If you wish to see Jesus, then you must die. Just as Jesus died first. What you see is what you get.
Now, today, there are still two vastly different cultures, like the Jews and Greeks of ancient times. There is the culture of the church – the culture that glorifies God, a culture that serves others, a culture that is willing to die for God. That culture, at it’s best, is what we aim for. There is another culture. That’s the culture of this world. In that culture, the highest honor is to glorify yourself with a big house and a big car. In that culture of the world, we give more honor to the big shots with the expense accounts than the bus boys at waiting on them. In the culture of the world, we don’t talk about death. We do everything we can do to avoid death. We put on anti-aging cream, we idolize youth, and when it’s time to die, we push it off into the sterile environment of the hospital away from our families. There are two cultures in this world.
Despite that, though, many outsiders, many Greeks will be coming to see us in the next few weeks. Our job, as the church, is to make sure that when they see us, they see Jesus.
The first thing that we must show the world about us and about our church, is glory. Just like Jesus did. Everything we do must first be done for the glory of God. When you’re at work and you really want to send a snarky email or post something snide on Facebook, ask yourself, “is this for God’s glory?” When you are raising your children to pray and follow Jesus, do it for God’s glory. When we build this church – that huge drawing that’s out there in the Parish Hall – that’s not for our glory. We aren’t going to build to feel good about ourselves. We are going to build to glorify God. And every prayer, every committee meeting, every bible study, here at church is for God’s glory. What outsiders should see in us, is the glorification of God.
Then we show the world that we are here to serve. And we do. For instance, we have two programs on our campus, the Palmer Drug Abuse Program and the Archway Academy, that serve teenagers struggling with addictions. Some of those kids are on our campus for twelve hours a day. That is service – that we provide them with a safe place to get clean and sober. I believe that’s proof that what you see in Jesus, is what you get at church. And just like Jesus said, wherever we serve him, he’s there among us. When you bring someone into your home who has nowhere else to go – Jesus is there. When you’re giving to the church, or when you bring in yet another box of macaroni and cheese – don’t think of that as work. That is service, and Jesus is there. Following Jesus means giving ourselves just as he gave of himself. What you see is what you get.
And finally, death. Jesus said, “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.” If you wish to see Jesus, if you wish to follow Jesus, then our old ways must die in order to be born again. I believe that is what is happening at Holy Comforter. Our long vision of building a church has come to life again. And whatever it was that happened in the past, can stay there, in the past. Our long desire to have a church campus filled with children and families is bearing fruit. With the Archway Academy, the Cub Scouts, the Boy Scouts, the Palmer Drug Abuse Program, the Home Explorers Co-Op, children’s Sunday School, and youth group – kids and families are at Holy Comforter six days a week. Holy Comforter is not just a single grain lying in the ground. At our best, what you see is what in Jesus is what you get at Holy Comforter.
And my prayer for you, is that when Greeks, and outsiders, look at you, I pray that they see Jesus. I pray that if they wish to see Jesus, they can start by seeing you. I pray that you give all of your glory to God. All of it. Not some of it. Not most of it. All of it. I pray that you are working your way down the ladder. And finally, I pray that we have the courage to die to our old ways. If we want to follow Jesus, then what we see in his life, will be what we get in our life.