So the Greeks wished to “see Jesus” did they? They’d gone to Philip, so it seems, and had said, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip – the disciple – in turn went to Andrew and said, “They want to see Jesus.” Almost lie, “What do we do now?!” After all, these Greeks were not part of the chosen people. These were not Jews. When you hear the work, “Greeks” in today’s gospel, hear “foreigners.” Foreigners wished to see Jesus. Well, Andrew didn’t have a clue, so he went to Jesus himself and said, “There are some … um … Greeks who wish to see you!”
Don’t you wonder what the big deal was? Some people wanted to see Jesus and would have been SO simple to take care of the need on the spot. Philip could have done it. Philip could have said, “Jesus? You want to see Jesus? He’s right over here. Jesus, meet Stanislaus and Theolphilus. Stan and Theo – meet Jesus.” Introduction made. Book closed.
But Philip starts to do wht the church does when there is a simple little basic need. He says to himself, “Well, that’s what we have this committee of disciples for. We need to be concerned with procedure. Better pass this request along through the chain of command.”
Now, if the ELCA were around in Jesus’ day here is what would have happened if Stan and Theo would have said, “We want to see Jesus.” First, the church would spend eight years studying and identifying the Lutheran theology of welcoming strangers. Then, the study would be extended for two years because concerns were raised that meeting the needs of Greeks was too Eurocentric. After that, a proposal for a commission would be formulated – but not until a report on the function and structure had been produced. Then, the churchwide staff person in charge of introducing Greeks to Jesus would fly from Chicago to Jerusalem and request that they key Jerusalem leaders form a strategic planning and implementation team and submit a proposal.
Once all that is in place, the ELCA would print up an eight-color brochure entitled, “A Lutheran Introduction to Jesus: What Every Greeek Should Know.” (I’m not done.) Once the brochure was boxed and sent to Jerusalem, a report would be made to Churchwide Council that great mission work had taken place. A real nice article with pictures would appear in Living Lutheran and bishops everywhere could tell their people, “These are your benevolence dollars at work!” In the meantime, Stan and Theo (our two original Greeks – remember them?) die of old age.
Members of Christ the Servant Lutheran Church, and other friends who are worshiping with us today, we are surrounded by many people who have a simple need to meet Jesus. These are people who don’t look like us, don’t think like us, don’t act like us, and don’t have the same values we have. They are not nice churchgoing people like we are. As I said – they are people who need to see Jesus. And, if they are not asking us in words, they are asking us in their action – the way they lead their lives, their anxieties and animosities they hold, and the utter hollowness of the things they strive after. Some of them, albeit a very few of them, actually know they need to see Jesus, but don’t know how.
The ELCA is not going to introduce them to Jesus. The Metropolitan DC Synod is not going to Introduce them to Jesus. Our Spiritual Health team here at CTS is not going to introduce them to Jesus. YOU are going to introduce them to Jesus … OR NOT. But you ARE being asked. What are you going to do?
When Philip and Andrew stood before their Lord saying, “There are some foreigners out here who want to see you,” Jesus did not say, “Invite them in. I will interpret scripture for them, tell them a parable, turn some water into wine, and multiply some loaves.” Instead. Jesus tells Philip and Andrew about a grain of wheat which must die if it is to bear fruit. He tells them that those who love their life must lose it, and those who hate their life in this would will keep it for eternal life. He tells them that whoever serves him must follow him. Then he alludes to the trials, the suffering, and the death which he would be facing shortly.
This is something which you won’t see in much of the evangelism literature our church, or anyone else’s church, puts out. This is something you won’t hear very often in workshops about how to grow your church. This is not about how to smile and welcome the stranger with open arms. This is not about being friendly. This is not about making people comfortable. This is certainly not about meeting the needs of the baby boomers, gen x’ers, millenials, or any other artificial name we have invented to describe groups of people. This is not about telling people, “If you come here you will sing happy songs all the year long and be self-fulfilled.”
Frankly, it isn’t about living at all. It is about dying. It is about that grain of wheat Jesus told about which must die if it is to bear fruit. For us, it is about service and sacrifice. It is about telling people, “If you want to see Jesus here you will serve Jesus here.” This isn’t about giving new members a mug and a cake reception. It is about giving them a task to perform, a service to complete, a job to do.
Actually, this isn’t about telling people anything at all. It is letting them see Jesus by seeing our service and sacrifice. It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said, “When Christ calls a person, he calls him to come and die.” As a matter of fact, in the Flossenberg Prison Camp where Bonhoeffer was executed weeks before the camp was liberated, a monument stands next to the only remaining, restored prison house in the park comples – a hundred yards or so from the crematorium. Bonhoeffer’s name, along with others arrested for conspiracy against Hitler, are etched in stone with the words of Timothy 1:7: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.” Bonhoeffer was one grain of wheat which bore much fruit by dying.
What kind of dying are you and I willing to do so that others, who are not like us, may see Jesus? One very wise person has suggested that, during Lent, we should ask ourselves four questions 1. When you look into a mirror, what do you see about yourself which you most despise? 2) What thing have you done which you would most like to undo? 3) What person or cause would you die for? And 4) If this were the last day of your life, what would you do?
But then the task is to do something about the answers. 1) Change the thing you most despise about yourself. 2) Put steps in place to undo the thing you most regret. 3) Stand up for the person or cause you would die for. 4) Figure out what you would do on the last day – and do it now!
If others are going to meet Christ – we are going to make the introduction. When they see persons who are willing to die to their old selves they will see Christ. When they see persons who work to change the world about them they will see Christ. When they see persons serving other persons they will see Christ. When they see sacrifice and service, they will see Christ.
Right now, we have people knocking at our door saying, “Could we see Jesus?” Well, could they? Could they?
Text: John 3:1-17