Archive for the ‘light’ Category

 

Ibaraki_Kasugaoka_Church_light_cross

Opening Words

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change…. (Psalm 46:1-2a)

Take a moment to pause and gather yourself for worship.

A Prayer of Petition

Psalm 71:1-5

In you, O LORD, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
incline your ear to me and save me.
Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress,
to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of the unjust and cruel.
For you, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O LORD, from my youth. Amen

The Gospel Reading

John 12:20-36

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very 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. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.”

27Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—’Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”

After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.

Reflection by Jeffrey

Listen to Jeffrey share his reflection and/or read below. [Yes, Jeffrey calls it “Holy Monday” in his reflection, but he was recording on Monday for “Holy Tuesday.”]

If time travel were possible, I would love to visit the city of Jerusalem during the pilgrimage weeks that stretched from the Jewish Passover to the spring festival of Shavuot (what we call Pentecost). During Jesus’ day, the city doubled in population for more than a month as people from around the entire Mediterranean came to Jerusalem. In today’s Holy Tuesday story , a group of Greek pilgrims, possibly converts to Judaism, are in the city seeking an audience with Jesus. So they enlist Philip, one of Jesus’ disciples who has a Greek name, to make the connection with Jesus. What then is on Jesus’ mind when these Greeks seek him? Death.

Yes, the stress of Holy Week is getting real for Jesus. Think about it. Jesus must have known that his time on earth was winding up, that he could only teach and comfort and heal a few more days because his death was a close-at-hand reality. That’s some serious stress! Living with the reality that a global pandemic can quickly become a household horror, it is not difficult to imagine what Jesus means when he confesses that his soul is troubled (v. 27). How would I feel right now if I tested positive for COVID-19? Or my family? Or someone I know? My soul would be troubled, too. Even though we are healthy, I still grieve for those who are infected and suffering. In John’s story, this confession is an intensely human moment for Jesus.

But let’s be clear. Jesus’ death had both a genesis and an outcome different than death by illness. His divine nature, absolute innocence, and unfailing forgiveness through the most unjust verdict imaginable became the redemptive “grain of wheat” that rendered death a new harvest instead of devastation. Despite his troubled spirit, Jesus knows that he could request an exemption from the crucifixion to come—“Father, save me from this hour.” He could call down angels to protect him.  Isn’t that what Satan tempted him to do in the wilderness after 40 days of fasting? Jesus answers the temptation, both in the wilderness and in Jerusalem with the same steadfast righteousness that comes from the unfailing will to live God’s Way in this world and glorify God for eternity.

Like so many of Jesus’ teachings, this story has a “so what” factor. How do we take his words and actions and learn about God’s Way through him? When Jesus says that “those who love their life lose it,” (v. 25) he’s not asking us either to hasten death or seek it out. At the very least, here is confirmation that both living and dying are gifts to humanity. Gifts? Yes, both living and dying are gifts from God. Each day here is an opportunity to create more life, more love, more beauty. Likewise death is a new beginning with joy of its own that none of us can yet describe or imagine. Living many lifetimes would be a burden rather than a blessing. Living in this world forever would seem as a curse from which there is no escape. Jesus is, therefore, calling us to embrace life in this moment as part of God’s joy and grace so that life may also continue to be our future in God’s new resurrected Way.

It is important to realize that the purpose of both life and death is the same according to Jesus–to glorify God. Verse 28 recounts one of those rare occasions when God speaks from heaven and people hear it, even though it sounded like thunder. That divine affirmation serves to underscore the main point of this story. Jesus’ purpose in life and death was to glorify God. If we are to follow the example of Jesus, then our life and death will be to glorify God. In life, we glorify God. In death, we glorify God. Thus life and death both have the same purpose. Admittedly, that’s a hard concept to follow, but remember, many things that are hard to do are worth doing anyway.

The Latin term Soli Deo Gloria, which means “glory to God alone,” became something of a motto for many Christians after the Protestant Reformation. In fact, Johann Sabastian Bach, included that phrase (or simply SDG) in every one of his compositions. It was his way of noting that the music he wrote intended to reveal something of God rather than displaying Bach’s immense talent. We don’t write music like Bach, but each one of us is a virtuoso in living our own lives, and we can choose to do that to God’s glory. I’m convinced that when Jesus says the people heard God’s voice for their own sake and not his, it was Jesus’ encouragement to us that, in his opinion, we have the innate capacity as the children of God to glorify God. That means today, even now. Yes. Even now. May it be so. Amen.

A Hymn to Sing or Read

In the Cross of Christ I glory

Listen to piano only accompaniment

or piano accompaniment with vocalist.

In the cross of Christ I glory,
Towering o’er the wrecks of time,
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime.

When the woes of life o’ertake me,
Hopes deceive and fears annoy,
Never shall the cross forsake me:
Lo! it glows with peace and joy.

When the sun of bliss is beaming
Light and love upon my way,
From the cross the radiance streaming
Adds new luster to the day.

Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure,
By the cross are sanctified;
Peace is there that knows no measure,
Joys that thro’ all time abide.

Concluding Prayer for the Church

Save us, O Lord, when we are awake,
Keep us when we sleep.
Then we will wake in Christ and rest in peace. Amen.


Picture: Interior of the Church of the Light, designed by Tadao Ando, in Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture. I, Attila Bujdosó took this picture on 18/03/2005 in Osaka, Japan.  This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.

Credits: The gospel was read by Jeff. The piano was played by Tracy. The vocalist is Tracy’s neighbor Emily.


 

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: