Sunday March 25, 2012, 5th Sunday in Lent
Rev. Tony Lorenzen
- Jeremiah 31:31-34
- Psalm 51:1-12
- Hebrews 5:5-10
- John 12:20-33
I was huge fan of a very short-lived program on ABC in the late 1990's called Nothing Sacred. Written by a Jesuit priest, it portrayed the life of the staff of an urban Catholic parish, especially the young pastor, Father Ray. Father Ray struggled with the various issues of urban ministry as well as celibacy, sexism, and other issues plaguing the contemporary Roman Catholic church. It was relatively well acted and the writing was top notch. My favorite episode was “Speaking in Tongues”, a story of a young man who saw visions, spoke in tongues and had Father Ray wrestling with the boundaries or lack thereof between spirituality and psychology and faith and reason. The episode opened with Ray giving a homily during which he references not only Jesus' baptism, but this week's reading from John's Gospel.
“God spoke. He actually spoke,” said Father Ray. “I wonder. The gospel of John says that not everybody heard it. So, what does that mean? That God has poor diction? Some people thought, 'Well, it was just thunder.' I'm sure some people thought the dove was just a dove. But the reasonable sensible people who only heard thunder must have thought these people who heard the voice of God were completely nuts!” The congregation giggles and Father Rays finishes with, “But what's crazier, to hear God speaking when it's only thunder? Or to hear only thunder when it's actually the voice of God?”
Jesus asks us to hear the voice of God. Jesus asks us to trust the voice we hear claiming us for love and justice is divine and to devote our lives to it. Devoting our lives to it is live differently and to live radically. People will think you are completely nuts. Listen and live accordingly any way.
Following Jesus is to be radically changed. Evangelical pastor, author and speak Brian McLaren's best selling book Everything Must Change gets it's title from the dumbfounding, astounding, astonishing, radically transforming realization Jesus followers go through when it hits them that taking the good news of Jesus to heart means that everything- Every. Single. Thing. Must. Change. - Forever. How you view yourself and how you view others must change. How you treat yourself and how you treat others must change. Your attitudes and perceptions of fairness, justice, peace, community, equality, violence, God, creation, forgiveness, reconciliation, well, everything – changes. Forever.
Quaker pastor and author Phillip Gulley recounts this lesson from his father in his book If God is Love. “Most people talk more radical than they live. The Challenge is to live more radical than you talk.” I think of this when I hear about the seed of grain needing to die in order to bear much fruit. I know that it's always been easy for me to engage in both thought and discussion about what I believe and what I value and much harder for me to get down to the difficult business of living out my beliefs. I believe in ending oppressions. I believe in economic justice. I believe God loves everyone, no exceptions. I believe in a preferential option for the poor. Acting on these beliefs is difficult. Frequently it requires me to give up things such as money, safety and comfort. The safety and comfort are not just physical, but emotional and spiritual as well. Like many people, I prefer to hide in my comfort zones, not always willing to face the things about myself that need fixing or work. This just doesn't cut it. The ruler of this world must be driven out. I see the ruler of this world as the falsehood and lies we construct as barriers against unity, love and compassion. Individually, this is living out of one's false self – the projections and defenses we construct to keep ourselves emotionally secure. God wants us to die to that self and risk living out of our true self.
Every time we hear the voice and respond, we renew the covenant to live as God's holy child, to live out of our true self. Each and every time we respond to that voice of God, the way of God is written more deeply on our hearts. Sounds crazy, doesn't it, like hearing the voice of God in a thunderstorm. But what's crazier....?
Thank you for all the ways you speak to me – through the people, places and events of my life; through the sun and the wind and the rain, and the thunder. Grant me the patience and grace to listen for your voice at those times when I feel most rushed, most confused, most anxious, and when other voices surround me with calls to ignore your call and your presence. Help me to continue to transform my life so as to live in accordance with the good news of Jesus, to be an example of your gentle rain and of your rolling thunder to others. Amen.