Preaching Resources

5th Sunday in Lent – March 21, 2021

Assigned Texts:
Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 51:1-12
Hebrews 5:5-10
John 12:20-33


So, these Greeks are in town paying a visit to the Holy Land.  They approach Phillip and say: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” So, Phillip gets Andrew, and the two of them go to Jesus to inform him of these visitors who wish to see him.  But Jesus gives a cryptic answer. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

What does it mean to be glorified? At the beginning of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, 68 teams want to find glory in winning the championship and 64 teams on the women’s side, otherwise known as March madness. Each one of those teams wants to see glory.  They want to be the ones to lift the trophy.  They want to ascend the ladder and cut down the nets.  That is glory, is it not?

But in the upside-down world that God asks us to consider for living our lives, glory looks very different. For Jesus, glory is servanthood.  Glory is having a heart for mission, taking care of those in need.  Glory is being lifted up, not to cut the nets down at the end of the tournament, but on a cross.

 Jesus goes on to say:
“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. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.”

We live in a world that is judged by statements such as: What have you done for me lately?  How have you served my needs?  Have you made me happy and met my expectations?

Before the pandemic lockdown, I was on the road early in the morning and decided to get some coffee at a Mcdonald’s.  I love that many McDonalds have become neighborhood daily gathering places for retired men and women. I do hope that they can start getting back together soon.  These folks gather to begin their day in conversation with friends while getting the “senior” discount on coffee.  It is not hard to overhear their conversation! So, I have gotten my coffee on this particular day, and I am at a table not far from this group of men while I am mixing cream and sugar into my coffee.  One of the guys tells a story about going to a restaurant that had advertised a build-your-own hamburger special. The conversation goes something like this:

I go in and order a hamburger with swiss cheese and sautéed mushrooms.  When my hamburger comes, it has swiss cheese and mushrooms, but it also has lettuce and tomato.  I called the manager over, and I complained that this was not the way that I ordered it.  The manager replies that the lettuce and tomato come with all of their hamburgers.  Well, it is not what I wanted, so I got up and left the restaurant without eating a bite and without paying the bill. 

What have you done for me lately? If it doesn’t suit us, we move on.  If it does not help me, I am done with it.  If it doesn’t save me money or make me happy, I am looking elsewhere. Not the kind of graceful reaction that Jesus would be having.  In the kingdom of God, our needs come after we seek to meet the needs of others.

I don’t know much about farming, but I know that seeds won’t grow if they are left in the packet or held in your hand.  You have to let them go; you have to bury them; you have to give them up to something that, while it looks silly, will eventually produce something far greater.

That is the way of the kingdom of God.  It means taking the gifts that we have been given, be they talents or treasures, and use them not just to benefit ourselves but to enrich the lives of others.  We all have been gifted in unique and wonderful ways by our creator; how do we use them?

What does it mean to be glorified?  Is it getting rich or being popularly accepted by everyone? Or does it mean helping others to know that they are a beloved child of God?  Does it mean helping the hungry to have enough food to eat?  Does it mean welcoming the stranger among us? What is Jesus telling you today?

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