Preacher: Amanda Beresford
Series: Lent 2012
Where are my glasses? I utter these words all too often. At the moment, I am wearing my contact lenses because I have made a habit of misplacing my glasses throughout the day, and I did not wish to subject the entire congregation to a church-wide search for spectacles. Unfortunately for me, the answer to “where are my glasses” is often, “on top of your head,” or “Um, Mama, you’re wearing your glasses.” I only hope after this embarrassing admission, some of my eye-glass wearing fellows will back me up in admitting a similar experience. However much this speaks to my poor eye-sight or (perhaps, more accurately,) my poor memory, it also, more aptly speaks to a wider search that we all take on: seeking that which is right in front of us.
The Gospel lesson for today is a biggie. It encompasses a lot of action and a number of huge themes. It’s a lot to sift through.
At the onset, some Greek men have gone to the Passover festival in order to find Jesus. These men are not the authorities. They are not coming to arrest Jesus or ridicule his teachings. No, they are seeking the man they have heard so much about. They want to speak with him, to know him and understand him. This means that the word has spread so far, that even Greeks are seeking Jesus.
The fact that Greek men are looking for Jesus means something to him. Jesus knows that if word has spread so far that Greeks are seeking his message that the time of his death is nearing. As he realizes this, he tries to tell his followers about his impending death. In my mind, when I hear Jesus say, “The hour has come.” I always imagine he says it with a sigh. He confesses his own fear, his sadness, telling is followers that his “soul is troubled.” But, he faces it. And, in facing his own bleak future, something amazing happens.
When Jesus tells those gathered that he will not ask God to save him, but rather have God do what God will, to “glorify your name,” Jesus says, suddenly, the voice of God speaks. And the voice says that God is, indeed glorifying God’s name through Jesus. A miracle. The voice of God speaking. Amazing.
And here’s the pit of the peach: all of those people who came to celebrate with Jesus, seeking to hear, see, and truly understand Jesus ignore what is right in front of them. John does a wonderful job of describing the reaction to hearing God’s voice. “Huh, musta been thunder,” some of them say. “An angel,” says another. This huge group of seekers, thirsty to know Jesus, simply cannot see what is plainly in front of them. Their glasses are perched right on their nose, and yet they can’t find them anywhere.
Now, to lay my cards on the table, I’m not sure what I would do if I heard the loud, thundering voice of God. It seems like it would be a difficult thing to rationalize away. And, as far as I know, I have never heard such the loud voice of God. But, it seems to me, that our challenge is less trying to hear God’s voice in the thunder, and more trying to hear that still, small voice from within.
A colleague of mine from divinity school, the Rev. Sheila Glenn, used to say that God has a second name. And that second name is, “Something.” She would say, “Something told me not to go in there.” “Something told me, that just isn’t right.”
I was raised in the Quaker tradition. And Quakers often talk about the still, small voice of God. If only we could hear the thunder. No, these days, we are left to discern that still, small voice from within. That “something” that tells us what is true.
That voice that says, it is not right for a boy, wearing a hoodie, carrying no more than a bag of skittles, to be killed. Perhaps this is an obvious example, we don’t need thunder to tell us that this is a tragedy of the highest order.
But maybe we do need a small voice to tell us when we should disconnect from an abusive relationship—that we are not showing ourselves enough love, and it is time to leave. Maybe we do need that small voice to help us recognize when we have been unnecessarily judgmental of others, or to see the incredible beauty in the world when it feels like all around is darkness.
The crowd gathered with Jesus is perhaps a bit luckier than we today: they have thunder, they have Jesus, God incarnate in front of them, and yet they don’t hear a thing, and they don’t see, the miracle standing right in front of them. As lucky as they are, they are every bit as confused as those of us trying to discern what that “something” inside of us is saying today.
Jesus, as always, patiently does his best to explain to the crowd that God is with them. “The voice has come for your sake,” he tells them. “Now is the time to pay attention to God. Let us look at what is right in front of us.” Later in this same gospel story, Jesus says, “Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you.” Beautiful.
The Good News for today is that God is still with us, in every moment, right now. Jesus came to show us that we don’t need the thunder. We have the still, small voice within. We have a light in our lives, if only we pay attention.
What does that mean for us? It means taking time out, every day, to listen for the voice, and to look for the light. Perhaps it means something as simple as saying a daily prayer, attending the Taize service, perhaps it means, quite literally, stopping and smelling the flowers and seeing God’s great creation on parade as we did this glorious, spring week.
Lent is the perfect time to pay attention and turn towards the light. In its old-English form, “Lent,” actually means to turn towards the light. It is about spring, about the light growing in the world. We have extra light in our days. What will we do with that?
Whatever you do, try something out that will help you remember the big picture: the Truth before us, that God is with us.
Friends, today may we all walk in the light, that we may walk closer with God.