They Wish To See Jesus.

Mar 21, 2021   •  

 Lent 5B 

The Reverend Michele H. Morgan 

March 21, 2021

There were some Greek people, too, who came to Jerusalem to worship at the Passover Feast. They went to Philip. (Philip was from Bethsaida, in Galilee.) They said, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Philip told Andrew. Then Andrew and Philip told Jesus.  Jesus said to them, “The time has come for the Son of Man to receive his glory. I tell you the truth. A grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die. Then it makes many seeds. But if it never dies, it remains only a single seed. The person who loves his life will give up true life. But the person who hates his life in this world will keep true life forever. Whoever serves me must follow me. Then my servant will be with me everywhere I am. My Father will honor anyone who serves me.   “Now I am very troubled. What should I say? Should I say, ‘Father, save me from this time’? No, I came to this time so that I could suffer.  Father, bring glory to your name!”  Then a voice came from heaven, “I have brought glory to it, and I will do it again.”

The crowd standing there heard the voice. They said it was thunder.  But others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”

 Jesus said, “That voice was for you, not for me. Now is the time for the world to be judged. Now the ruler of this world will be thrown down. I will be lifted up from the earth. And when this happens, I will draw all people toward me.” Jesus said this to show how he would die.  John 12:20-33


Long ago in a land far away I remember going out to coffee, with folks with who I had just finished speaking at a recovery meeting.  We were just shooting the breeze and one of the guys asked the question of how many times people had gone to treatment.  Everyone at the table answered the question and I waited and when pressed I had to confess that I never went.  I instead started attending 12 step meetings, got a sponsor, and wrote my steps.  After I said this, there was a period of shocked silence and one of the young men who said he had been to treatment eight times looked at me in horror and said, “What?  Why would I ever listen to you if you have never been to treatment, you have obviously no idea about what it is like to be clean and sober.”

Now you know why I hesitated to answer, I knew that this information, in Minnesota the land of 10,000 treatment facilities was going to be a big deal. I knew that the people at this particular table were at a time in their lives where they would not be able to hear that my experience of working through the steps with intention, without the benefit of treatment was valid because it was not their experience. Though it did not matter that I had quite a few years clean and that I had come and talked at the meeting with some clarity they could not see it or hear it.  So instead of defending myself I just smiled and told this young man with eight treatments under his belt that it was all good because it seemed to me that he had been to treatment enough for the both of us. 


Next Sunday is Palm Sunday and then we enter Holy Week. We are about to enter the mystery of the passion and walk the last week of Jesus’ life on earth.  We have two very different experiences in this short gospel, one very human and one supernatural.  


The foreigners wish to see Jesus.  There is this odd piece of the disciples having to coordinate two disciples to figure out if they get to do it.  So it could be a foreshadowing of the hierarchy of the church or better yet it could be that we never have to do things alone, that indeed if we want to see Jesus, (a divine spark) we do it by companionship.  We might go deeper by solo prayer and meditation but we do not actually see Jesus unless we have a communal experience.   One of the traps that we can find ourselves in is the belief that we have to do it alone.  My life of wanting to see Jesus is fraught with me wanting to see Jesus who agrees with me, and is very clear that I am doing a great job, my wanting to see Jesus can easily lead to me pushing ahead and knowing that I am right, that my certitude comes from Jesus and Jesus alone.  It is in being in relationship with others that the brakes get pumped and I am able to slow my roll.  

I write sermons to a community, not for myself, there are Pulpits all over the church that have engraved in the wood or have a plaque that says, “They wish to see Jesus.”   


So how do I show you the divine spark this morning?  How do I open the door so that you get to see Jesus?  Where do I find Andrew to ask where he is and if it is okay for you all to come and have a peek?  Come and have a chat that leads to a lifelong friendship, connection?  I am not sure, and I know that I do not have to do it alone.  I do not have to be the magic conduit to God, I point and hopefully, you go together, you make community and you see a way forward that brings more God, more Love, more light into the world.    


Yet, to step into the world that has another story of violence, of killing that the media, the police, the American Asian community all want to classify as one thing or another and I only see pain.  I see 8 more gun violence victims and grieving families. I see exploited women, sex workers, and massage parlors being judged and shamed,  I see Asian American and Pacific Island hate crimes shooting through the roof, I see bias against our Asian siblings, and the last thing I see is more love and more light.  


DU LANE Ashley Yaun; Paul Andre Michels; SHE OWE JEE AH (Xiaojie) Tan; DAU YOWE FUNG Daoyou Feng; Julie Park; HINE YOUNG Hyun-Jeong Park, EL-GISS (Elgas) Hernandez-Ortiz died in a wave of gun violence in this country, we are told in the very human part of scripture to honor the stranger, we are told to care for the people that are in narrow places.  We are told to aid those who are different than us and to reach out to them.  We are called to that, for everyone that we do not get to choose who we get to accept and to love. 


If we make a Jesus that looks like us alone, our lizard brain, our tribalism of who looks like us and acts like us are the only ones worthy of our love and therefore God’s love.  That is why we need each other to see Jesus; to have an experience of the divine spark.  It is out of our collective lizard brain in this country that our siblings who are Asian American, who are from the Pacific Islands, and others, as threats as we look the other way as China is blamed for COVID and the threats against the AAPI community are on the increase.  

  • 40% of U.S. adults believe “it has become more common for people to express racist views toward Asians since the pandemic began” (Source: Pew Research)
  • More than 1,800 racist incidents against Asian Americans were reported between March and May of 2020, according to a United Nations Report (Source: CBS News)
  • Stop AAPI Hate National Report (March 19, 2020 – February 28, 2021) has received a staggering 3,795 reports of anti-Asian hate incidents. (Source: Stop AAPI Hate)


We know that we are called to have an experience on earth that is to bring more into the world, more love, more light, and yet we persist in not knowing about others about not knowing about their experiences, we need to know how to reach others and help them see Jesus, see the divine spark, point to GOD and know that none of us do it alone.  


And none of us have the same experience, we all have different ways through the world.

  • Like that young man in Minnesota who did not value my experience
  • Like most Americans who believe ALL Asians are doing well vs the reality that the poorest people in NYC are of Asian descent 


As we walk through the mystery of Holy Week, I invite you to take it seriously and carefully.  How might you see the experience as a way to see a new, to come to all of it… how we can step out of not being biased against others but to be actively anti-racist; know about the other, to know about a world that does not look like yours so that indeed we can value and see each other and then see Jesus.