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2024-03-17 Lent 5

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!

Today is an interesting day in our church calendar because whilst it is the 5th Sunday in Lent, it is also St. Patrick’s Day. Festive Green meets Repentant Purple! Saint Days were put on the church calendar for us to be inspired by great role models in the Christian faith. Now St. Patrick’s Day is a bit more well known because it’s been more commercialized in our culture. The stores are all a glow with green leprechaun hats and shamrocks and the like. I’ve heard that green beer is also a thing now too, but I can neither confirm nor deny that! But all commercialization aside, St. Patrick was a pretty inspiring guy. What we know of him was that he was a Christian Missionary to Ireland. He was actually English born but was kidnapped and hauled off to Ireland where he spent six long years in captivity as a slave. As you can well imagine, it was a tough time to say the least. Alone and in a strange land, Patrick turned to God for help and deliverance. Eventually, the Lord answered his prayers. He was able to escape the clutches of the Irish and he made it back to Britain.

But then a strange thing happened. It is said that Patrick received a vision from God, telling him to return to Ireland and be God’s messenger. Sometimes the Lord calls us to do wild and wacky things! So Patrick studied, got ordained and went back. He ministered to the Christians who were there and went to work converting all the pagans! It is said that the now iconic shamrock was used to teach the snake worshipers about the Holy Trinity. One leaf for the Father, one leaf for the Son, one leaf for the Spirit. Not three leaves, but three in one leaf. St. Patrick was truly inspiring because of the great forgiveness and grace he showed to the people who wrecked his life and tore him from his family! The only way such mercy can be shown was through the power of the Holy Trinity. If this happened to any of us, the last thing on our minds would be to return to our captors as a slave. And yet, this is exactly what St. Patrick did. People listened to his message. They repented of their sins, got Baptized and abandoned their pagan ways for the Way, the Truth and the Life, Jesus Christ our Lord.

And speaking of Jesus, we see this morning that the Greeks wanna see Him! That’s where we’re at on this 5th Sunday in Lent. “Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him,”Sir, we wish to see Jesus”“ (JN 12:20-21). So what’s this about? In the original translation it says “Rodos Pizza was just around the corner!” Just kidding! But Rodos #21 is truly the best Pizza in Moose Jaw! Ok, ok, why are these Greeks here? It’s nearly Passover, after all, a notably Jewish feast. Well, these Greeks are “God-fearers,” that is, Gentiles who were in the process of converting to the faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They attended Synagogue services, kept all the kosher food laws, read the Torah and considered themselves part of the Jewish community. But they hadn’t yet taken the definitive step of getting circumcised and hence were not Jews but Greeks.

They come to Philip first. Why Philip? Was he known for his Grandma’s secret baklava recipe?! No, no, it wasn’t that. It was most likely because Philip was from Bethsaida. This part of Galilee was known for its Gentile-Jewish mixing. So it would follow that maybe Philip spoke better Greek than the other disciples. But for whatever reason they reach out to him, the reason for doing so is clear: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” We remember that Jesus “was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (MT 15:24). But now it’s late in the game. Our Lord’s fame was stretching across the boundary between Jews and Gentiles. The message of the Messiah was taking root in the pagan world. So the Greek’s request goes up the chain from Philip to Andrew and then to Jesus. It’s a sign, really that our Lord’s time in Israel was quickly coming to a close. Though Jesus first came to His own people, He did not belong exclusive to them. Rather, He is the Saviour, Redeemer and Lord of the whole world. All tribes, all peoples, all languages. The Greeks showing up now, just like the Wisemen from the East showing up when Jesus was born, these are all confirmation that Jesus has come for the Gentiles too. It was the sign that “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (JN 12:23).

When I was on my Vicarage, that is my internship year, I went to Kitimat BC. It’s on the beautiful northwest coast at the end of the Douglas Channel. When we got there, we went down to the Kitimat River and witnessed the Salmon run. These honkin’ big fish made this enormous journey from the ocean back to the freshwater river where they were born. The Chinook, the Chum, the Coho, the Pinks, species after species, they all made the same journey against the current for the same reason: they laid their eggs and then, they died. It seems rather morbid! But without this process, there would be no more salmon.

This ties into what our Lord Jesus says after the Greeks come for a visit. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (JN 12:24). From fishing to farming, we’re covering all of our bases today! But His death is what’s coming. And the death of the Messiah is the only way to give life to the world. Just like a single grain of wheat that sprouts and grows an entire stalk of grain, it only does so if goes into the earth and dies. But in this death an incredible yield of life shoots forth. More seed is produced and from that bread and donuts and cinnamon buns and cookies! If it refuses to die, then it remains alone, a single grain, useless for baking, unable to give life to the hungry. Likewise our Lord. He also must die and be placed in the earth, buried away for three days. Only then can He become for us the risen Bread of Life that gives life to the world.

“If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also” (JN 12:26). Ya hear that, Jews? Ya hear that, Greeks? Ya hear that, Lutherans?! If you want to follow Jesus then you need to follow where He goes. And our Lord goes to the cross to be lifted up. Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer said “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” What does this mean? It means we die to ourselves. We die to sin and evil. It means the goal of life isn’t to gain more and more and more, it’s about losing the sinful self. We truly are called to die to our “old Adam” or “old Eve.” We are called to get rid of attitudes about living for ourselves and self-fulfillment and all that life can give me, my happiness, my success, my prosperity, my preferential treatment, my reputation and believing that the whole world revolves around me. When all of this dies, the Christian finally starts living. All of these sinful traits of self, of the “old Adam” were drowned in the water of our baptism. The problem is, the old Adam is a really good swimmer and keeps coming back up! Drown that old man daily in repentance.

So you wanna see Jesus? You wanna to serve Jesus? You want to follow Jesus and heed His call? Then like the salmon and like the grain, be prepared for a call to die. It is a call to the old rugged cross. The same honor and glory that were given to Jesus are given to us because of Jesus - resurrection and eternal life! In the eyes of the world this is all just a bunch of nonsensical weirdness! But in the eyes of the faithful it is nothing short of miraculous. You wanna see Jesus? You look to the cross! Amen.

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