Some Greeks in today’s Gospel tells us they ‘we wish to see Jesus.’ And that desire remains, we wish to see Jesus too.
And though we cannot see him physically, we interpret the word seeing as being more than what our eyes can take in. But going back to the Gospels I wonder if they ever did see Jesus, the text is ambiguous.
The conversation moves from what we assume is his inner circle to ‘the crowd’. And it is to the crowd that Jesus says that ‘when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself’.
Here Jesus is anticipating what is to happen next, when he is lifted up on the wood of the cross. And there he is seen in a different way. He is dying and we imagine that those few who saw it for themselves were traumatised.
Perhaps they would not have asked to ‘to see Jesus’ if they knew where it ended. Yet if we are to see Jesus then we must see the cross. A cross that comes into focus through these days of Passiontide and Holy Week and reminds of how through it the redeeming love of God is revealed once and for all.
And here I recall some words of St. Augustine of Hippo. Words that are carved into a circle around a compass on the floor of the chapel of St. Katherine’s in London. There I read words that seemed true to me then and now ‘We do not come to God by navigation but by love.’
Augustine was a colourful character who had seen this, been there and got the t-shirt as the saying goes. And yet he was searching still, unsatisfied by what he thought would satisfy.
In the end though it was the love of God, revealed in and through Jesus Christ that changed the direction of his life. And in the days to come for us we see this love revealed with a particular intensity, as we hear and recall events long past that they might speak to us now.
So we see a love that weeps.
A love that breaks bread.
A love that refuses to defend itself.
A love that is lifted up on the cross.
And a love that removes stones from tombs, and from our hardened hearts.
‘We do not come to God by navigation but by love.’ And whilst Augustine’s sentiments ring true, God is not a rational argument to win but a truth to encounter through love.
We do need some means of navigating our lives so that they might encounter that truth, gathering for worship as we are now is one such fixing point on the map of our lives, something I’ll return to in a moment.
But beyond our worship we of course, navigating our way out of lockdown. Our government has called it a roadmap. This will we hope and pray take us from lockdown to freedom.
So, we all have dates to which we are working.
Dates for when we re-open for public worship.
Dates when the shops will open again, or you can get your haircut.
Dates when we can go on holiday.
Dates when we can indiscriminately hug.
But back to church and over the next fortnight, and especially next week, Holy Week we have a roadmap to help us navigate so that we might ‘see Jesus’, see love’s redeeming work.
Last year the focal point for much of the journey before us now was my study, bedecked with homemade stained glass window, before heading outside for an Easter Eucharist accompanied by birdsong.
This year things are still not as we would wish, yet our desire ‘to see Jesus’ through the days before us remains. And most of us, even though things are different have more time to, share in the journey and encounter the love that we see in Jesus. More time to reflect in what we see and hear and read.
But what of the roadmap beyond Passiontide and the pandemic, surely after all we have been through life cannot be just the same as before? Surely we have learned as well as lost.
For has not the last year renewed in us a commitment to build a society rooted and grounded in the way of love. I think something of that way has been rekindled this last year. As neighbours have cared for one another. As we seem to smile and say hello to the stranger we pass.
And more recently is not the tragic kidnapping and murder of Sarah Everard an opportunity to renew our commitment to build a society where everyone feels safe.
So then, hear some more words from St. Augustine;
“What does love look like?
It has the hands to help others.
It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy.
It has eyes to see misery and want.
It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of (all) men.
That is what love looks like.”
Of course love is not the exclusive preserve of the Christian tradition. God’s love is not bound by walls or those who say the right things but as we meet, as we see Jesus in our worship and through our life together we are called, to see as he sees, to love as he loves, to serve as he serves. ‘Wherever I am’ says Jesus in our Gospel today ‘there my servant will be also.’
We as a community at St. Mary’s can be part of remaking our community. I think the pandemic has, and is opening up new opportunities for us, and I hope and pray that those who come searching, seeking ‘to see Jesus’ might know him at work amongst us.
So, as we navigate through these days of Passiontide, through Holy Week to Easter
as we navigate these days out of lockdown,
we pray that by love we will see Jesus
and that he will always be our guide on the path we walk together in the days to come.
‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’