Sunday 21st March 2021
The Cancer Council plays a major role in our community today. If you have had a friend or relative with cancer or even some folk here today – might know the extent of the Council’s work and care.
They produce helpful booklets (amongst other things) and have people on the ground to help out various levels and in all sorts of ways. One suggestion they make to young parents with cancer is to prepare a ‘memory box’.
The box might be filled with some special items – favourite photo(s), a DVD, a special song, a tie, a scarf, a piece of jewellery, perfume or after-shave. Perhaps a life story or document that shares reflections on happy times. All of this can be a way of reflecting or remembering the person who is dying and will eventually be no longer present. And in the case of a parent, enable their child to feel that they are not so far away. Most important – it offers a parent a way of some vision or connection with their child going forward.
Today’s gospel – Jesus is virtually offering his disciples a type of ‘memory box’.
Firstly, Jesus struggles with leaving his family and the disciples behind.
“Now is my soul troubled.” He says.
It is that very human struggle of leaving loved ones behind.
Secondly, we see Jesus offer a glimpse of his hopes for the disciples – he says
“And I, when I am lifted up from this earth
will draw all people to myself.”
Jesus is sharing some tough thoughts and reality – aware of his own impending death, he speaks in down-to-earth language
“as a grain of wheat remains just a single grain unless it dies’-
’but if it dies – it yields a rich harvest.”
Jesus is that grain of wheat, the single grain from which can grow the kingdom of God. Jesus has to die to enable the kingdom of peace, love, and justice to flourish. But the dying is not easy –
“know is my heart troubled – yet it was for this hour that I have come”.
Jesus’ sacrifice will forever be our great treasure. Our memory box starts with looking at the cross. Jesus’ arms outstretched remind us of the gift of love.
“God so loved the world that He gave His only Son”
Jesus is comforted that his life and his death will be the pathway for so much good.
Jesus no doubt thought about the great Jewish prophets and the sacrifices they made. Today we heard a snippet of the prophecy of Jeremiah. He was the guy who suffered a great deal at the hands of his own people – remember how they tried to starve him to death, leaving him at the bottom of an empty cistern. But Jeremiah looked forward to the day when Israel would revisit the covenant with God.
“The Lord says, I will write my covenant upon their heart”
it will be second nature – not something that people have to teach each other saying
“know the Lord’ for they will know me – from the least of them to the greatest.”
I wonder if Jesus knew that the Jeremiah time had come? He actually says to the disciples – “my hour has come”.
It is fascinating that the trigger point according to John – was the visit of some Greeks – who approached the disciple Philip. He probably doesn’t know what to do – so he goes to Andrew and together they approach Jesus. Their question: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus” it is a great line and often printed on the book-stand of pulpits
“Sir, we wish to see Jesus”
not some trendy guy, with a few good quotes, even a joke or two or a one-liner or two. No, the congregation deserve to see Jesus – to hear Jesus to connect with Jesus – or the one I like most of all – to have Jesus represented (in word and in sacrament).
Why the visit of the Greeks was so important we don’t know. But it was certainly a great thing that Greek culture, Roman administration and Jewish spirituality were all very strong at this time. Truly Jesus made the most of the opportunity he had and our very presence here today is testimony to his timing.
We might say Jesus left the disciples a ‘memory box’ and the great treasures we find in it are still the same as they were 2,000 years ago. The importance of love and sacrifice.
These two vital aspects of life we see in him are strongly connected. His love for those close to him was a cup that ran over. His love has filled the hearts of people all over the world. The sacrifice he made, giving his life was a consequence of that love.
We too are called to love like him, we discover that sacrifice for those we love is no burden – we willingly give of ourselves. The challenge is to love all the more and to be like Him.
Archdeacon Ray McInnes