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Sunday Sermon

For Sunday 17th March 2024, the Fifth Sunday in Lent Jeremiah 31.31-34

Psalm 51, 1-13 or 119, 9-16

Hebrews 5, 5-10

John 12. 20-33

May I speak in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen ‘This is for everyone’.  Sir Tim Berners Lee, who invented the world wide web typed away at his keyboard at the opening ceremony to the 2012 Olympics and those words burst into life around the stadium.  Here was someone who had created something which had the potential to bring people together and to transform the way we communicate with one another, to do good in all sorts of extraordinary ways, and ‘this is for everyone’ was his way of saying that it was his gift to the world. We heard him speak a few years ago at Charleston and it was clear he was disappointed with the way his invention was being used for darker purposes he’d never expected, but I thought of those words ‘this is for everyone’ because this is exactly what Jesus is saying to the Greeks and to us in John’s gospel today. He is gifting everyone the opportunity to know God through Him, to share in that glory which Jesus tells us is central to His relationship with God as Father and Son. Where Tim Berners-Lee’s internet is vulnerable to exploitation and abuse Jesus is promising to overcome those forces of darkness, and then to ‘draw all people to myself.’


Our gospel today takes us to the heart of who Jesus is.  At the centre of the gospel is this sense that Jesus exists firstly in terms of his relationships to those around him. He is a friend to Philip and Andrew, an object of fascination to the Greeks and   he Himself reminds us that He is Son to God His Father. Jesus seems to be saying that loving relationships are key to experiencing God and to understanding who Jesus is.  John helps us to see Jesus firstly as someone who is both physically present to Philip, Andrew, and the Greeks. He is someone they can see, someone who they can walk and talk with.    John roots the strange and wonderful things that Jesus is about to say about Himself in a very real and very dangerous world.  It must have been an extraordinarily volatile and febrile time- John has just described Jesus having dinner with Mary and Martha and Lazarus, people are coming from miles around to wonder at the man raised from the dead, the chief priests are planning to murder Lazarus in order to silence the stories about him and then Instead of lying low out of harm’s way Jesus does the opposite and comes riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. No wonder the Greeks want to meet him!

But The Greeks don’t meet Jesus immediately; and we don’t hear if they ever do.  Before this meeting can take place, Jesus has first got to help them, and us, understand the true nature of his relationship to God, and the meaning of his death, which he makes clear is imminent.


First, he begins with the parable of the seed, the husk of which must die in order to be transformed into something immensely fruitful.  The husk of the seed breaks open in the ground to send new shoots into the world above, and Jesus is telling us that his death will be an act which will bring new life in its wake.  Later in John’s Gospel Jesus tells us that this laying down of his life is an act of love- ‘no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’.  Jesus makes it clear that his love is for everyone and for all time- ‘where I am, there will my servant be also.’  The words ‘I am’ remind us of God’s words to Moses when Moses asks God his name, and God replies, ‘I am who I am’.  Jesus and God are one ‘I am’. When Jesus talks of us as his followers being ‘Where I am’ he seems to be inviting us into a love in which all creation can be at one with God and Jesus.  This is a love which is ready to take on the darker and more troubling aspects of life.  In His humanity Jesus knows that unhappiness; ‘my soul is troubled’ He says , but he also tells us that His love will help us overcome those darker forces, those forces which he associates with ‘the ruler of this world.’  These darker forces don’t get discussed in detail.  Perhaps this is because we all have our own dark places and Jesus wants us to know that in whatever ways we may feel ‘the ruler of this world’ influencing our thoughts and actions we won’t be overwhelmed by them if we choose to follow him.  The parable of the seed shows us that  his death will be how he inspires us to new life, a way of living through  which we’ll be lifted out of the depths of those darker forces; ‘I when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself’ says Jesus, reminding us again of the image of the seed dying to give new life. 


At the centre of Jesus’s gift to all people is his relationship with God, his Father, and the love between them.  The voice from Heaven expresses this love in a way which is both divine and yet also recognisably human in its expression of love for Jesus as Son.  I think this love is partly what the Gospel means by glory; a glory which is paradoxically going to find part of its expression in the pain, humiliation and suffering of Jesus’s death on the cross. This is a glory which everyone can share because at its heart is God’s love- a love which encompasses all our pain, suffering  and joy, and which truly is for everyone.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy spirit amen.


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