Monday, July 18, 2016

Spitin' Image

1 Corinthians 1:18-24   (NRSV)
18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
          and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

John 12:20-33 (NRSV)
20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
27 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

I am still pretty new here, but I want you to imagine for a moment that I am a stranger and that I have come to worship at Meridian Street for the very first time.

Now I also want you to imagine that I was somebody who did not know anything about Jesus, and I was curious to learn about him.

I said to you: “You are a Christian.  You must be, or why else would you be worshipping here this morning.  Since, I don’t know this Jesus that you are here worshipping --- Please --- Show me Jesus!

Show me Jesus!

I don’t want you to answer out loud, but I want you to figure out in your mind what you would say to me.
Because what you choose to show me is going to say a good deal about your faith. 
About your relationship to God. 
About how you perceive God.

So I come to you today and I ask you: SHOW ME JESUS!
          What will you show me?

I am very serious about this question.  SHOW ME JESUS!

ALTAR --- and the Beautiful Cross – I can find Jesus there

BIBLE --- Here is Jesus in this book.  I can find Jesus written on the pages in the words of the book

CONSTRUCTION SITE --- Jesus is in the new building

TAKE ME TO THE WALL OF PASTORS --- and show me some of the former pastors and say here is Jesus -- or show me Pastor Matt



Or maybe you would show me THIS FELLOWSHIP --- In the midst of this gathering on Sunday morning – that is where I can find Jesus.  We act so different that we can see Jesus here.

Or is Jesus just a myth, a figment of somebody’s imagination?

So I ask you: SHOW ME JESUS; what would you show me?

Or maybe --- maybe you would have the courage and temerity to point to YOURSELF.  You might do that if you were the spitin’ image of Jesus

In our Gospel lesson this morning this is precisely what happened.  A group of Greeks came to the disciples and Philip and said: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 

Paul tells us that the Greeks sought WISDOM
As so they come to the disciples and say: SHOW US JESUS.

It is easy to understand why they came asking this.
          Do you know what happened just prior to this story according to John?
                   Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and Palm Sunday.

Paul tells us that the Greeks seek WISDOM
          Do you think Jesus taught them anything?

Maybe they were looking for understanding life and death
          Why do good people hurt?
Maybe they came because they were seriously seeking life
Or maybe success in their lives, maybe Jesus could improve their lives.
Maybe they were looking for simply how to survive --- how to live.

Those are all possible reasons why they came, and are the same reasons why people come today seeking to see Jesus.

But when the Greeks came, what did Jesus show them as the core reality of what he is?
          The answer should shock you!  Maybe even astonish you!
Jesus did not show them life, nor any great healing or teaching ---

Is this what you would show somebody who is asking to see Jesus? 
Would you show them pain and death, failure and defeat?

Listen again to what Jesus said:  “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

What makes Jesus different was not his incredible teachings,
          It was not his incredible healings
          It was not his incredible miracles
          It was neither wisdom or signs
What made Jesus different was that Jesus died --- on a cross.

The cross is what made Jesus the son of God.

By our standards, Jesus was an absolute failure --- but by God’s – his death was GLORY

And on that cross we are told that Jesus would draw us unto him.

Listen again: “when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” 

Jesus is drawing Meridian Street United Methodist Church to himself

Jesus is making us a part of him

It is almost as though he offered to reach down from the cross and shake hands with us. 
And if we have the courage to take his hand --- we find that he will NEVER let us go!

That is the core of our faith!

Jesus dies for us and draws us in
          And because of that --- we are no longer the same.

Let me try to tell you this in another way.  Walter Wangerin, is a great storyteller, and I want to share one of his stories.  He says that it is a true story.

When Walter was a young boy his mother once said: “Wally, you are the spitin image of your grandpa.”
          I wondered what the spit was? Walter would ask
Walter’s grandpa used to spit tobacco --- so did that mean that when he grew up he would be able to spit tobacco like his grandpa?     
          Was that the spit?

His grandfather was the caretaker of a cemetery in St Louis and he loved to spit tobacco
          He knew his grandpa loved him and he loved to put on a show for Wally
                   He would lean back and spit --- a beautiful brown wad --- like a comet
Mom said “I’m the spitin image of my grandpa, and I wondered if that meant that when I grew up I would be able to spit just like my grandpa did”

Grandpa would tell Wally the secrets of life and death
          When you die --- your hair and nails continue to grow
          Sometimes when a body was cremated it would sit up and scream

One day mom announced that we needed to go and see grandpa
          “Why, we never visit grandpa in the fall”
Mom said it was because grandpa was dying
          It felt like something was wrong --- and I did it

Grandpa was dying
          Nobody said what dying was
          And nobody said what you do for dying

We rode to St Louis --- and I sat very small in the car
          Nobody said what dying was
          And nobody said what you do for dying

When we arrived we were ushered into the house and it was very quiet
          Nobody said what dying was
          And nobody said what you do for dying

The kids were all sent into the living room and they were invited in to see grandpa -- one at time
          Nobody said what dying was
          And nobody said what you do for dying

Wally shares how his grandpa called him in --- and as he walked into the bedroom he walked very small --- his mother left him and let him go in by himself
          Nobody said what dying was
          And nobody said what you do for dying

He asked his grandpa: “Is this what dying is --- you are no longer the same?”

But his grandfather did not say anything --- he just smiled
AND THEN HE TOLD ME WHAT YOU DO FOR DYING --- he didn’t say it, he showed me.
He reached out with his hand and shook mine --- and I knew what dying was ---- because grandpa invited me in --- I was a part of it.
          I knew what you do for dying and it was OK

Two weeks later the call came, I knew what it was --- and as my mother hung up the phone I walked over to her BIG, because I knew what to do --- and I did what you do for dying --- I reached out my hand and I took hers and shook it --- because that is what grandpa showed me you do for dying.

My mother grabbed me and pulled me close and said: WALLY, YOU ARE THE SPITIN IMAGE OF YOUR GRANDPA, and I wondered what the spit was.

Years later Walter says that he was paying a pastoral visit with a woman, her husband had recently died and she was talking about her son Arthur --- in the conversation she mentioned that Arthur was the spitin image of his dad.

Walter was taken back and chuckled and said his mom used to say that he was the spitin image of his grandpa, but he always wondered what the spit was.


I didn’t say spit she said --- I said spitin’, there is a huge difference.

It’s not spit --- it is just the way southerners say spirit.
You are not the spit image of someone --- you are the spirit and image of someone.

Walter said it took his breath away as he sat back in his chair.
For he realized that he just didn’t look like his grandpa, but that his grandpa lived in him.  His spirit was in him!

So when I ask you: SHOW ME JESUS --- If you are the spirit and image of Jesus, then you can show me yourself. 

If you have been drawn into his death by a profound handshake --- you just might have the courage to point toward you.  If it is the spirit of Jesus that lives in you.


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