My sermon from tonight’s Eucharist (Tuesday in Holy Week) at St. Mark’s, Warwick.
There is a story told about the fourth-century Egyptian monastic leader, Anthony the Great. The story goes like this: a senior monk and a young novice would journey each year into the desert to seek the wisdom and counsel of Anthony. While the monk was asking questions, the novice would simply stand quietly and take it all in. This pattern continued year after year after year. Finally Anthony questioned the young novice, “Why do you come here and never ask any questions? You never desire my counsel, and you never seek my wisdom. Why do you come?” The young novice responded, “It is enough just to see you. It is enough, for me, just to see you.”
This young novice made this yearly pilgrimage to do two things: to listen and to see. It seems to me that is what the lessons for this day; what this day itself is all about.
“Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away!” Listen to me. We hear the call of the Servant. That Servant is understood to be Israel, and the call is to bring God’s salvation to “the ends of the earth.” This passage from Isaiah is read this day, as a way of reflecting the Church’s long held understanding of the connection between it and the final days of Jesus’ earthly life. The Servant – whether it be Israel or Jesus – has been chosen to bring the salvation and the glory of God to far away peoples and to the ends of the earth.
We too, are reminded of our task to bring God’s glory into the world. Paul in the first letter to the Corinthians writes, “Consider your own call . . . Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise . . .” God calls each of us before we are born to be instruments of God’s love and mercy in the world. God calls us, you and me, and not because we are strong, smart, wise, rich, or powerful. Remember, the way of God does not follow the logic of this world. We are called to be servants, and it does not matter how many excuses we have, how many limitations we can name, or how illogical that call may seem. As the events of this great week unfold, one way we could characterize them is as illogical – at least by our standards. In God, in service to God, death brings life, shame brings glory, humiliation brings honor. We are called – particularly this week – to live by God’s logic, not our own: to walk with Jesus from Jerusalem, to the cross, to the glories of His resurrection.
The Gospel we heard a few moments ago opens with some Greeks asking to see Jesus. But what are they seeking? What is it, who is it, that they wish to see? In this passage we do not learn anything new about Jesus, or the events that will soon unfold. Instead we see Jesus, we see Jesus coming ever closer to the cross. But, I wonder what happens if we replace the Greeks in this story with ourselves. I wonder; what is it that you seek? Whom do you wish to see? Do you really, I mean really, wish to see Jesus?
I think it is safe to bet that we all seek Jesus. Why else would we be here this night, last night, tomorrow or any other time for that matter. But, do we really wish to see Jesus? Do we really want to walk with Jesus?
Despite how tempting it might be – we cannot go from Palm Sunday directly to Easter. If we are to truly understand what the death and resurrection of Jesus is all about we must walk this week with Him in its fullness. From Palm Sunday, to yesterday and today, to Spy Wednesday, and the Triduum Sacrum – the Three Holy days. We must be at the betrayal, the last supper, in the garden, at the arrest, the trial, the crucifixion; we must be at the tomb. The only way we will truly see Jesus is to see all of him, not just the parts that make us feel good. Jesus says, “Whoever serves me must follow me.” I do not believe that there is a qualifier that allows us to follow Jesus only where we wish to go. We must follow, we must witness the death, shame, and humiliation in the service and complete obedience of God to truly understand the glory and honor of this week: to understand what it means to be a disciple and follower of Christ.
I invite you to continue your journey through this great and holy week. Not as a reenactment out of some sense of obligation, but as a way to walk with Jesus in God’s own time: to be at the last supper, in the garden, at the cross and at the tomb when it is covered and when it is empty. May we leave room for God to enter and transform our lives as we listen, see, and walk through all of the events that are about to unfold.
My friends, the light is with us for a little while longer. Listen, see, watch, and walk with the light, so that the darkness may not overtake us.