The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer

Introduction to the readings for the fifth Sunday in the season of Lent, March 22, 2015

This morning, our scripture readings invite to discern God’s call for how our individual lives and our shared life as a faith community might look different than it does today.   We begin with a reading from the thirty first chapter of the book of Jeremiah. 

As a backdrop to this morning’s readings, we are reminded of Jeremiah’s listeners.   Here, the reading catapults us back some 500 years before the birth of Jesus.  The context is thought to be set in a period of geographic division of into the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.  Here we have a community of devastated people who have previously not listened to God’s word offered through the prophecy of Jeremiah. 

In this thirty first chapter of the book of Jeremiah, Jeremiah offers a portrait of a God, who, having seen the people’s suffering, is changed.

Here, through Jeremiah, God promises the community a new and different covenant than previous ones.

In contrast with the Ten Commandments where God’s Law is inscribed on tablets of stone, this new Law from God will be written across the people’s hearts.

With no more intermediaries between them, God promises the people “I will be your God…and you will be my people….”

Listen deeply to what arises for you as we bear witness to this ancient story coming to us from the thirty first chapter of the Book of Jeremiah, verses 31-34. 

“I will write my law upon their hearts.”

“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt-a covenant that they broke, though I was their Master, says the Lord.  But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: “I will put my law within them, and I will write on their hearts: “and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” says the Lord; “for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”

Please remain seated for our responsive hymn found at More Voices, p. 106 “I am the dream” begins…

For the third Sunday in a row, our good news comes to us from the gospel according to John.   

This morning, jumping ahead 11 chapters from last week’s reading, we encounter Jesus in his final public dialogue.  His audience of listeners would encompass a mixture of folks gathered at Jerusalem for the Passover Festival.  Among them were some individuals from Greece who had approached Philip of Bethsaida saying “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”  This morning’s reading follows along from Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem which we will hear again next Sunday. 

According to Eugene Peterson in his book “The Message , The Bible in Contemporary Language, in John’s gospel, “…Jesus doesn’t impose salvation as a solution to the world’s sin, he narrates salvation into being through leisurely conversation, intimate personal relationships, compassionate responses, passionate prayer, and-putting it all together-a sacrificial death.” (p. 1443)

Listen with care, knowing that Jesus knows that he is shortly be tried and put to death on the cross.

A reading from the gospel according to John, Chapter 12, verses 20-33 “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth”

“Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks.  They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.  Jesus answered them, “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.  Those who love their life lose it and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me, must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.  Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

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. 28Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

Reader: Through these words from long ago    All:  May we hear God’s living Word.