Sermon – March 18th, 2018. ‘Interview with a Church’
Passiontide begins today in the Church Calendar. The last part of Lent when we turn our thoughts to Jesus journey to Jerusalem and his suffering – his passion – by which the Son of Man will be glorified.
It is the great Passover Feast. Thousands of Jewish pilgrims are in the city. It is a buzz of people, of market sellers, people getting lost, people marvelling at the buildings, where their ancestors had walked and breathed air. It is a buzz also because of the man from Nazareth – Jesus. He had come in the day or so before – on a donkey – to people crying hosanna and to palms being waved – we think more about that entrance next week as we celebrate Palm Sunday. The city is buzzing – what will Jesus do now…
Some Greek’s – approach Philip and ask that they want to see Jesus. The word – We would like to see Jesus – really means, we’d like to have an interview with Jesus. With that action, the clock that has been ticking throughout John’s Gospel and Jesus’ ministry now comes to a new point. With that request Jesus declares ”The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
I’d like to focus upon these Greeks and upon Philip and Andrew…
If people came, and said, they’d like to see All Saints – they’d like to interview our church, what would they find? I like to think 5 things…
A – All involved; B – being disciples; C – community; D- doing evangelism; E – encountering God…
A- All involved.
The Greeks have come to Philip. Philip goes to Andrew. Why Andrew? Why not go himself, he is one of the 12, chosen by Jesus from the start?
Philip perhaps is not the type of man to go up to Jesus and say there are two blokes here;
maybe Philip feels he is not wise enough – are these guys going to waste Jesus time with hassles or arguments, or do they have genuine questions? He has probably seen or heard people come to Jesus asking him questions, but really asking him things in a way to test him or trick him; (eg see Luke 10:v25; Matthew 16:v1-4).
or perhaps Philip is not sure if he should do this because in the past Jesus had sent his disciples to speak with Jews only, and here are Gentiles …
So he goes to and involves Andrew.
The disciples show a simple but important principle. A church surely to be a place where we involve others – a place where we need help because we need the skills, talents, wisdom of others. No man is an island and a church shouldn’t be full of little ones. We should be one large land mass! A church is also where we recognise the giftings of others and use them, release them – one can speak, another works quietly in the background. Age doesn’t matter. We cannot do it all, be it all. All of us are needed.
Our Men’s Group, last night, has just began its 2018 programme. Each evening will follow one letter of the acronym SHAPE. This stands for S piritual gifts, H eart (the passions, the motivations that shape and drive us), A bilities (learned or natural ones), P ersonality, E xperience of life. Every person has a SHAPE and church is to be a place where everyone can express it.
All Saints needs all of us, to be the community God is shaping us into, and leading us forward. No one can say to you, you are too young. No, we are to be all involved.
B – being disciples.
As Andrew and Philip stood with Jesus in that city, they have been followers for three years. The words Jesus shares with them gives us a direction for our discipleship, how we are to be disciples and to become disciples.
Jesus speaks to Philip and Andrew about death. He talks about his own death that it is necessary, for out of that death, comes much life, such as when one grain of wheat dies, it produces many seeds. Then he declares that the ones who serve and follow him, must be willing to lose it all for him – willing to die so to speak, as Jesus will himself model.
As we serve and follow Jesus, we regularly get those challenges – will we lose it all for him, are we willing to put his words into practice, are we willing to forgive those who hurt us, are we willing to love the stranger, the difficult person, will we love the people we don’t like, will be doing things in our streets, our city, that maybe aren’t popular but are the ways Christ calls us to serve and follow him… Will we let Jesus be in charge of all parts of our life, or will we keep a part away or make excuses why he can’t have it or why we can’t give it…
So to be a disciple is to follow and to serve Jesus, willing to lose our lives for him, so church is a place about serving Jesus and following him, where lives are ‘lost’, lost for Jesus.
Would that be something the people see in our church – those people at All Saints are people about serving Jesus and following him, they are being and becoming disciples…
C – Community.
Philip and Andrew. Who are they? They were some of the first followers. In John 1, we read that they are both from the same town in Galilee. Same town, same community, same accent, for as Peter reveals in the High Priests courtyard, the accent in the Jerusalem is so much different from Galilee, (Matthew 26:v73).
But we note – Philip doesn’t have the same job – not a fisherman like Andrew. And he had different experience of following Jesus – Andrew spends the day with Jesus, Philip – all it says, is Jesus met him and said ‘follow me’ – simple, yet it made the mark. Philip and Andrew – different in perhaps some ways and similar in some, yet united by following in the Master’s steps, having the dust of Jesus upon them.
The church surely is to be such a community – to be united, yet not expecting everyone to be the same, look and act the same. A church is to be a community of unity and diversity. So as new people arrive they are not expected to fit An All Saints model’ but rather as people arrive, we want people to be formed into the Jesus model and they become part of this community of Jesus followers…
D – Doing Evangelism.
These Greeks have been drawn to Jesus. Just before this, we hear the Pharisees say: ”Look how the whole world has gone after him.”(John 12:v17-19). As in John 3, as Peter shared last week, the word for world is Kosmos. This word when used in John commonly means to people everywhere, without racial distinction, but those who are lost without Christ and in rebellion against God.
The aim of Jesus mission, the reason for ‘the hour to come’, the reason he will suffer, the reason he will be lifted up, to save the world. He longs for the whole world to go after Him. So the crowd who welcomed him on Palm Sunday and these Greeks who seek to speak with Jesus, anticipates the vast humanity who will enjoy Jesus saving reign. As he said ”when I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to myself.” All people – without distinction, regardless of race, age, background, gender.
And Philip and Andrew help these Greeks to meet Jesus. As Philip had helped his friend Nathanael: all he said – ”Come and see” and encouraged him despite being a sceptic who declared ”can anything good come out of Nazareth.” Andrew who, after meeting Jesus, went to his brother ”We have found the Messiah” and brought him to Jesus. Can it be, because of what Philip and Andrew have experienced over the past 3 years, they too want others to discover Jesus. Can it be that John includes this moment of what Philip and Andrew did, not just to reveal such profound words about how death means not defeat but glory for Jesus. Can it be he also adds Philip and Andrew actions to remind us, that it is through ordinary people like them and us, that God uses to draw people to his Son? Will our church be places of evangelism, through our words and actions that people meet Jesus, who seeks to draw all to himself?
E – encountering God.
In the street or temple area, Jesus prays spontaneously – he brings the situation of the moment to God his Father. He prays “Father, glorify your name!” And then amazingly, God the Father speaks “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”
We declare – the Lord is here, His Spirit is with us. This place, church, should be a place where we feel able to bring all thanksgiving our needs and situations to God during our worship. Church a place where God is to be glorified.
But I’d suggest also a place where we are open to hearing God’s voice – a theme our home groups continue to explore – a place where we are open to God confirming or revealing his plans to us – perhaps over months or in a moment. Being open to how the Lord may speak through a verse from the bible, a hymn line, or what someone will say. Perhaps it may be through a picture or a vision. Something that resonates deep within and we know the Lord, has spoken. God knows our deep inner thoughts why shouldn’t he speak re our lives in this place… God is a God who speaks today – we are to be people who hear that voice; let us not be like the crowds who didn’t recognise the voice – the Bible says the crowds thought it was thunder or an angel. We need to grow to recognise that voice…
We want to glorify God and to encounter Him, being open to his voice in our church gatherings.
The Greeks wanted to interview Jesus. If they interviewed our churches we hope they’d see – ABCDE, All involved, Being and becoming disciples; C – community; D – doing mission; E – Encountering God.
A closing prayer.
you gave up your Son
out of love for the world:
lead us to ponder the mysteries of his passion,
that we may know eternal peace
through the shedding of our Saviour’s blood,
Jesus Christ our Lord.