“Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John 12:31-32
So here are three Lenten ponderings for us, as we stand positioned between the ruler of this age in his seduction and the man of Nazareth who is the alternative: 1. The new truth of Jesus, honoured by God, is that self-giving love is the wave of the future, and we are called to follow. 2. The Lord of the cosmos has signed on to this alternative we see in Jesus, because that is the very character of God. 3. The new way of suffering love in the world is a magnet that will draw us to new life.
Try this as a Lenten plot. Lent is the time we stand, each of us – liberal and conservative – just between the Lord of suffering love and the ruler of this world. We stand there pulled in both directions and sense the enormous ambiguity of our life, wishing to care and be generous but wanting also to be selfish and have it our own way. Lent is being drawn:
- to Jesus’ way in the world, to Jesus’ news, to Jesus’ people who practice generosity and forgiveness and hospitality; - away from the ruler of this world, away from greed, away from fear, away from anxiety, away from brutality.
We are all in this process. We are being drawn toward. We are being drawn away. The pivot point, the extreme case, is that Friday of forgiveness and thirst. But he said about himself and us, “Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies… it will not grow.” The new growth from self-giving is Easter. Easter joy! Easter freedom! Easter goodness! But only via Friday. So we expect, in these thoughtful days, to be drawn to Jesus. Friday is his embodiment of self-giving love as a magnet. The heavenly God intends us to be attracted to it and therefore given a new start in neighbourly community. Do not linger over the rulers of this world. They are being driven out. The text gives us the secret clue to newness. The world little suspects. But we know! Draw us, Lord, toward you, toward your way of self-giving love. Draw us away from all that is not love – from the forces of greed, fear, anxiety, and brutality. In this Lenten experience of so being drawn toward you and away from the powers of the world,
may we come to find that new life that is the meaning of Easter. Amen (Walter Brueggemann, “A way other than our own” pp 86-7)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
As Paul spoke of the truthful reliability of God’s promise, he knew about a world of fickle deception and betrayal, as do we. The world of advertising, of ideology, of euphemism offers us endless phoniness that coerces and manipulates and invites into a virtual world that has no staying power. Well, here is the news. Out beyond that fickle world there is the world of God’s reliable fidelity, a God who makes and keeps promises, and you can dwell there. As Paul speaks of the God of hope who gives new futures out of love, he knows about a world of despair that traffics in brutality. And so do we. The world of despair believes that there are no new gifts, no fresh generosity, no possibility of newness or forgiveness, and so life becomes a zero-sum game to see who can stay the longest on top of the heap, all the while knowing that there will be no good outcome to the futile rat race. But here is the news. Out beyond that despair that sanctions road rage and violence against the poor and war and ruthless exploitation that leaves one exhausted if not half dead, there is an alternative world bodied in Jesus. It is a world of new gifts and fresh starts grounded in divine forgiveness and sustained by generosity. That world is on offer in this one who is about to be born among us. As Paul envisioned welcome of one another, he knew about a world of exclusion that is grounded in fear and anxiety. And so do we. All around now are barriers and gated and fences that draw lines around gifts and possibilities and resources and access. The lines are drawn closer and closer until all are excluded except the blessed, cunning ones, and even they are left nervous about when the next wall will be built and who will then be excluded. Here is the news. Out beyond the world of exclusion and rejection and hostility, there is on offer a world of welcome that sees the other not as threat or competitor but as cohort on the pilgrimage of humanity. That alternative world of welcome is signed by bread and by wine; but it is known by lives that reach out and touch in order to heal and transform.
God of all hope, we know all too well a world of betrayal despair, exclusion, and conflict. May we live into your alternative world of truth, hope, welcome, and harmony as we trust and follow you. Amen. (Walter Brueggemann, “A way other than our own” pp 84-5)
Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-- even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:4-8 Jesus made himself vulnerable in human form and became obedient. He became an obedient human person, and because of his passion for God’s will for him, he collided with the will and purpose of the Roman Empire and with the Jews who colluded with the empire. He is not crucified because of some theory of atonement. He is crucified because the empire cannot tolerate such a transformative, subversive force set loose in the world. Jesus’ uncompromising commitment to the purpose of God contradicted the empire that lives against the grain of God’s intention. And Paul summons the church and its members to exhibit in their common life the self-emptying that is congruent with Jesus. Paul knew about churches and about church people and the way we tend to act, concerned for self and our pet ideas and our intentions and our vested interests that bruise other people. And he said, do not look to your own interests. So here is my bid to you for Holy Week. As we walk the walk from Palm Sunday to Easter through the Thursday arrest and the Friday execution and the long Saturday wait in the void, imagine all of us, in the wake of Jesus, changing our minds, renewing our minds, altering our opinions concerning self and neighbour and world. The clue to the new mind of Christ is emptying of our need to control and our anxious passion for security. And as our minds change, we come to new freedom. It is Easter freedom, unburdened and fearless, freed for the interest of the neighbour. So we worship this Jesus who was dead and is alive, who was humbled and is exalted. But we also replicate his life in our own lives. We find ourselves with Easter liberty to be our true selves as he himself was his true self. We know this very well: ‘tis a gift to be simple, ‘tis a gift to come down where we ought to be. And where we ought to be is right next to him in self-emptying obedience. We are eager for Easter joy and new life, and yet we are haunted by the space between where we are and where you are. Grant us a new mind, a new readiness, a new heart, that we might stand with you in self-emptying obedience. Amen
(Walter Brueggemann, “A Way Other Than Our Own” pp 82-3)