The Rev. Scott Murray
I will be in Tokyo this weekend for the graduation ceremony of my two children from college. As such, I am not preparing a sermon for this weekend. However, the very cogent words of Bruce Epperly convey nicely my own understanding of this Sunday's passage from the Gospel of John.
John’s gospel speaks of losing your life and gaining it. Some Greeks want to “see” Jesus. This can mean “meet,” but it can also mean“know” who he is. In response, Jesus speaks of dying and rising and losing and gaining. Creative transformation always involvesloss. Transformation – like the wood that gives heat in my stove as I write – requires a type of death to the old, familiar, and safe ways of life. Adventure requires letting go of security. Justice requires going beyond self-interest and placing our good in the context of the well-being of others.
Jesus’ soul is troubled. He knows what may be ahead, but again he follows God’s vision for his life, willing to face death for the sake of healing the world.
The question needs to be asked: Where do we need to “die” today? What do we need to “loose” to be faithful to God? Each of us will have to answer this question individually, but I believe this passage and the gospel invites us to consider – losing the tight grip we have on our possessions, letting go of rugged individualism, sacrificing for the sake of community, reconciling with enemies. This is what spiritual stature means – letting go of the firm boundaries of self and other to embrace our common history and destiny.
Sadly, many Christians have been captivated by an unbiblical rugged economic
individualism, inspired by writers such as Ayn Rand, in which lower taxes, the
right to bear arms, and denial of global climate change are identified with
Christian faith. While I recognize the need for effective and efficient government, the role of ownership of property and firearms, and the need for energy, none of these are inherent in the gospel message. In fact, giving more to charity and possibly paying higher taxes if they support better health and education outcomes is implied by the gospel message. Greed and self-interest are unbiblical, and having said that in mycritique of conservative identification of God and country, I need to ask: Where
is our greed and self-interest? Where do liberals need to lose their souls and self-interest? What do we need to jettison to be faithful? Again, the response is individual, but perhaps it includes letting go of: judgment, polarizing politics, and demeaning of opponents, at the very least. We can accurately critique another’s position or way of life without judging as inferior humans those with whom we disagree.
Despite the challenges, these passages are hopeful. They affirm that with the proper pruning, self-sacrifice, and clarity of heart, the constrictive powers of self-interest, isolated individualism, and consumerism can be minimized, thus giving us the capacity to be faithful and large souled people. -Dr. Bruce Epperly, The Adventerous Lectionary