We look for Jesus, the face of the Triune God, in our lives and our communities hoping to see God’s healing and forgiveness.
Vicar Andrea Bonneville
Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year B
Texts: Jeremiah 31:31-34 John 12:20-33
Beloved in Christ, grace and peace to you in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
“We want to see Jesus”
It really is a simple and common request. We ask to see Jesus in our lives through our prayers, scripture reading, worship, and service. We ask to see Jesus as we move throughout our day seeking to see the work of the Triune God in our lives, our communities, and our world.
How? Or when? Did you ask to see Jesus, the face of the Triune God, this past week?
In today’s Gospel reading, we hear a request to see Jesus. It isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last time that the people of God plea for the presence of the Triune God to be known to us.
We don’t know the whole story behind why the people want to see Jesus, but I imagine they all had a different hope for what they would see if they saw Jesus. Whatever their reason, they probably weren’t expecting the response they received.
Jesus doesn’t walk out into the crowd and greet the people who seek him. Instead, a transformation in Jesus’ ministry is happening and soon people aren’t going to see Jesus in the ways that they have been taught or told. Soon, they are going to learn a different way of being in relationship with the Triune God.
John’s Gospel alludes to when Jesus will be lifted up in front of the crowds on a cross and that Jesus will fall into the earth and resurrect out of the earth. “We want to see Jesus” is the request, and the response is that Jesus soon will be seen on the cross for the sake of all creation for the reconciliation of all humanity.
The people gathered to see Jesus will learn the insight that has already been made know to us through Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection.
To see Jesus is to see the Triune God in the midst of the sin and suffering of our world in ways and places that we don’t expect to see life, love, and forgiveness.
A few years ago, I traveled to El Paso, Texas to participate in a border immersion program to learn, see, and listen to the immigration experience. I didn’t know what I expecting to see, but my heart was searching to see Jesus. For me, seeing Jesus was to see the embodiment of God’s love, forgiveness, and transformation happening in a place where all I had heard about was the oppression of people seeking a new and safe future for their families.
One of the days, we had the opportunity to visit with a member of the congregation leading this program. Anna had lived in the US for about 25 years, coming here to seek medical care for her daughter who needed surgery. She was able to seek asylum her with her daughter, but the rest of her family were denied. She hasn’t been able to see her family for 25 years because if she did, they would all be at risk of extreme violence.
I remember being invited into Anna home and listening to her story. I was drawn into her story, but I found myself putting up a guard, turning my eyes and ears away because listening to her story broke my heart. Maybe you have had an experience like this? Wanting to lean into listen, but then realizing the pain was too great so you turn away. If you are like me, you might turn to wanting to fix the problem rather than just sitting and listening. While I was busy trying to fix the injustice of the entire immigration system in my head, I turned away from Anna’s story while Anna continued to share with us her experience.
Pain and suffering were only part of Anna’s story, but it wasn’t what consumed her. Through Christ, she explained, she found the strength to proclaim God’s steadfast love for her family and grace towards the powers that oppressed her and her family. She shared about the passion she had for providing care and support to young immigrant parents and their families, about serving food to her neighbors, and about teaching Sunday school.
Out of her love for Christ, Anna embodied the love and service of Jesus. Reminding me and teaching me not to turn way from looking for the ways the Triune God is transforming our hearts, our lives, and our communities.
We are constantly looking for Jesus. It’s easy to live by the way of this world and let destruction, violence, and sin have the final say, but the promise is that Christ is present our suffering and the suffering of the world.
When we look for Jesus, we look for Jesus on the cross, not because it’s Jesus’ permanent residence, but because the cross is the ultimate place where forgiveness and reconciliation happen, when all creation is drawn to the forgiveness of Christ.
It is where we experience unconditional love and forgiveness so that we can move outward and see the presence of God and be the presence of God as an act of radical hope and promise.
Seeing Jesus in unexpected places transforms our world. Because seeing Jesus, as the face of Christ in others, moves us to extend compassion and empathy and forgiveness that can really bring healing to our communities.
And when we see the face of Christ in our neighbor, it makes it really hard to hate or fear or turn away from the pain our neighbor. And when we see the face of Christ in our ourselves, it is hard to dislike ourselves and turn away for the calling God has placed on our hearts.
Five-hundred years before God entered this world in human flesh, God was speaking through the prophet Jeremiah to people who knew deep in their bones the pain and suffering caused by oppression, violence, and destruction from the powers of this world.
God says through the prophet Jeremiah, “for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest […] for I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more.” This divine forgiveness is the foundation for how God enters into relationship with all of creation.
Forgiveness, rooted in unconditional and steadfast love, is the law, the instruction, that God engraves on our hearts. So that with every beat of our hearts, this love and forgiveness flows throughout our entire body.
To see Jesus is to be bold and dare to look within the suffering of this world and proclaim “Christ is here”. Hoping for and opening our lives to see and bring forgiveness and healing.