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Fumbling in the Dark
John 12:20-36
John Nadasi,

In every age men and women have stood at the foot of the cross attempting to understand the meaning of what happened there, and why anyone would ever volunteer for such a horrible death.

One leading New Testament scholar recently wrote an article saying that there are at least fourteen different theological perspectives of the cross presented in scripture.

It would seem that the cross is so vast in its meaning And extraordinary in its calling, that one perspective cannot simply capture its meaning.

However, there is at least one consistency. Whoever you are, and whatever your beliefs, the cross is impossible to ignore.

In this weeks lectionary text, We find Jesus explaining to the disciples the cross that awaits him And why he must go.

He, afterall, had his own way of doing things. Jesus put the truth very strongly at times, And in this week’s readings, he stated that those who love their lives will lose them, but those who hate their lives in this world will save them, and keep them unto eternal life.

He gets your attention, doesn’t he? This certainly is a belief that we do not see very often in our modern world. How many people do you know that live this out? I would imagine this perspective was as different in Jesus’ time As it would be in our own.

Why is it that Jesus’ perspective is so different than ours? We all see the world so differently. When walking in the forest the lumberjack sees trees that are ripe for harvesting, the carpenter sees the different kinds of wood for different kinds of furniture and buildings,

the hunter sees the places in which animals might hide when the season is open, and the farmer sees fertile land that could benefit from clearing.

We all have our own unique perspective in which we see the world. And Jesus, Jesus had a unique perspective on the world that none of us Could ever hope to have. Jesus was the Son of God.

And in his perspective, Jesus saw and lived out the Kingdom of God in everything he said and did. And, he followed this vision to the cross that awaited him. He not only followed it out of a sense of destiny, But he followed it out of love and a conviction that He was doing God’s will.

Hmm. How many of us would follow him there? Would you? How many of us would follow Jesus all the way to the cross?

Jesus came among us to rescue and reclaim lost souls, to set us free from the power of sin and death by returning us to God's love, God's law, God's power.

And Jesus did this, at great cost to himself. As he said to a man who thought to follow him "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head".

Jesus renounced everything for the sake of bringing life to those around him: his family - his home, - and finally, his very life he lay down so that others might live, so that others might know the face of God.

Who here would follow him? Who would be willing to leave everything that they have and give Their own life that others would know God?

How is it that Jesus retreated from the comfort Of power, wealth, and prestige to instead become a servant?

I was reading an article recently on the emptiness of wealth. Did this come from a religious magazine, pastor’s sermon, or homiletics book? No. Actually, it is an investor’s report written by a stockbroker, Dr. Paul Farrell, from CBS MarketWatch to be exact.

“In a recent column we asked: "Why Are Investors So Cranky?" Emails poured in.

The bottom line was unanimous. America's so-called new wealth equation is not working. The wealth equation claims that economic prosperity, an increase in the number of American millionaires, from 8 million in 2000 to 50 million in 2020, will actually increase our level of happiness and ethical behavior.

But reality is that the bull market is not making investors happier Getting rich makes Americans more fearful and anxious. Prosperity is not increasing our ethical behavior In short, more wealth is just making us crankier

He continues with… In fact, it turns out that, paradoxically, there may actually be an inverse relationship between money and happiness.

The wealthier, the richer, the more money you got, the crankier you get.

He goes on to make the following observations…

"Everywhere, by all means imaginable, people are striving to improve their lives. Yet strangely, my impression is that those living in materially developed countries, for all their industry, are in some ways less satisfied, are less happy, and to some extent suffer more than those in the least developed countries.

"Indeed, if we compare the rich with the poor, it often seems that those with nothing are, in fact, the least anxious, although they are plagued with physical pains and suffering. "The rich "are so caught up in the idea of acquiring still more that they make no room for anything else in their lives [so] they actually lose the dream of happiness."

Brilliant! Folks, this is an extraordinarily well written, articulate, and thought out article By a man who has most likely never missed a meal in his life.

But, it does offer to us something this morning. It does offer us a confirmation to what Jesus taught, And it offers us a new perspective on what is important and what is not.

No, I personally do not believe there is anything good about poverty, Nor do I believe it is right to glorify not being able to meet your family’s needs.

However, there is a message in this article that proves to me, Beyond any doubt, that the wealth, power, and prestige we want will never Bring us the happiness that we desire in life.

Oh, it might solve some of your problems, But then, it is guaranteed to create new sufferings of its own.

Suffering is inevitable. It is the price of being human.

Carl Jung, a God fearing psychologist, offered another insight to this human tendency.

As the world around us gets more prosperous, reducing real suffering, paradoxically, we naturally seek ways to replace real suffering with psychological suffering.

But in this evolutionary process, we become more acutely aware and conscious of our suffering, and the suffering of others.

In English, we strive to hold onto what makes us human both suffering and happiness.

And, as we do so, we become more aware of both as our world becomes more prosperous. In other words, The more excess we have, the softer we become. The softer we become, the more sensitive we become to pain.

Talk about putting your money where your faith is. How does one walk away from money and power? It is so alluring and promising of a better life.

It makes me question the commercial that the Wall Street Journal is running on television right now.

In it, there are two brothers who are separated at birth. One brother goes to a family that subscribes to the Wall Street Journal, The other brother goes to a family that subscribes to fishing magazines.

As the commercial goes on, The brother that was in the family with fishing magazines is doomed to a Blue collar and mediocre life.

And the brother that was in the family that subscribed to the journal Became filthy, stinking rich.

Well, that’s all well and good, But I found myself asking, Which of these two men have a more fulfilling existence?

The one who sits at a computer screen day after day Stressing over predicting the unpredictable stock market,

Or is it the brother who rises in the morning to go to the lake, Watch the sun come up, See the ducks come off the water And listen to the geese as they rise for their early morning flight? And feel the gentle breeze as the day begins to warm?

Who is more content with their life? The man driving the used pickup truck to go fishing before work, Or the brother sweating the next inevitable crash, Too addicted to the market to give it up?

These fantasies of prosperity and wealth do present some valid questions for us.

So, what does the Gospel reading this morning offer to us? What can we take from it this morning to enrich our lives And make them more meaningful and fulfilled?

Perhaps, more than anything, A new perspective.

Like the lumberjack, carpenter, hunter, and farmer, We have a limited perspective on the forest in which we live.

How about this morning, We look at the world through Christ’s eyes, And his journey to the cross.

Jesus said Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains but a single seed.

But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life in this world will lose it, but the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

This is part of the law of God - given in the new covenant; the law that God has written upon our hearts, which is fruitful in us and can bring meaning to our lives if we allow ourselves to hear it and to heed it.

No, it is not the way the world thinks. It certainly is not the message of prosperity or instant success we See advertised day after day on television.

However, it is the way that God has wired each and every one of us. It is the “law” of God “written upon our hearts.” Folks, its just the way we are wired.

And, Jesus knew this inner law of God, this law that states that the more we seek for ourselves, the more attached we become to the life we have, the more we seek to avoid pain and suffering, the more we ignore the needs of others and seek instead to meet our own, the more wretched we become and the closer to death we are. The tighter you try and hang on to your life and control Every possibility within it, The more you will spin out of control.

And, I think that most of us would agree with that. We at least get it at some conscious level.

If I asked today how many people here believe what I am saying is true I bet most of us would raise our hands.

However, living it out is another story. We recognize what is good for us and what is not, But we as individuals and as a nation have trouble living out our beliefs.

We know what is right, But we are sometimes slow to act upon it, Because we begin to question ourselves and how deep our convictions Really lie when they bring about our own discomfort or pain.

And then, we feel guilty, or perhaps even convicted by the Holy Spirit that our life is not in accord with God’s will for us.

So what are we to do? Seek pain for ourselves?

Well, it has been tried before, It even has a name, its called asceticism, But I do not think that is the answer either.

Let’s turn back to the text. there is something else here that brings me great comfort when I think about this. When I think about the many ways I fumble in the darkness and struggle through my everyday life, and I wonder why my life does not always Represent the ideals that I hold for myself,

I find comfort that Jesus struggled with this too. Even Jesus second guessed himself from time to time.

What am I talking about? Let’s look at verse 27. “Now my soul is troubled. What should I say, Father save me from this hour? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.”

Yet, that is what he asks for in the Lukan account. Chapter 22, verse 42, “Father if you are willing, take this cup away from me.”

Jesus, was no fool. Jesus did not want the pain of the cross he did not want death, he prayed to God that the cup would pass him by.

So, what makes him different? If Jesus questioned himself also, how is he to lead us? Well, he stayed focussed on the part that really mattered, And above all else, he trusted. He trusted that God’s purpose for him, As dismal as it seemed at the moment, Was truly for the best.

If you continue with verse 42, Jesus prays, “yet not my will be done, but yours.”

People of God, we are going to struggle for purpose, We are going to doubt ourselves, We are going to continue to fumbling in the darkness, But in this stumbling and fumbling, If we seek God and are willing to journey to the cross, We can find fulfillment in our lives.

In many ways we are like the people in the story. We have come here wishing to see Jesus. We have heard about Jesus and want to be his servants As we have come to learn that this is in our best interest.

So we have come to learn about him so we can serve him and tell others about him. But as his servants we are supposed to go where he goes.

Although it is easy to follow Jesus when he is raising people from the dead, it is a lot harder to follow him when he is headed for the cross. There is nothing happy here. This is not a good time. Yet, it was where God directed him to go, And where his life’s purpose was fulfilled.

People of God, if we wish to follow Jesus there are crosses in our future as well If we seek to be disciples of Jesus then there will be some dark times ahead just as there were dark times for Jesus’ first disciples.

If we want the eternal life that comes only through Jesus we can not cling to this life as if it is all that exists. That is as hard or even harder to accept now as it was back then.

But Jesus offers us hope in times of darkness. The light is with us now. Christ is here.

If we will trust in the light we will become sons and daughters of the light. Then, when the darkness comes, we will not be left fumbling in the dark.

Folks, If this sounds all too abstract and ethereal to make any sense to you, Then listen to these words…

I am sure you have all heard the expression, “Let go, let God.”

In fact, you have probably heard it enough that is somewhat of a cliché. But, people of God, take this seriously this morning. You can find fulfillment if you are truly willing to let go and trust.

If you desire meaning and purpose for your life, Seek God’s face first. Be prepared to find that God’s desire for your life Will be different and in the end, far better than your own.

Folks, this is just the way we are wired. It is the way that God has designed and engineered us to run. God has “written his law upon our hearts.” Serving God and others is the only way to truly find fulfillment and purpose.

Thomas Merton wrote the following prayer. I have printed it for you in the bulletin.

I will read it for you, And then, we will read it together. Think about these words, Let them sink in.

See that they are the words that God has written upon your heart.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You. And I hope I have that desire for all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this You will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone. -Amen