All my thoughts about this week’s reading are tangential.
First tangent: Andrew. Here is my favourite disciple, displaying why he is my favourite. When Greeks come to speak to Jesus, they go to Philip. Philip takes this to Andrew. It is Andrew who takes them to Jesus. We saw something like this before, in John 6. When Philip is tested with the question “where shall we buy bread to for these people to eat?” It is Andrew who brings the meager offering of 5 loaves and 2 fish to Jesus. I admire Andrew’s faith, and his directness. We also have solutions that seem inadequate (“Seems” madam? Nay, it is. I know not “seems.”) And we have strange opportunities that present themselves most inconveniently. I picture Andrew sort of giving a half-shrug to both, and saying “Well I sure don’t know what to do with this. But Jesus probably does”. Philip tries to problem-solve among his fellow disciples. Andrew knows who has the solutions. If we come to these stories looking for examples of how to live as disciples of Jesus, then that’s a habit worth cultivating. “I sure don’t know what to do with this. But Jesus probably does”.
Second Tangent: Greeks. I’m not sure at what point I became came across the idea that these Greeks were coming to Jesus not just to learn from him, but with an offer to go back with them to Greece and teach his philosophy without fear of persecution. Certainly Jesus’ answer, about the hour having come, and a grain of wheat falling into the earth and dying, suggests that the question ran something along the lines of “Why stay on this path when it is clear that they intend to kill you”. In a Greek story, these strangers arriving to whisk Jesus away to safety would play the role of Deus ex Machina. But this is not a Greek story. And Deus has other plans.
Third Tangent: Covenant and Names. The covenant proclaimed by Jeremiah, this unbreakable covenant with the law written on hearts, is heard this week in the midst of the longer arc of Jeremiah provided by the daily office readings. In Jeremiah 16 and 23 God declares through the prophet that no longer will God be known as the God who brought the people out of slavery in Egypt, but as the God who gathered in the people from the North and from the South. This God who, in making a covenant with them, turned Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Isreal, is now taking on a new name. God knows what God is getting into, here. We are a fickle people. We fail again and again to keep our covenant. And yet, once more and even more so, God reveals the Divine desire to remain in covenant relationship. Knowing that we will not change who we are, God changes who God is- or at least how God will be known and talked about.
The beauty of having a God who is in all places is that tangents begin with God, and point towards God. In these readings for Lent 5 I see story of choices, laid out for us. God chooses covenant. God chooses death and resurrection. God, clearly, chooses us.
The immensity of that is really more than I can get my head around. And so the challenge for preaching becomes- how do we help our people to see Jesus? How do we move through the world, holding on awareness of the immensity of God’s choice for us and let that inform our choices for God? And how do we bring the paucity of our own resources for that task, and offer them to Jesus, in trust that Jesus can and will do something with what we have to offer?