#ASavingLife is the reflection for March 22, 2015. What does a fresh reading of Jesus’ willingness to die for us do to our perspective on life, service and those we hate? Find out what it means to live a “salvific life”, a life that saves. Available on itunes and android. #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #Sacrifice, #HeavenOnEarth #Universality
For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 3/22/2015 The 5th Sunday of Lent.
Please pause this audio and read John 12:20-33.
Would you die to save my life?
It is a shocking request, even as I think about it. Would I die for someone? Would I throw myself over the children in my care like the teachers of the Newtown, CT massacre? Would I climb up the stairs to save lives that were as good as lost just to save one or two, like the first responders in the World Trade Center on 9/11?
Even more than just reacting to a situation where our instincts to protect someone else come in, what if the situation is in the future and we have time to think about the pain and suffering of our protective instinct. Would we still protect the people around us? Would you die for me if you had time to think about it? Would you die for people who did not share your faith? Would you die for people who hated you? Would you die for a principle, a belief?
When we approach Scripture, we need to read it afresh and new sometimes. This is one of those times. We need to remove ourselves from the idea that we know that Jesus willingly went to the Cross for us. We need to hear it afresh. We need to think of Jesus in his humanity, knowing far in advance of his death, that he was going to die a miserably painful death for you and for me.
Every Gospel has a point where Jesus’ journey turns to the journey to the Cross beginning in earnest. Most notably is Luke 9:50 where it says, “From this point forward he set his face to Jerusalem.” This passage for today is that turning point in the Gospel of John. From this 12th Chapter, Jesus will head to the Cross and rise again.
Here, Jesus has just entered Jerusalem in what we think of as Palm Sunday. We will observe Palm Sunday next week, but for this passage the context is that the people of Jerusalem have just welcomed Jesus as if he were a king. The Pharisees say, “Look! You can do nothing! The world has gone after him!” Right after that, in the passage for today, John writes that the Greeks have come to seek out Jesus, just like the Jews of Jerusalem just did.
There is a reality of perspective to the death of Jesus Christ. There is a call to discipleship in the death of Jesus Christ. There is a universality to the death of Jesus Christ. There is an amazing selfless, life giving, quality to the death of Jesus Christ.
The reality of Jesus’ death is that it does not promise an easy way. Here we see that Jesus says, “And what should I say—Father, save me from this hour? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.” The purpose of the Savior is to save. The purpose of the Savior is not to make life easy for others. The purpose of the Savior is not to give people riches. The purpose of the Savior is not to keep us from getting sick, divorced, rejected, or persecuted. The purpose of the Savior is to give our lives the perspective that this life is not the end.
There is another life that we will live. In fact, if we are followers of Jesus, if we have been baptized into him and his life, then we are living that life right now. It is a life that is impervious to what happens to us, but yet, takes what happens to us into account. It is the life that caused Maximillian Kolbe to sing hymns while being tortured by the Nazis. It is the calmness in the faces of the Coptic Christians as they were being prepared for death by the extremist ISIS butchers. It is the fact that it is for this hour that Jesus has come. He has come to save us from thinking that the ways of the world are true: the screaming from the TV that fulfillment is just one more product away, if only we were to buy it for three easy payments. There is only one payment that fulfills: the payment of one life on the Cross for the salvation of your soul, my soul, and the souls of people who we hate and love.
The fact that Jesus Christ was willing to die should blow us away. The fact that Jesus Christ was willing to die and knew it way ahead in the game should make us marvel. The fact that Jesus was willing to die for those who whipped him, spit on him and nailed his hands and feet to the cross should make us just not know what to do with it all. Should he take the easy way out? No, it is for this hour that he came.
For us, too, is the call of the Savior to a salvific life: “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.” What does this mean, to live a salvific life? It means to live whatever life has been given to us with dignity, a dignity that bears witness to the reality of Heaven, the reality of love of God and love of neighbor.
A salvific life is a life that may be stricken with disease and we are called to witness through how we live out our days with perspective that this disease is our cross and we welcome it. We welcome it to make us treasure each moment with people we love and who love us. We welcome its lessons to teach us how to savor the moments that really count and the inspiration we give to struggle on living each moment regardless the outcome.
A Salvific life fights for justice that seems hopeless because the poor, the lonely, the mentally ill, the homeless, the working poor, the deprived of services, those in prison and those who are addicted need someone to love them because no one wants to love them. It is a life that stands out on Facebook calling out the privileged and sanctimonious to care, love, treat with kindness and justice those that even some Christians don’t think deserve it. A salvific life doesn’t care about who deserves it, just like Jesus didn’t make exceptions to his saving us on the Cross for those who deserved it. If I recall, the Cross was for everyone, “the Jew first and then the Greek,” so to speak.
There is a universality to the offer of a salvific life to people. Anyone, anywhere, under any circumstance can come to know that Jesus died for their sins—and he did so willingly. The offer of a salvific life can give purpose to a life that has grown weary of chasing after American dreams that have no value. The hard part for us is that the salvific life, the life offered for salvation of others, is even offered to people we hate or think are out of contention for God’s love.
For the Pharisees, the fact that Jesus was welcoming people they thought were undesirable, including the Greeks who are introduced at the beginning of the passage for today, is just too much. That is the same for us. Stop for a moment and think of all the people that you would have a hard time thinking that Jesus would come to them. Yeah, right, there is a list, even in my head. These are the people for whom he came. We, too, should be hopeful and be instruments of God’s love for them.
One last thing about the universality of our faith needs to be said. If someone were to destroy all of the artifacts of Christianity, desecrate and destroy all of the geographical holy places of Christianity, or burn all of the institutions of Christianity, the religion and faith of Christianity cannot be destroyed. There is no one place of Christ. There is no one language that is better than another for Christ. There is no one ethnicity of Christ. There is no one type of city, object, place or anything of Jesus Christ. There is just Christ. The universe is through him, with him, in him and in the unity of the Holy Spirit for all honor and glory are his.
The even more amazing thing about this universality of faith and its treasures is that Jesus died so that he could share it. It is the ultimate selfless act. The one through whom all things were made became his very own creation so that he could then include that creation in his position in heaven and on earth. Jesus did not create the priesthood, the diaconate or rank of bishop so that there would be lording over the people. He came as prophet, priest and king so that he could serve us that we would serve others.
So, as I sit and think of how God has made us and how Christ has been our example of faith, it makes perfect sense that someone would put their body over little children to protect them from a gunman. It makes perfect sense that people would climb up countless steps against the flow of human traffic to save just one person who could not make it on their own in a natural disaster. It makes perfect sense that we would risk our standing in the community to invite our friends and neighbors to church. It makes perfect sense that we would sit, listen to a reflection and rethink how our lives could be made sacrificial for those around us. That is what our Savior did freely for us. That is what we are called to do for others, too. Amen.
Has this reflection been meaningful to you? Please consider becoming a Partner. The My Spiritual Advisor Partners Program invites you to invest in making spirituality available to all through a consistent monthly donation. Go to MySpiritualAdvisor.com/partner/ for more details.
This audio is under the copyright of MySpiritualAdvisor.com and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of MySpiritualAdvisor.com, LLC. MySpiritualAdvisor.com, 2015.