21st March 2021

Passion Sunday

Lent 5

Rev. Tom Mumford

‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified’ I pray that I may speak to you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy  Spirit. Amen.

‘The hour has come’, the moment is here, the time is now

I wonder how those phrases make you feel? Do they excite you? The idea that your moment is coming, your moment to shine, to fulfiyour dreams, to live up to your potential…Or do those phrases bring you out in a cold sweat? The idea that your moment has come, your chance to have, or to do, the thing you’ve always wanted is here…but it’s just so blooming scary, and you’d rather just carry on as you are. I know from my own experience that when times of opportunity arise in life, it’s often a mixture of both those feelings. There’s excitement of new things to come, but also the fear, often, of failing or falling short, of not being enough. And of course there’s also the fear that this thing we’ve wanted or looked forward to, or sought after, doesn’t quite live up to our expectations.

I wonder what Jesus felt? This declaration that his ‘hour has come’ seems triumphant…but as we have seen and will see, it isn’t all plain sailing for him either. In the gospel narratives, particularly from the early part of his earthly ministry, Jesus took time to come to this call, this realisation that his ministry would culminate in death on a cross. As we will see in the coming weeks, particularly on Maundy Thursday, there is pain and fear in this call too. He is conflicted before he enjoins his will to that of God the Father. ‘The hour has come’

This week’s gospel reading marks a major step change in our journey to Easter. In John’s gospel this is the pivot, the place where Jesus stops saying ‘my hour has not yet come’, like he did to his mother at the wedding in Cana, and to his disciples on other occasions. From this point Jesus seems ready. Ready to move on, to go forward, to his destiny on the Cross. The Cross being the place where all is revealed, for the writer of John’s Gospel. The place where Jesus is lifted up and revealed to the world for who he is. ‘when I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself’, today’s gospel reading goes. This week’s gospel reading also marks a major step change in Lent. For those of you who are sad like me, and enjoy the twists and turns of the Church year, you will know that today is Passion Sunday, the beginning of Passiontide, which is the week leading up to Holy Week.

In some Churches, this is the time when all images of Christ are covered, all crosses are either veiled or taken down. It’s a sign that now things are really getting serious, there’s no turning back, ‘the hour’ has indeed come. But what is it ‘the hour’ for? Well, as Jesus says in John’s Gospel, it is the hour for him to be glorified …but wait a second, how is being beaten and tortured, mocked and ridiculed and then pinned to a tree until death, being ‘glorified’. What is it exactly that’s ‘glorious’ about it? You won’t be alone in thinking sometimes that this is a bit odd. But what is always important to remember when it comes to God, is that this is the God of transformation. And his ability to transform and redeem and renew, know absolutely no bounds.

The crucifixion is a case in point: what is known as the most cruel torture device, belonging to a brutal regime, in a small occupied land, has all its normal miserable, evil meaning here subverted. It is on the cross that God in Jesus is able to show the extent of his love – he forgives a criminal, he forgives all those who put him to death, he becomes a place where the cycle of violence and anger and hate stops. It ends there, no retaliation, no perpetuation. And of course, we know that this is not the end for God. Without the cross there is no resurrection, there is no ultimate symbol of God’s power to overcome, there is no sign through which we are taken up into that hope, that new life. If you want yet more evidence of the cross as a place of transformation, look above the altar next time your in a church, look around X’s neck, ask Sue Joyce what she has in her pocket…this cross, this torturing death machine, is now the most famous symbol of hope and love in the whole world.It’s as if God in Jesus Christ baptises the cross, Christianises it. Everything he touches turns to love. This is what it’s the hour for, for God’s glory to set forth, for his very nature of transformation to be known, for Jesus as God to be seen. ‘the hour has come’

I wonder then, if this might change what it means for us to come to our ‘hour’, to have our ‘moment’, to fulfil our purpose, our life’s dreams and ambitions. We often think of these times to be the life changing successes: when we get a certain job offer, or position on a committee, when we get the pay rise, or the award or honour. But in the life of God in Christ, we see that this moment is less about worldly success, and more about transformative love and wholeness. Jesus was hardly successful by any worldly standard. His popularity we see in today’s Gospel fade as quickly as it comes. The world is fickle. Neither its hostility nor its adoration can be trusted. So I wonder if our ‘hours’, our moments, will be more subtle, but none the less serious. Might these be when we have a chance to stand up to injustice, to call out wrong. The moments where we just go ahead and tell that person the truth about them or about us. The moments where we choose love and compassion over anger or competition. Because it’s these things that will truly make us more in the likeness of Christ. These are the things that will allow not just us to flourish, but others as well. And it is all this that forms us all into what, and who, we are called to be.

‘And what should I say’, Jesus says, “father save me from this hour?” ‘No, it is for this reason that I have come’ Father, for us all, let it be so. Amen