It’s that time of year now. The time when the places like Facebook and news stories begin to fill up with pictures of people’s gardens and the plants beginning to poke up through the soil after a long winter’s rest.
We’ve had a brief bit of special weather the last week, only maybe not quite so dramatic here in Cape Breton as in other parts of the country. It was so nice in some places this past week that farmers are actually worried about their potential crops. They are worried that things will begin to bud too soon, and if there’s another bad cold spell, it could mean a lot of damage to their crops.
So maybe here in Cape Breton we were actually a little lucky in that the high temperatures lasted only a day.
But it is the time of year when we begin to look forward to spring. We long for the flowers to begin blooming. We long for warmer weather so we can put away our heavy boots and coats. We just want to be outdoors once in a while.
Pretty soon things will begin to bloom, and bloom they will. Trees will begin to burst in leaves, the lawn will begin to grow and flowers will pop with colour. It’s such a wonderful time of year when this starts to happen. It just seems to lighten the soul as we come of out the dark, two tone, grey and white season of winter.
The song we sang this morning, “In the Bulb There Is a Flower”, seemed like a good one to sing this first Sunday of Spring. We’ve been teased with some good weather, but it gives us hope that soon we’ll see much more days like the ones we had last week.
Last Sunday the kids went to a friends house to play after lunch, so Bev and I went out for a walk, enjoying the day. Again, it was a good day to get out and around, and that was clear because there were lots of people out “walking.” At least I think they were out for walks, there were a lot of people gathering on the sidewalks talking, catching up with what’s been happening with each other.
Another great part of spring, getting outside and seeing people we haven’t had much chance to talk to lately, because, really, who wants to go outside much in the cold winter?
So we finally start getting out, seeing our neighbours, friends, children out playing. The hibernation period is soon over and life begins to emerge. Not just in the plants, but in the overall lives of our community.
I often wonder what Easter must be like in places like Australia. They are in their fall season, and granted, while their winters aren’t quite the same as ours, what would Easter be like in the fall? For us, we’re used to associating the gift of the resurrection with the awakening of the earth. It would feel very different to spend Lent and Easter in the southern hemisphere.
But then again, we are calling Lent a season of living in darkness, extinguishing candles as we approach Good Friday, yet the days are getting longer and brighter. It’s a season of leading to the darkness of Good Friday, but we live in the hope of new life as the world awakens from its wintery sleep.
This morning Jesus talks to us about life and death. He talks about how a seed needs to fall to the earth, to appear to die, so that it can sprout new life. He says for those who love their life, they will lose it. He says those who hate their life will have eternal life.
So we’re supposed to hate ourselves? We’re supposed to forget about love in life if we want to get into heaven?
I don’t think so. If we keep reading on, we learn a bit more into what Jesus is saying to us this morning.
Jesus says, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honour him.”
It’s about service. If you love your life more, then you aren’t going to be helping. If you decide that your life is more important and you spend all your time focusing on what you have, about serving just your own needs, then you are ignoring the instructions Jesus gave to us.
But if we instead focus on helping and serving others, which is hard to do all the time, then God will honour us because we are doing His will. We are helping make the world a better place, just as Jesus showed us through his own actions and teachings.
By helping others, we are helping bring new hope into the lives of people, we are helping bring light into a dark world. We help bring life and hope to places of death and hopelessness.
This is what we have been asked to do.
In our reading, Jesus knows his time is soon up. He knows someone is going to come and take him to his death. But he’s also not afraid. It’s all part of God’s plan. He knows it is to show God will be glorified through him.
We get a glimpse of this in this passage. Jesus asks if he should ask the Father to save him. I’m sure the disciples are probably nodding their heads at this. But instead, Jesus says he won’t ask. It’s not the plan, the plan is to glorify God. So he says, “Father, glorify your name.”
And then there’s a voice from heaven. A bit of a sneak peek. The voice thunders from the heavens, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
The voice tells us that God’s name has been glorified, but he’s not done yet. God’s name will be glorified again.
The crowd around him is astonished, of course. Maybe a bit confused. Maybe in complete awe. Jesus then instructs them as to what is to come.
“Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
Jesus sees the world is getting ready to judge him and he is preparing to cast out the ruler of the earth.
Those in his hearing may have interpreted this a little differently than what he meant. It could be heard as Jesus is going to judge the earth and cast out its rulers, meaning the Romans and the religious leaders. That’s what people have been hoping. That’s their expectations as he enters Jerusalem the final time, when people lay down their coats and branches shouting “Hosanna! Save us!”
But instead Jesus is judged by the world. In an ugly mess of events, Jesus is turned over to the rulers, he is mocked and beaten, and he is hung on a cross in a public display of humiliation that leads to a excruciating death.
But didn’t he just say “judgement” and “rulers will be cast out”?
We see death. We see the end of a life unfulfilled.
God sees the chance for glorification and victory.
I’m a big basketball fan and right now we are in the midst of March Madness. 10 days ago 64 teams began a tournament to crown the national champion in college basketball in the United States. After tonight, there will be four teams left.
It’s win or go home the whole way. Millions of people fill out their brackets, predicting how far their favourite teams will go, guessing who will be there in the end, picking their champion. It’s huge!
The fun part is trying to guess who the teams will be that surprise people. The teams no one expects to do well, but will make it farther than anyone predicted. The underdog team which will capture the hearts of fans everywhere as they beat some of the favourite teams in the tournament. These teams won’t win it all, they very rarely make it past the second weekend and into the final four. But these underdogs surprise us and just add to the March Madness persona.
The games are exciting, especially those games which go right down to the wire, and there’s the great comeback everyone is talking about the next day. The shocking final minute no one ever thought was going to happen. Just when they thought the game was over, there’s a sudden, exciting turn of events and what was thought to be a sure victory is stolen away in the final moments.
When Jesus went to the cross, to all around, to all his followers, his friends, his family, it was certain he has lost.
When they took his body down and laid it in the tomb, they wondered how it all went wrong. How everything he had promised them came up short. How could someone like Jesus, and all he did, all he taught… how could he lose like this?
His supporters, his fans, they retreated back to their homes heartbroken. Death is the end. The game is over. The ruler of this world won. The judge has spoken.
But they forgot what he said. They failed to realize is that the game wasn’t over yet.
The battle was still ongoing.
God wasn’t finished yet. The final whistle had not blown. Three days later Jesus would escape death and through his amazing victory over the grave people would know God’s glorious name forevermore.
Through his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ shows God is the true ruler of the earth. He rules over the earth and the evil within it. In Jesus Christ, God draws us to Him for eternity.
In “In the Bulb There Is a Flower” we sang:
In the end is our beginning;
In our time infinity;
In our doubt there is believing;
In our life eternity.
In our death, a resurrection;
At the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season,
Something God alone can see.
There is hope. There is a victory we are a part of. Death is not the end, the game is not over. Jesus Christ lives and reigns forever. So even when it looks like it’s finished; even if all hope is lost; remember that it looked like the end was there for Jesus Christ. But it wasn’t, God was not finished.
God’s not finished today.
Spring is beginning to show life around us, the winter begins to loosen its grip, and new life begins to bloom.
God offers us new life through Jesus Christ. In his death defeat appeared unavoidable, that evil had won. But God had other plans. Jesus Christ lives, evil has lost. Death has lost. Eternal life is our reward.
Let us follow the one who gives life, Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.