“Consecration”

Walking in the Way of Jesus:  “Consecration”
Delivered to Church for the Highlands
Fifth Sunday of Lent, March 22, 2015      John Henson

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The one redeeming thing about yet another rain-soaked weekend is that its not so bad staying inside when March Madness is going on, providing us with the very best NCAA basketball has to offer with all of its underdog drama, brackets, and unpredictability. The best part for me is to see how it all comes down to a team’s dedication to win; to what is in their hearts before the game even starts. Dedication is a powerful attitude, one making the difference between victory and defeat.

As we get to the end of our Lent and begin Holy Week next Sunday, we are getting to the point where we have more opportunity to see what dedication looks like in Jesus. The road we have been walking along with him has consisted of four steps so far: preparation, orientation, application, and salvation. What we see in our Gospel text today is the final step of our journey with Jesus before Jesus enters Jerusalem, one that is crucial for him to take as he heads to a cross, one that is crucial for us as we follow him there and as we pick up our own. It is a step of consecration.

John’s account of Jesus’s response to Philip and Andrew’s message that some Greeks were requesting to see him sets the scene for our glimpse at how consecrated Jesus is to what God has called him to do with his life. These Greeks, non-Jews, must have either heard about Jesus or perhaps been in a crowd of listeners one day. Whatever the case, they were interested in not just hearing about him; they wanted to see him; to visit with him. They identified Philip as one who could make that connection for them and so they approached him with their request, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” They were in town to worship. I’m not sure if they ever made it to the temple, but it sounds like their hearts were already connecting to the presence of God, accessible in Jesus to all people.

There was a segment on the news last night about several people who were going blind. They had all already been declared legally blind, but still had some eyesight left. Someone had arranged for them to see some of the great sights of the world before going completely blind. One of them was standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon, looking out at the breathtaking expanse in front of him as the sun shone on the strata of the canyon walls in the hue of the most beautiful colors only God can create. As the man was interviewed, he told of how, even though he would never see the sight again with his eyes, he would always be able to return to it by seeing it in his mind.

Like this man and like the Greeks seeking Jesus long ago, we have the amazing opportunity to put our eyes on the greatest wonder of the world, blessed by the arrangement God has made for us to see Jesus. Taking the step of consecration comes when see Jesus; when we are able to echo the words of those Greeks, “we wish to see Jesus.” Is that your wish today? Are you and I really wanting to see Jesus, to the point where we are going out of our way, inconveniencing ourselves and even other people in order to see him? If we are ever going to follow him, we must see him. Seeing him means that we are going beyond hearing about him from other people, catching a glimpse of him from way back in the crowd, or thinking we will catch him next time he’s in town. It means that we do whatever it takes to put our eyes on him. There are plenty of people around who can make that introduction, but you really don’t even need it. You can seek him out and approach him yourself. Are you doing that in this season of Lent?

What we learn next from John’s account is what happened as Philip passed on the Greek’s request to Jesus through Andrew. Jesus gives expression to the deep awareness he had within him that it was time for him to be seen not only by the Greek visitors, but also by the world around him. It was time for him to start making his way to Jerusalem, knowing that the pathway there would be one that surely lead him into the hands of the people—especially the high priests and Roman officials–who were ready to eliminate him from their world just like they had done with others who challenged their kingdom. In a trues statement of consecration, Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” In case the people around him didn’t understand, he gave an illustration that he must have thought about many a time while out walking the fields, that “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Jesus consecrated himself with those words.

The words of Hymn of Promise we sang this morning speak of the dying that leads to life,

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

As we see how Jesus consecrated his life, knowing the price he would pay, we learn what true consecration to God is all about. It involves dying. How do you feel about dying? I think I know the answer to that, for none of us likes to think about death and most of us, when we do, try to put it off for as long as possible. What we must know from Jesus is that we can’t really go on living unless we are dying. As we looked at in the beginning of Lent, we are to die to ourselves. We are to die to our things, to our attachments, to our security, to our fears, our needs, and our ways if we are ever going to truly experience and bear the fruit of real life. It is coming to that point in your life when you are willing to say with Jesus, “No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.”

Even while saying that, Jesus had in mind that dying came with a tremendous cost but would bring forth even more tremendous results. Much fruit would be borne from him. It would show up soon after his death in the beauty of an empty tomb. It would appear in days and years ahead as overflowing from the lives of his disciples. It would flow out from them in Jerusalem and be found ultimately around the world, even here today, as we exist as the result of his complete devotion to God.

I was recently at a friend’s house, noticing an amazing sight of beauty up against his house, one I had not seen there before. It was a peach tree, in full bloom, with radiant pink blossoms popping through the dreary drizzle of the afternoon. I asked about it, not knowing what kind of tree it was. My friend told me the story of how the previous owner had thrown a peach pit out the window of his car into the flowerbed one day, not expecting anything to ever actually happen with it. The seed later grew into the tree, taking him by surprise, and producing so many peaches that the owners couldn’t eat them all. I couldn’t help but think of what Jesus had to say about the life, death, and harvest of the seed, understanding that the death before him would not be his final act. He would go into the ground, but would rise up out of it with a yield of fruit so great we could never consume it all.

We can take the step of consecration with the awareness that it will not be in vain. The price of our commitment to God will not be wasted or forgotten. Laying down our lives for the work of God in this world is an investment that will yield a harvest beyond our wildest dreams, impacting and benefitting lives for years to come. Think for a moment what that can look like with your work on a missional ministry team. Consider what can happen if you are on the Lighthouse Team, of how your commitment to God there can be just the thing that gives a child the help and hope to make it through 3rd grade math or will instill in him a lifelong desire for learning. If you are on the Veterans Team, catch a vision of how God will use your commitment to bring encouragement and gratitude to a veteran who is trying to put his life and family back together. For those of you on the Visions of Hope, see how your commitment to people with mental illness can mean the difference between life and death, hope and despair, acceptance and rejection. And Highland Center Ministries team members should consider all the fruit God will bring from practical offerings like a warm meal, new clothes, and financial help. Our consecration to God and the price we pay for walking with Jesus will give way to a life which blossoms with the kind of beauty that will inspire and bless the world.

This is our time to say with Jesus, “It is for this reason that I have come to this hour.”

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