Fifth Sunday in Lent John 12:20-33

In his series of books The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis had his Christ figure tell characters, “We are never told anyone’s story but our own.” The Chronicles of Narnia are allegories. About the time that Lewis was writing, his close friend and colleague J.R.R. Tolkien was writing his own allegorical tales, The Lord of the Rings. Allegories use concrete ideas to stand for symbols of deeper and more layered meanings. In The Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan the Lion is a representative of Jesus. And in that form, Aslan tells us, “We are never told anyone’s story but our own.” In other words, love. Be courageous. Be in your own story, and from that place, be in loving relationship with others.

The late Madeleine L’Engle wrote A Wrinkle in Time in 1969. It is also an allegory, a story designed as an illustration of larger human behavior patterns and relationships. Ava DuVernay, a movie director, has a new film version of it in theaters now.

Fifteen-year-old Meg, her little brother, and a friend enlist the help of three messengers of God, that is, angels, to find Meg’s dad, a scientist who vanished while experimenting with bending the fabric of space and time.

The messengers of God show the brave young people that God is experienced, God is felt, God is known and lived and loved, through loving relationships, through loyalty, through courage, and even through our own faults. They learn that all places where creations of God are dwelling are open to both light and darkness. The darkness is anything that is not of God; the light is everything that is of God.

Both the book and the movie are beautiful illustrations of what God intends love to be. Not anything that gives us power as the world understands it – rather, God’s love means a readiness to lay down our lives for those we love… and that those we love can include everyone.

The reading from Jeremiah (31:31-34), addressed to those exiled from the Promised Land, has God promising a “new covenant”: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. I will remember their sin no more.”  The psalm for this final Sunday in Lent is a portion (1-12) of the psalm that is appointed for Ash Wednesday, Psalm 51. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love,” according to your hesed. “According to your abundant mercy, hesed, blot out my transgressions.”

Blot them out. Make it as though they never happened.

And God said: “The days are surely coming when I will make a new covenant. I will remember their sin no more.”

Psalm 51 continues: “Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. … Restore to me the joy of your salvation.”

And God said: “The days are surely coming when I will make a new covenant. I will remember their sin no more.”

In the letter to the Hebrews (5:5-10), we hear: “So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed” by God, at the moment of creation. In the suffering that Jesus willingly chose, because he embodied God’s love into which Jesus and God invite us, in that suffering Jesus was at that moment one with God.

This is the love of God, from God, through God, to us, in us, through us, of which Madeleine L’Engle writes in A Wrinkle in Time.

“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant. I will remember their sin no more.”

And the love of God, the love of God in Christ of which Lewis and Tolkien and L’Engle write, the love we hear in Jeremiah 31 and Psalm 51 and Hebrews 5, that love brings us to today’s gospel reading from John 12, near the end.

These non-Jewish people who nevertheless went to Jerusalem at the Passover, these Greeks, said, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”

Don’t we all.

“Sir, please take us to the person called Jesus. Where is he? We want to meet him.”

Don’t we all. So, how do we see Jesus? What does “seeing Jesus” look like?

So the students of this traveling teacher go tell him that there’s someone who wants to see him. “Teacher, do you have a minute? There’s someone here to meet you.”

And what does Jesus say? “Not now, boys, I have a class in two minutes.”

Sorry, wait, wrong translation.

He says: “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.”

Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus has been very clear about what time it is, and what time it is not. Throughout the narrative, he has been making it clear as well that he is in charge, he is in control, and he will know when it is time. He will know when the hour has come. He knows when we will see Jesus, and, in seeing Jesus, see the One Who Sent Him. He knows what seeing Jesus looks like.

It is about time. Jesus will want to have a meal with his students, and then be betrayed, and then be fulfilled and glorified by being lifted up.

Then he says this: 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. Then he says:    And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant. I will remember their sin no more.”

And so at last we come back round to C.S. Lewis: “We are never told anyone’s story but our own.”

And to J.R.R. Tolkien, in that pivotal moment from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. “But I have been too deeply hurt, Sam. I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: someone has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.” “Come, Mister Frodo. I can’t carry that ring for you. But I can carry you!”

And to Madeleine L’Engle and A Wrinkle in Time. For young Meg, the music of the universe seems to “travel with her, to sweep her aloft in the power of song, so that she was moving in glory among the stars, and for a moment she, too, felt that the words Darkness and Light had no meaning, and only this melody was real.”

This is God. This is God in Jesus. This is seeing Jesus. This is the love of God, into which God in Jesus invites us, when he is lifted high on the cross, which he says is his hour and his moment and his eternity of God. Amen.