Jesus realizes that his hour has arrived, when two Greeks seek him out. That always seemed an odd bit of trivia to me, more suited to Jeopardy than the Gospel of John. Jesus spoke with Samaritans, lepers, women, tax collectors, Roman soldiers, religious and community leaders. What’s the big deal about a couple of Greeks?
Then this text was read at our bilingual contemporary worship Sunday night, the appointed text for the 5th Sunday in Lent, and I realized what a big deal it was. Here we were, navigating the fault lines between English and Spanish, Black, White and Brown, Young and Old, Traditional and Contemporary; all in an effort to embody a larger reality. Something more true and foundational. We felt like a flame clinging to the match in the teeth of fierce cultural (even congregational) winds.
For the first time, I heard this little reference, which acts almost like a throwaway line in the narrative, as a critical marker at the intersection of the Kingdom of God and the Powers That Be. These two Greeks seeking Jesus out is the reality of the Kingdom’s presence that breaks into the world like a raging flood, washing the flimsy pilings out from under the houses of fear and isolation the world builds on the shore of diversity, in order to take advantage of the lovely view.
Of course Jesus knew that the end was near when these Greeks came looking for him. How could he not know? He was beginning to transcend the barriers of culture, the boundaries between communities---the inviolate borders that exist between people and which serve the interests of those in power.
Jesus threatened to make all of that irrelevant not by slicing and dicing people up into new groups, but by drawing a big circle around all of them: Jew, Gentile, Samaritan, Greek, Male, Female, Gay, Straight, Sinner, Redeemed.
It struck me how tone-deaf we are today in the church toward this marker of the Kingdom. We still treat it like a throwaway line in the Passion narrative, while we collude with the Powers That Be to preserve our institutions as much as the Scribes and the Pharisees ever did.
The world draws us to it like iron to a magnet. We drag our faith along with us, and the world turns our faith into traditions and gives it back to us de-fanged and de-clawed. Traditions are faith tamed and made manageable. They are to faith as the cardboard cutouts of celebrities we stand next to like tourists having our pictures taken.
Can we hope to be the church and ignore this central component of the Kingdom that breaks down our Us and Them world into the Family of God? Can we continue without understanding that our faith, by its very existence, calls into question the Powers that Be every single day.
These Greeks coming to seek Jesus out were the down payment on a new world order that unites instead of dividing, by holding up the one thing that trumps all else. The all en-compassing Love of God that transforms everything, even the judgment of the cross, and makes us new here and now.