“Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25). Again, Jesus? Or, perhaps more appropriately, again lectionary? We just did this in Mark a few weeks ago! The pedagogical value of repetition aside, how do we enliven this text, this saying, this lesson in worship again with Holy Week just one week away? It helps that the scope of the audience is different in John than in Mark. Whereas the audience for this teaching in Mark is the disciples; in John, the audience is not just the disciples but a crowd of people. Even more curious is that these words serve as an answer, of sorts, to the news Jesus receives that two Greeks want to see him. Suddenly, the teaching about surrendering our lives to God in Mark gains an even greater outward focus in John.
At this stage of our Lenten journey, we encounter the fruit and the charge that comes with losing our life to find it in God—service. We cannot follow Jesus without serving our neighbors. So, let this be a day to lift up service that is already happening and service that is needed in your community. Notice and name the ways in which those outside the doors of the church—“the Greeks,” if you will—not only need but deserve access to the love of God. Highlight how the United Methodist connection supports ministry and service around the world in ways that are made possible by our connectional giving. Pray for the inspiration to discover and the wisdom to know what is yours to do—individually and congregationally—and what is not. Losing our lives to God does not mean we burn ourselves out to save the world all on our own. Losing our lives to God also means trusting that God does not need us to do everything—only the things we are called to do. So, perhaps part of worship needs to be a time to both surrender to God and commit ourselves to discerning God’s call to service in the specific neighborhood and community where we are planted.
Of course, if we’re paying attention to the sensory experiences in today’s text, we can’t miss the booming voice from heaven that some of the crowd mistook for thunder. I can’t blame them. Who’s expecting the sky to start speaking? Now, I’m not necessarily advocating for a recreation of a voice from heaven during the scripture reading (though, if that’s what you decide to do, please let me know!). But I do wonder who else we’re not expecting to speak that we might need to hear from? The children wiggling in the pews next to their parents? A teacher from a nearby school? The local business owner who set up shop across the street? What might these unexpected voices have to tell us about our neighborhood and its needs? And then, how might we, as followers of Jesus, show up where we are needed? Because where there is a need for love and flourishing and community, Jesus is there. And where Jesus is, there we must follow.
Dr. Lisa Hancock, Director of Worship Arts Ministries, served as an organist and music minister in United Methodist congregations in the Northwest Texas and North Texas Annual Conferences, as well as the New Day Amani/Upendo house churches in Dallas. After receiving her Master of Sacred Music and Master of Theological Studies from Perkins School of Theology, Lisa earned her PhD in Religious Studies from Southern Methodist University wherein she researched and wrote on the doctrine of Christ, disability, and atonement.