Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
How long will you people turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods? Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him.
Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the Lord.
Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?” Let the light of your face shine on us. Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound.
In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4 (NIV)
Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:20-25 (NIV)
The human condition is such that we have all experienced the “dark night of the soul.” People who live with anxiety especially know the fear that seemingly comes from nowhere and grips one in the middle of the night. Panic attacks and night terrors are not logical, nor are they pleasant, but in the midst of them we can cry out to God and cling to Him, knowing that He does hear our prayers and He does have mercy on us. The Good Shepherd we learn of in Psalm 23 truly does walk with us through the valleys, even through the valley of the shadow of death. Even though we can at times be terrified, (with rational explanation or not) Jesus is with us, in us, and through us, even in our terror. He has defeated the things that terrify us. Death no longer has power over us- let alone the lesser things that vex us. See 1 Corinthians 15:54-57.
There is a prayer (St. Patrick’s Breastplate) attributed to St. Patrick in which he affirms:
Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
The Greeks in the passage from John 12 came to Philip and asked to see Jesus. Jesus may have surprised them in what He told them- that to gain your life you have to be willing to lose it.
Some of the most miserable people on earth are also some of the most materially wealthy. There is a saying that “money buys one the misery one likes the best.” Many of us would like to test that theory! The reality is that we are made in God’s image- God Who is a gracious and generous God. When we give of our time, talents and resources from the overflow of a grateful and loving heart, we fulfill the purpose God made us for- to be His hands and feet here on earth.
It’s not always easy to surrender our lives to serving God. It means we have to sacrifice, just as a farmer or gardener has to sacrifice to sow seeds, tend and weed them, and harvest the crops when they mature. Nothing worthwhile is easy, but we remember that Jesus came and lived on earth, died on the Cross and rose from the grave so that we may have abundant life, (John 10:10) not just in the world to come, but now too.
It may sound simplistic to say that if you want to see Jesus you have to be willing to be Jesus. For the hedonistic Greeks it meant they had to espouse a lifestyle of sacrifice and sharing instead of one of opulence and being served by others. We are not Jesus of course, but as His people we are called to be His hands and feet here on earth. Martin Luther actually said we are called to be “Little Christs” here on earth. We know that He is before us, beside us, within us, and that He has already conquered sin, death and anything that can cause us fear. He is with us to bring us peace, love and joy- to spread around now and in the world to come.