By The Very Rev. Sherry Crompton
March 29, 2009
Read: John 12:20-33
Nice Greek girls are supposed to do three things in life,” says Toula’s father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. “Marry a nice Greek boy, make babies, and feed everyone till the day we die.” Not that Toula, a thirty-something single needs reminding. Day after boring day, she toils in the family Greek diner, her lank hair falling around her face, her body hidden in a sackcloth dress.
One day Prince Charming walks into the diner—a handsome, sensitive, artsy guy named Ian. Does Ian sound Greek to you? That’s the problem. Toula falls in love with a guy who is not a nice Greek boy. Not surprisingly, Toula’s Mr. Right becomes her parents’ Mr. Wrong—“a big xeno,” her father moans, “with long hairs on top of his head.” Her father wonders aloud of Toula’s fiancé. “Is he a good boy? I donnn’t know. Is he from good family? Is he respectful? I donnn’t know.” Eventually a date is set, however, for this clash-of-the-cultures wedding.
You can almost hear the Us and Them screeching and colliding as the story develops. Ian’s uppity parents writhe in embarrassment as they arrive at Toula’s get-acquainted party. The limo pulls up to the curb and there, amidst modest suburban homes, is Toula’s house, a miniature version of the Parthenon replete with Corinthian columns and statues and –horror of horrors—a lamb roast on the front lawn.
By movie’s end, our pale WASP family finds in the Greeks a robust and exotic community, though unorthodox (they mime spitting on each other for good luck), and both cultures are able to move beyond their suspicions to form a new family. But you just never know what will happen when the Greeks arrive.
Greeks. That’s who arrive at Passover in our gospel lesson today. Technically, the word refers to Toula’s kin—people of Greek descent, language and culture. But by the time of the Caesars, Greek meant anyone influenced by Greek culture—most of whom lived in towns and cities rather than in the rural countryside. But among pious Jews in Jerusalem, the word, “Greek,” had taken on its broadest meaning. There are only two groups in the world: Jews, a group of people held together by descent, language and culture, and Greeks—the rest of the world.
John tells us that some Greeks—non-Jewish types—who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, paid a visit to Philip. “Hey we want to meet your leader,” they ask. “Please wait right here,” Philip says, “and I’ll get right back to you.” Philip casually turns the corner and then mad-dashes over to Andrew.
“Hey Andrew,” whispers Philip out of breath, “we’ve got a problem—some Greeks want to see Jesus.” “Greeks?” Andrew responds incredulously. “Are they good boys? We donnn’t know. From good family? Respectful? We donnn’t know.” Apparently so undecided about what to do with the Greeks, they take their request to Jesus.
For once it seems a group comes looking for Jesus with no apparent agenda- no request for healing, no attempt at controversy…just this: we would like to see Jesus.
Did Jesus really respond to the request? His reply seems to go in another direction from the questioner’s intent. Or is his monologue really a statement/reply about where Jesus can really be seen–in the hour of his glory, as the seed goes into the ground and dies, on the cross, and in the faithful setting aside of self-interest of his disciples?
We all see Jesus in different ways. Healer, Savior, Friend, Teacher, Prophet. John is the gospel of signs, and he reminds us that after all the signs if we really want to see Jesus then there is only one place to look- the cross.
As much as it might hurt us to think about the darkness, the abandonment, and the pain, we must. We have to go look at the cross and we have to stay there. If we stay long enough we might just catch a glimpse of the glory of God. The truth might hit us like thunder: “Ohhh…so that’s
what God is like!”
In January, 2007, The Washington Post set up an experiment to learn whether people would pause long enough to recognize real quality in their midst. They arranged with Joshua Bell, a young violinist, to dress in jeans, T-shirt, and baseball cap and play his violin near a busy Washington D.C. Metro (subway) station.
Bell stood by a wall near a trash can, took his violin from its case, tossed a few bills and some coins in the case to encourage donations, and began to play. He played his violin for 45 minutes as subway riders passed by — more than a thousand of them. While he was playing, a few people tossed a little money in his violin case — $32 in all. Most of the rest walked by, scarcely acknowledging his presence. $32 doesn’t seem too bad for 45 minutes work. That figures out to $42 an hour — if you don’t have to take any breaks.
But Joshua Bell does better at his day job — or, as it were, at his night job. A few evenings earlier, he sold out Boston Symphony Hall with most tickets going for $100 or more. In that concert, he played a Stradivarius violin worth $3 million — the same violin that he played at the subway entrance.
I wonder if we would notice Jesus if he were in our presence today. He is in our presence, of course. Remember what he said? “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
May we recognize Jesus in our midst and glorify the name of the Lord. Amen.
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