The Fifth Sunday of Lent - 9am & Choral Eucharist

  • Preacher

    The Dean - The Very Revd Andrew Nunn

  • Readings

    Jeremiah 31.31-34; Hebrews 5.5-10; John 12.20-33

I had a few days in Rome last week and, whilst wandering round lots of the churches, tried to get to put my hand in the wonderful Bocca della Verità, the ‘Mouth of Truth’, just to test it out you know!

But the queue was so long that I gave up, loads of people wanting to give it a go and all because all over Rome you can find lots of images from that lovely film, ‘Roman Holiday’ with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck flying round the city on a Vespa and doing just that.  But I was also thinking about Audrey Hepburn not in that film but in her iconic role as Eliza Doolittle in the musical ‘My Fair Lady’.

If you know that show you’ll no doubt remember that at one point Eliza sings a song in which she says

Don’t talk of love lasting through time ..

Show me.

Some Greeks found Philip.  His was a Greek name so perhaps they’d identified in him something of a kindred spirit.  So they bring their request to him, they want to see Jesus.  As little children we want to see, we want to be lifted up above the heads of the crowds, to look and see, the lion in the cage, something in the distance, into a Christmas shop window, what’s going on.  ‘Show me, daddy’ and we’re lifted up so that we can see.  Show me, show me Jesus.

Like Zacchaeus climbing the sycamore tree in Jericho to get a vantage point, so these Greeks want to see Jesus.  So Philip finds Andrew, someone who’s always good at bringing people to Jesus, and with these eager enquirers they bring them to him.

Don’t talk of love lasting through time ..

Show me.

These next two weeks of our life, as we enter Holy Week and celebrate Easter, are all about seeing Jesus and about God showing himself to us.  Words, words, words are what Eliza Doolittle is objecting to, she doesn’t want to hear words any more, instead she wants to see – and we’ll see love that lasts through time being acted out before our eyes.

The Greeks want to see, even though they’re great philosophers, great debaters as Paul was to discover in Athens.  There they want to hear him speak more about Jesus.  But here they want to see, to see who this Jesus is.  And Jesus says to them and to us

‘I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’

This is Passion Sunday, the day when we remember our passionate, suffering, showing God.  God shows the world the extent of his love when he shows Jesus to us, stretched out on the cross, on display for all to see, lifted up from the earth.  The centurion looks up at the one whom he is guarding and all he can say is

‘Truly this man was the Son of God’

He sees and he believes, the stretched out God, drawing the whole world to himself.  Show us what love that lasts through time looks like – and God shows us Jesus, passion for passion, love for love.

In the First Reading the prophet Jeremiah says that the days of teaching are over, we’re in the days of knowing

‘they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest’

The world is drawn not by persuasive arguments about the reality of God but by the persuasive sight of one who is in love with them, the God who out of love created us, out of love came to us, out of love died for us, out of love rose for us, so that we out of love can be drawn fully to him, drawn fully into him.

But the world says to the church

Don’t talk of love lasting through time ..

Show me.

Like those Greeks coming to Philip, eager to know, there’s a desire to know about God, a hunger for spirituality in our nation and in our communities, but people expect to be able to see that love that lasts through time in the church – and sadly, too often they don’t see it.  We don’t always show the God who is shown to us in Jesus, too often we fail to be a mirror to the one who’ll draw the whole world to himself.

For the last two weeks the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), led by Professor Alexis Jay, has been meeting just a short distance from here off Blackfriars Road.  They’ve begun the first stage of the inquiry into what’s happened in the church which, like many institutions, has been blighted by the sexual abuse of children and other vulnerable people.

Reading some of the transcripts of the hearing so far has been painful and disturbing.  But the church, and that means all of us here, has to face up to what’s gone wrong in the past in this institution as well as others.  And it’s no good saying, ‘well, it has happened everywhere’ as though that’s some kind of warped justification for sin that is both individual and corporate. The church should show something different.

We’re now committed, as a church and as a community here at Southwark Cathedral, to creating a safe church in which you, whoever you are, are safe from abuse of any kind and are loved for who you are, committed to being a church which looks out for each other and speaks well of each other and wants the best for each other.

The fact that the church continues to be, in many places, an unsafe place for women, or gay people or black people or less able people, is a scandal.  When we behave in these ways we’re not showing Jesus to the world, we’re not showing the passionate God but a distortion of the divine.

People want to see better, they want to see Jesus.  They want to see a church such as we seek to be, a church to which we’ve committed ourselves to becoming and being, inclusive in our living, orthodox in our believing, radical in our loving.  This year we’ve said that one of our priorities is to be a community that cares for each other, ‘pastoring the disciples’ we’ve called it, but whatever the words we choose it simply means being the community that shows Jesus to the world in the way we look after each other.

The seventeenth century poet Thomas Traherne in his poem ‘The Approach’, looks again

But now, with new and open eyes,
I see beneath, as if above the skies,
And as I backward look again
See all His thoughts and mine most clear and plain.
He did approach, He me did woo;
I wonder that my God this thing would do.

Our passionate God, woos us with the sight of himself, shows us love lasting through time and in a few days, as we survey the wondrous cross, we’ll see ‘with new and open eyes’, Jesus, God’s love song in human flesh, drawing the whole world to himself.

‘Show me Jesus’ we now say and from the altar the bread is raised and we see God.  We elevate the host so we can see, and see and know the God who is love, who is our bread, who is our life, who is our past and our present and our future.  They came as we come, wanting to see Jesus; we see him and then we show him, to a world eager to see.