Unless … – A Sermon On John 12:20-33

This is a beautiful and compelling reflection on the word “unless”. Where we put conditions and blocks to faith and to personally bending our will to try to do the will of the One who created us.

Interrupting the Silence

Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B – John 12:20-33

“Unless a grain of wheat ….”

Last week I spoke with you about the contradictions in our lives, the many ways in which we contradict ourselves through our thoughts, words, and actions. Today I want to talk with you about the conditionals in our lives, the “unlesses” with which we live. I don’t know if “unlesses” is a real word but I am using it as one today. It’s a noun and the plural of unless. 

We all have our “unlesses.” They are lenses through which we see. They are the restrictions, limitations, and conditions that shape and inform our relationships and understanding of each other, Jesus, and ourselves.

Let me give you some examples of the “unlesses” that I’ve either heard from others or lived with in…

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when we get through this Maya Stein

wonderful poem for coming out from under the pandemic, into Spring!

Heart Poems

When we get through this, I want us to set a table with all of the loaves of bread
we’d practiced in our quiet houses. I want us clutching fistfuls of the cilantro we coaxed
from our city windowsills, and I want the nascent musicians, the ones who learned
old songs on their new ukuleles, or warbled choruses on isolated balconies, to take
the stage together. I want all the knitted, crocheted, stitched, and mended things pooled
at our feet, warming our ankles. I want us to greet each other in unfamiliar languages,
to tell the stories of those who have been lost. I want us to look, in unison,
toward the world millions of miles and light-years away, to take in what is before us,
and beyond us. I want us to wake to the magnitude of our fortune against the smallness
of our time. And then I want…

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Prince Caspian

(Book 2 in the Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis)

The Chronicles of Narnia are some of my favorite books. (I also love the Oz books). I got the Prince Caspian second book, on audio, because of the headache I got from the vaccine, so I was delighted to have someone read to me. It turns out that the wonderful voice reading the story is Lynn Redgrave. I highly recommend all the books, but this is one of my favorites! I love Narnia, and I go back and read the books every few years, when I have forgotten the stories, but sort of remember the general gist. I had forgotten that the woods come to help fight the great battle against the Telmarines, and that the trees wade in the earth, as they come forward. Maybe this is a bit of extension of the metaphor from Shakespeare in Macbeth– “til Burnham woods do come to Dunsinane”. CS Lewis has a wonderful imagination, and I believe there is a deep consciousness of good and evil in the stories. I had not realized until reading the book “Becoming Mrs. Lewis” that he fought in WW1, in the Somme, at age 19. His experience of war and probably also of the despair and PTSD of being a soldier in that disastrous event shaped his whole later life. I think the story where Lucy is the only one who can SEE Aslan, because she happens to be the youngest, is poignant. AND I LOVE Trufflehunter, the badger, who says that the animals don’t change, they stay loyal and true. Where others can betray and switch sides because they seem to see a new advantage, he stays loyal and true all the way through. It is a great book!