by Rev. Dr. Matthew Williams, Lead Pastor
“Sir, we would see Jesus.”
This statement is inscribed on a brass plate and mounted at the top of the pulpit of Trinity United Methodist Church. Each time I step up into the pulpit, I am literally faced with this statement. The statement is posted physically between the congregation and whatever words I have to say.
The Gospel of John has been commonly known as the spiritual gospel because it records intimate encounters that others had with Jesus and often notes how these encounters affected their lives. It is universal in scope in that whenever we read the Gospel of John, no matter who or where we are in our journey of life, we can find ourselves in the story. In John, chapter 12, we find meaningful accounts that Jesus had with others as he approached his way to the cross. It begins with Mary anointing Jesus’s feet with costly perfume, then, Judas Iscariot questioning the whole encounter, a plot by authorities to kill Lazarus, Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and then—out of nowhere—some Greeks at the Passover Festival wanting to see Jesus.
These Greeks approach Philip from Bethsaida and say: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”1 The presence of Greeks at festival and of Greeks making this request means only one thing: The coming death of Jesus is universal in scope. The mission of Christ to redeem the world, and the love of God shed abroad in his life, death, and resurrection are universal. As the story of Jesus continues to unfold in the Gospel of John, we encounter people with unbelief, betrayal, humility, denial, and surprise. Jesus also physically appears to Mary Magdalene at the tomb and seven disciples by the Sea of Tiberius. Resurrection had happened.
The disciple whom Jesus loved said, “It is the Lord!” But what about those Greeks? They came out of nowhere back in Chapter 12. Yes, the work of Jesus was for them, too. In fact, it was and still is for all of us.
As I have thought about my vocation over the years, I have realized many things. However, most notably, I have realized that I have about 15 minutes per week to share something with a congregation. 15 minutes. And in this 15 minutes, I am communicating with a group of people a message that is universal in scope. I have shared for 15 minutes all around the world to different kinds of people in different cultures, with interpreters, under trees, in the rain, in churches with dirt flooring and leaking metal ceilings, on beaches, in rivers, on boats, in airplanes, in vehicles, and at conferences and events. Everywhere and everybody is different.
Just think about our beloved congregation that is called Trinity UMC. We are people from all over; we have various backgrounds; we are surgeons, dentists, real estate agents, business owners, CEO’s, CFO’s, board chairpersons, community organizers, teachers, bankers, lobbyists, government workers, stay-at-home parents, married, divorced, wealthy, middle class, struggling, professors, learners—the list goes on and on and on. Yes, that’s who we are. And what connects us is the community of Christ’s Holy Church. At some point, we have joined the Greeks in their request. The community of faith provides avenues to discover the richness of the life and ministry of Jesus, to see how it connects to our lives, circumstances, and initiates our response to God’s love in sharing it with others.
But, 15 minutes. That’s my vocation.
Our worship together is patterned in a way that gives glory to God and lifts high the cross. As we begin worship services, a cross is processed and lifted above us, signifying that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are paramount to our faith. I am reminded of the refrain to the great hymn of our faith: “Lift High the Cross”:
Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim
til all the world adore his sacred name.2
A book that contains all four of the Gospels is also processed (carried) in, which details and accounts the life of Jesus and all of the stories that surround his life. As people of faith, we seek to discover how our lives connect with these stories, where we can find ourselves in them, and how we might discover ways of sharing them with others.
At one point in my ministerial vocation, I thought I needed to share everything I believed, knew, loved, and hoped for in a homily or a sermon. I realized that people aren’t that interested in those things, and that continually sharing these things is not my calling. Rather, I’ve learned to see that I have been given 15 minutes as a gift. It’s a gift to share that Jesus the Christ is Lord, that Jesus the Christ loves us all, that Jesus the Christ lived, died, and rose again so that we might have abundant and eternal life. And yes, it is universal in scope.
Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.3
Trinity will be abundantly serving in ministry in the coming year. Our vibrant ministries are moving full steam ahead. We have something for everyone; do let us help you get involved. May we keep fresh amidst all of our ministry and service that there are always people simply looking for Jesus. And we can introduce them to him. We all have 15 minutes.
“Sir, we would see Jesus.”
1 John 12: 21b, New Revised Standard Version.
2 George Williams Kitchin and Michael Robert Newbolt, 1916, alt.
3 John 3: 17, New Revised Standard Version.