Sermon for 5th Sunday of Lent/Passiontide – “Choices”, preached at the Eucharist, Sherborne Abbey on Sunday, 17 March 2024 by The Reverend Robert Green ( Hebrews Ch 5: v 5 – 10; John Ch 12: v 20 – 33).

Throughout our lives we are faced with choices. Sometimes the choice we make is not that important. If I make a choice of a chocolate which I find I don’t like, it is not a great loss, and I won’t make that mistake again, but some choices we make are much more important. For those still at school, the choice of your GCSE’s and then the choice of your ‘A’ Levels, which may lead on to having to choose what degree to read. These choices may have life changing consequences. As we enter the workplace the whole question of choosing an occupation faces us with increasingly difficult choices, and finally we may have to choose where we live or where to spend our retirement. Any one of these choices can have a profound and lasting impact on our lives.

Our Gospel reading this morning is all about choice. Jesus is faced with the ultimate choice of either opting out of his mission to save the world, or, taking on himself all the sin and evil of humanity, and loving us to the end. It was no easy choice as the human in him screamed out against going through the pain of it all, but everything divine in him pleaded for love and compassion and selfless giving whatever the cost. This huge dilemma is vividly expressed in verse 27; “Now my soul is troubled. – ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven. ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ In the other gospels this whole episode takes place in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before his arrest. John having meditated upon this, his gospel is the last to be written, condenses the experience into one powerful verse. Jesus out of love for us, and for no other reason, offers himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. The words of the hymn “my song is love unknown” written in the seventeenth century, come to mind: “O who am I, that for my sake my Lord should take frail flesh, and die”.

William Barclay in his commentary on John entitles this passage, “From Tension to Triumph”, and we have been made aware of the tension that Jesus felt , but what changed it into triumph was what we read in the second part of the verse when Jesus heard God speak. “Then a voice came from heaven. ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ This is significant for a particular reason. At one time in the Old Testament, God spoke to his people directly, for instance in the Calling of Moses in Exodus and the Calling of Samuel , and when Elijah fled from Jezebel, but in subsequent centuries the people had ceased to believe that God spoke directly to them. Those days were past. The voice that spoke to the prophets were gone, but with Jesus, God is once again speaking directly, and in those great moments in his life, his Baptism and at the Transfiguration and now as he finally decided to take the way which led to Jerusalem and the Cross.

What God did for Jesus, God does for every believer. When we are faced with important choices, we can expect some form of guidance and confirmation on what is the right decision, particularly when our human resources are being exhausted. God is not a silent God and ever and again when the strain of life is too much for us, if we listen we will hear Him speak. Our trouble is, not that God does not speak, but that we do not listen enough. It is my experience that God may speak in many different ways, and through many different circumstances. Sometimes it can be through a casual conversation, or a Bible reading or at a time of prayer, or even an email! If we have accepted the call of God on our lives, we can expect his guidance on the important decisions that we may have to make.

A prayer to close.

Go before us O Lord with your most gracious favour, and further us with your continual help, that in all our works begun, continued and ended in you, we may glorify your name, and finally by your mercy attain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.