p align="center"> March 17, 2024 - Fifth Sunday in Lent

"The System, Exposed”

Rev. Gary Percesepe

John 12: 20-33

I want Jesus to walk with me.
I want Jesus to walk with me.
All along my pilgrim journey,
Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me.

We are getting closer now. As you know, we are now one week away. According to my calculations, if we continue at our present pace, next Sunday morning about this time we will arrive in Jerusalem.

In my trials, Lord, walk with me.
In my trials, Lord, walk with me.
When my heart is almost breaking,
Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me.

After the long Lenten journey we will be there to join the crowds waving palm branches, joyful at the prospect of entering the Holy City, but we must remind ourselves that we are not going to Jerusalem as tourists. A tourist passes through a place, but for a pilgrim--- the place passes through them.

We’ve been in prayer and penitence and preparation for forty days, and now there is a strong likelihood, a very very very good chance that we will see him, on the street, in the temple, on the cross:

When I’m in trouble, Lord, walk with me.
When I’m in trouble, Lord, walk with me.
When my head is bowed in sorrow,
Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me.

We have been walking with Jesus, accompanying him. We have been walking along beside him on the way, and for much of the way he has been silent, but in our text this morning, Jesus makes an announcement. The hour has come.

Four times in John’s gospel, especially when threatened by the powers, we hear Jesus say, “My hour has not yet come.”

But today he announces it plainly: My hour is come. Jesus is telling his disciples, telling us--that the chain of events leading to his passion and death will now begin. Jesus’ comments about his impending death and what this would mean for the world are prompted by the coming of some Greeks to worship at the festival. They come seeking Jesus. The desire of non-Jews to benefit from Jesus’ ministry is the fulfillment of two previous prophesies in John’s gospel that Jesus was about to die for the nation but not for the nation alone, but to gather into one all the dispersed children of God, so that it might truly be said, “All the world has gone after him.”

The Greeks approach Jesus indirectly through Philip and Andrew, the two Galileans with Gentile names. Jesus responds to new of their visit with these cryptic words: The hour has come for the Human One to be glorified. The hour has come means that he must make himself available to the world. Jesus knows this. He knows also this will require his death.

John’s gospel portrays Jesus as troubled in his spirit. He is troubled, but he does not writhe in agony, he does not visibly struggle, his sweat does not fall like great drops of blood to the ground; Jesus offers no cry of dereliction. He is troubled but resolute. He knows what many have failed to grasp. He is going to the cross. But for Jesus, the worst has already happened. He has embraced God’s will, and he hears from heaven a voice confirming his decision. And in that moment, he understands what we do not: his decision about the cross has sealed the fate of the ruler of this world, who, the text tells us, has been driven out.

Note that Jesus is not concerned with the forgiveness of individual sins. Nor does Jesus proclaim news of some kind of substitutionary atonement through which he takes upon himself the wrath of God to relieve us of our condemnation and guilt. No, the text tells us simply that the hour has come for krisis—the Greek word means judgment. It is judgment time for the world, and for the ruler of this world.

The Greek word that is used here is kosmos, a word that in John’s gospel does not mean the same as what we sang about earlier, the world as God’s creation, the created world that God holds in his loving hands—no, kosmos in this context means the fallen realm that exists as alienated from God, a realm with its own ruler, a realm of organized opposition to God’s good purposes. Jesus will soon be telling his disciples at the table that the kosmos hates him, and therefore the kosmos will hate all of them, but to be of good cheer, because he has overcome the kosmos.

The word kosmos is best translated into English as “System.” The System is a superhuman reality concretely embodied in structures and institutions that aggressively shapes human life and holds it captive to its wicked ways. The System harbors wickedness in high places. It loves to hide, to make itself appear anonymous as it works tirelessly behind the scenes to corrupt everything that is good and pure and beautiful, turning grace into greed, love into lust, justice into revenge, power into powerlessness. The System laughs when a majority of Americans favors cradle to grave affordable health care for every citizen, or when the people cry out for a ban on assault weapons that vaporize the bodies of elementary school children, pulverizing their little bodies and making them unrecognizable to their parents, even as school and government officials wring their hands and say we are not responsible, we didn’t do it, we are powerless to change things, you just have to accept this mass death as a condition of your freedom; or when you are placed on hold indefinitely while you wait to hear whether your pre-existing condition will be covered or your money refunded or whether your Black or Brown or female or trans body will be seen but not shot; and you wait as you are transferred from one office to the next, having to tell your story over and over but no one listens, no one hears you, the System is designed for profit not story, it is an imperial system and the Empire is not designed for justice, it is not designed to help you, for the System is driven by a non-human force, an inhuman spirit, the ruler of the kosmos, the prince of the power of the air, not a red devil with a pitchfork but a reasonable middle aged white man with blue eyes in a corner office making the trains run on time to Auschwitz generating profit for shareholders as the skin of Jews is made into lampshades and the children and their mothers and their howling fathers are escorted into the gas chambers and later great cries of lament, weeping and wailing from Gaza, but we never knew, we didn’t hear, we were not there, we never saw the death camps, we never heard of the killing fields, we never got close to Gaza, we don’t know why the U.S. Census in 1920 reported only 24,000 Native Hawaiians living on the islands when once there were hundreds of thousands, we don’t know what happened to the water, to the Natives, to the indigenous peoples, we cannot explain the fires, we’re not in charge of housing, or tourism we can’t tell you why the Congo is repeatedly raped and stripped of its precious minerals and wealth or why today children there die by the hundreds digging for cobalt so our smartphones, laptops, tablets and Teslas can have lithium-ion rechargeable batteries; or why 75% of the world’s supply of cobalt is mined in the Congo, by peasants and children working in sub-human conditions, an ongoing environmental catastrophe and no one appears to be responsible for because everyone is. And that, beloved, is The System. The System is what Jesus is doing battle with, and he will shortly tell his disciples in the Upper Room, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid; I am going away, and I am coming to you. I am going to the Father. For the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father, that he is in me, and I in him. Arise, let us be on our way.”

John’s gospel is telling us that the crucifixion is an exorcism. On the cross Jesus exposes the System for what it is—an opponent of God’s way, a way of death and not a way of life. And by exposing the System in this way, Jesus casts out its driving spirit, for once we’ve seen the System for what it is, once we’ve pulled back the curtain and seen the emperor with no clothes then it is our turn to laugh. We begin at last to see things the way they really are, we begin to be set free from the System’s captivating ways, set free of its captivating power. “I am crucified with Christ,” the Apostle Paul will cry, “nevertheless I live.”

Exposing the system is Emmet Till’s mother saying no to a closed casket, let them look at what they did to my boy; exposing the system is Jackie Kennedy refusing to change out of her beautiful rose-colored suit, crying no, no, let they see what they did to Jack; it is Martin Luther King Jr. shouting at The System in Alabama “let them get their dogs and let them get the hose, and we will leave them standing before their God and the world splattered with the blood and reeking with the stench of their Black brothers.”

On the cross. Jesus exposes the System, and by exposing it he judges it and casts out its ruler. The crucifixion demystifies the powers that be, so that it can begin: the new age of the cross, where the crucified one who has been raised up from the ground will gradually drag all humankind to himself. That, my friends, is called Easter. And the last enemy is death, and death’s day is coming this Holy Week.

The kosmos, The Domination System itself has been unmasked and revealed, and its ruler driven out. From this point on in the gospel of John the passion will be without anguish and without tears. Lent is moving us in quiet preparation for Jesus’ Good Friday and Easter, and, if we let it, it is preparing us for our own. Amen.

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