Lift Up

March 21, 2021

Series: March 2021

Category: What Are You/We Up To

Speaker: Will Tolmie (WPC Confirmation Class member)

Today's Scripture: John12:27-36

Today's Sermon


"Lift Up"

John 12:27-36- “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—'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.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”

     Nearly every night, my five-person family here in Tiburon video calls my grandmother, who lives 2,397 miles away in Honolulu, Hawaii. Partaking in these video calls, for me, is liberating: I am redeemed, reassured, embraced, blessed, and believed. My grandmother makes me feel worthy, not only of her time, but of the world’s. Whenever I communicate to her the progress or lack thereof in my educational, professional, athletic, or religious journeys, I am “lifted up”: she appreciates the light of God that already exists within me and simultaneously assists me in discovering the light of God when I find myself in a state of darkness.

     In John 12:32, Jesus speaks of “lift[ing] up” as an act that “draw[s] all people to [Himself]” (John 12:32). The phrase “lift... up,” as employed in this biblical passage, has two deliberate meanings when translated back into Ancient Greek; the word “hypsothenai” conveys both the activities of lifting up and exaltation: as Jesus was “lifted up” into Heaven by God, he was equally exalted to the right hand of God, and we, as Christians, exalt Jesus through our resolute belief in Him. This undertaking of “lift[ing]” Jesus “up” is found in many different forms by Christians today. My grandmother preaches Christ and, in doing so, “lift[s]” me “up,” by relaying to me the divine strength that Jesus has granted her when I find myself in moments of weakness. 

     Certainly her kind words and thoughtful encouragement help in this process, but I actually think that her power is derived mainly from the lost art of attentive listening in our culture. Today, with social media influencers and politicians alike speaking over each other again and again, one is left with the impression that impact can only be achieved through speaking. My grandmother has shown me a different path: when you converse with her, she is present. She is attentive. You are changed because you are heard. Someone cares, someone is concerned, and someone wants to hear your opinion.

     On the fifth Sunday of this Lenten season, we are reminded of our fundamental challenge to “lift up” our fellow humans and echo the melodies of compassion sounded by Jesus as followers of Christ. When we, as Christians, think of Lent, it is easy to focus solely on the repentance of our sins. While this aspect of one’s Lenten sacrifice certainly has a positive influence, I believe that we should also consider “lift[ing]” people “up” as one of the many gifts we share during Lent and, hopefully, always.  

     We are granted with the opportunity to listen every day to our immediate family, to our friends, and even to strangers. Sometimes my family and I will participate in dinners with Marin’s homeless population, a group that has so often been left in the darkness, without anybody to listen. We, as Christians, possess the light of God within ourselves to “lift up” humanity and Christ alike. Through the practice of listening, we are able to surround each other with the boundless, redemptive love of God and share with our world the beauty of God’s light as it is found in forgiveness, in communion, and in all creation. 

     Our souls are beckoned by reverent thought to listen and revel in holy enlightenment, and our blessed hearts beat to the one cadence of the grace of God. In every waking moment, we are made capable of being born again, of being surrounded by the Father, by the Son, and by the Holy Spirit, of finding the blessed light of God in ourselves and each other through the act of listening. In our lives as Christian humans, we are dazzled by this holy light, and we are loved. Praise be to God! May we walk in the divine light of God together, forever. Amen.