Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ The crowd, the Greeks, want to encounter Jesus; they wish to see Jesus. They must have heard the stories of his miracles, walking on water, feeding five thousand; his healings of all kinds of sickness, even raising Lazarus from the dead!
In the landscape in which we find ourselves, we know there has been much dying …..thousands globally have died of Covid-19; we are reminded also of the hundreds of migrants who have died making desperate journeys across the Mediterranean Sea; of those who have died due to racism , its injustices and equalities and the protests that ‘black lives matter’.
The natural world too is dying at the hands of human behaviour. The parable of the grain of wheat connects with our on the natural world and the cycle of dying and new life each season; the experience of loss and renewal is part of our lives. In Christian terms, death and resurrection are key to our life experience. Death and loss are not only physical, its also emotional and spiritual. Throughout our lives, we die many times over through a whole range of losses – the death of a loved one, the end of a dream, the breakdown of a relationship, the deterioration of a person’s health, as we navigate through the stages of life. Through loss, we experience a range of emotions; anger, regret, guilt, despair, unforgiveness and fear. But, this passage tells us, it is in the pit of darkness that we see Jesus.
Yet, we are the Easter people, the resurrection people. God always has the capacity to bring something fresh and new from a situation. Often, if we look at a situation from a different angle, a different point of view, we can see how something new and fresh can be brought from loss and even despair. Despite the brokenness of our world, there is a hope that can be re-imagined, renewed, restored through God’s generous love.
We could link this passage of the grain of wheat falling to the earth with the parables of other seeds; the weeds among the wheat, the mustard seed and the yeast, the parable of the sower. The Gospels are full of examples drawn from the natural world, as Jesus spent much of his life in the agricultural areas around Galilee. And at his death, he will indeed be ‘ in the heart of the earth’.
God’s commitment to the earth and all that he has made goes back to at least the covenant made in his pledge to Noah: And God said: This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. ( Genesis 9. 12-13; italics are mine).
The earth is the ‘ holy footstool’ of God it is sacred. It is not personified or deified in the Bible. But all is sanctified by God the Creator, and reconciled to God the Redeemer of the universe. As we gradually come out of lockdown, moving from the total restrictions of the pandemic situation, we know that it’s time now for us to play a more active role again in our community, in our society. There has been much death, and there will be more to come. We must accept the reality.
In our church year, we have yet to work through Holy Week and Good Friday. But perhaps it is as we let go and see God in these places that we too have the potential to come through and to bear much fruit for the kingdom. God’s love has the power to heal, resurrect and enable all flourishing. We can look at what we have lost, what will and sometimes needs to stay lost, and also look forward to new fruit; to faithfully bring forth new life and new hope for ourselves for the sake of future generations and the years to come.
By Christine Jack