Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me. (John 12. 23 - 29)
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. (Habakkuk 3. 17 - 19)
I have been living with this reading from John for some weeks now, hence sharing it for a second time. I find it both challenging and comforting at the same time.
I was recently made redundant from work. I am not alone, but one of many. As a result of Covid, companies and organisations are facing huge financial challenges and they are having to cut their cloth accordingly. However, redundancy is an uncomfortable and unsettling experience to say the least and it undermines the value of the work we have been doing. It affects our confidence and self-esteem, as we see our hard work and the fruit of our labours no longer required and ‘falling into the ground’.
David too was made redundant thirty years ago. This was a far greater challenge with a sizable mortgage and three growing children to look after. At that time, the passage from Habakkuk was one that lived with us. It too was a challenge and a comfort. Although things looked bleak, in the style of a psalm of lament, there comes the all-important ‘yet’. We were challenged to continue in worship and to trust in God joyfully. It was at this point that we began to consider seriously God’s call into ordained ministry, and you all know the result!
There is a strong hint in both of these readings of ‘let go and let God…’ This is not easy in a world that revolves around position and status. Jesus challenges us to hold status lightly, to follow his example and to live a life of self-denial and servanthood. A big ask, but one that will lead to fresh fruitfulness and eventually to eternal life.
I am challenged afresh not to simply train people to lead worship, but to focus on being a worshipper myself. God has not changed. His call on my life has not changed. Therefore, in this waiting time, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. The Sovereign Lord remains my strength; and in due time, something new will begin to grow.
Sovereign Lord, thank you for your faithfulness. May you be our strength and our joy in challenging times. Amen.