Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground (09-04-21)
A Bible Reading: John 12. 23 - 29
Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very 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.
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.
Seed planting has been in full swing at the Rectory since mid-February. Thanks to lockdown, I was able to get organised and start early this year. It is an uncertain process with no guarantees, despite encouraging ‘these seeds can’t fail’ messages on the packets. Results can be unpredictable. Out of two packets of foxgloves and over a hundred seeds, I have only one foxglove plant. Let’s hope it flowers well and scatters its own seeds this summer. By contrast, asters and antirrhinums have come up well. They have now been carefully pricked out to give more room for growth, ready for transplanting outdoors when any danger of frost is past. Now I am starting in earnest on my herbs and veggie seeds.
Every seed has to be buried in the soil. I can no longer see it. I have no idea if anything is happening for days, sometimes several weeks, and then… There is the excitement of seeing the first little shoots beginning to appear in the soil. This never fails to thrill me year on year, the miracle of new life and growth in tender little shoots.
Jesus used this same image of seeds falling into the ground to prepare his disciples for his death, burial and resurrection during Holy Week and Easter. This particular ‘falling into the ground’ was guaranteed beyond doubt and abundantly fruitful. Jesus may have been the ‘God-man’ but while on earth, he was only one person. After his death, burial and resurrection, his message spread far and wide. Leaving the disciples to continue, already the ministry had multiplied. Many of Jesus’ disciples also lost their lives for their faith, but the number of early believers continued to grow with new converts being added daily.
The early Christian apologist, Tertullian, wrote ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church’. These words are still equally true today. Despite terrible persecution in certain parts of the world, the church continues to grow in those countries. However, this scripture can also be applied to our present situation, where we might equate the lockdown with burial from which we are beginning to emerge. In the dark ground of lockdown, neighbourly support has fostered new relationships, online worship has attracted curious enquirers, and isolation has birthed the possibility of Wellbeing Cafés in our villages. With the prospect of another Alpha course and new Bible study groups, so many new seedlings are springing up assuring us of resurrection hope in the future.
Lord of the Church, your death and resurrection bring certainty and hope for the future. May we work with you to nurture new growth in our churches and villages and may we produce good fruit that will last. Amen.
Now the green blade riseth.