A Messiah for All

Kenora                  Lent 5

Year B

21 March 2021

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Psalm 51:1-13

Hebrews 5:5-10

John 12:20-33

God of glory, your revelation through Jesus Christ calls into your covenant of love. Enable us now to reflect your love, so that barriers erected by sin may be broken down, and all people may be drawn to you; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

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Looking at today’s gospel, we’ve got a lot going on, it seems.

We’ve got Greeks wanting to see Jesus.

We’ve got Jews/locals confused that Greeks, that outsiders want to see Jesus.

We have Jesus speaking prophetically.

We have Jesus being troubled because he knows what’s coming. And we hear the voice of God, interpreted by the masses as either the words of an angel, or as thunder.

All together, if this were the first time that we experience this text, it could be seen / heard / interpreted as confusing! But two phrases, in today’s gospel, jump out at me and they’re more connected than the Greeks or Apostles think, today.

The gospel tells us: “24 Very truly, I tell you, 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. … 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” Jn 12:24, 32)

Now, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen or heard or experienced the simile of wheat being sown. The other gospels give us the parable of the sower where wheat is cast on different kinds of ground, by the sower, and we are told how that, being the word of God, takes root in our hearts, and grows in our lives. (Mt 13, Mk 4, Lk 8)

But here, it’s the imagery that Jesus draws, today, that we gravitate to as Jesus says it to those within hearing distance. As Jesus, in this way describes that to effectively spread the gospel, it’s not just one person to do this.

Jesus tells us: “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.” (Jn 12:24)

And I was thinking of this idea. For the sower, he has the expectation that the grain that is sowed will die and will sprout up in new life, and will produce much fruit.

For someone watching the sower, if they’re not familiar with the idea of growing things from seed, then this will be a puzzling action by the sower, and what sprouts and grows and produces fruit is miraculous.

But what if it’s looked at from the perspective of the wheat? The wheat knows the sower will plant it in the earth, and that with the warmth of the sunshine, the water of the rainfalls and the action of the earth itself, that it will die, but in dying transform into new life, and in that new life bear much fruit. 

So, if we see ourselves as the grain of wheat, if we see Jesus as the grain of wheat, then we are all being transformed into so much more than we could ask or imagine, but at the same time we produce much fruit.

And then, a further extension is that Jesus is telling each one of us, he’s telling the Greeks, the Apostles, and those who are gathered about Jesus, that we all have a valid story to tell.

That we are the ones who are able to share the love of God, the healing of our own lives and hearts because Jesus is a part of each one of us, because we are transformed by the love of God, in the same way that Jesus is transformed, in the same way that the love of God transforms each one of us in our own lives.

At the same time, Jesus tells us that the one person who starts all of this needs to get out of the way for the sharing of the gospel to be more effective.

In some ways it reminds me of that old shampoo commercial: “you tell two friends and they tell two friends and so on, and so forth.”

Jesus is telling us, the Greeks, the Apostles, and everyone else gathered to hear Jesus, to be healed by Jesus, to be inspired by Jesus, to be fed by Jesus or even for reasons that they cant elucidate, that the sharing of Jesus words, parables, message that the kingdom of God has come near is more effective if it’s more than one person sharing the message.

But as long as Jesus is with us, we turn to him. We turn to the voice of God’s wisdom and love instead of stepping into the fray and sharing God’s love with all whom we meet in our daily routines.

And I know that some of you will say this is the role of the clergy, in the same way that people want clergy to pray in public, or to say grace at a meal.

Sure, we can do it.

But we’re only one voice and all of the people saying “amen” to such prayers are so many more voices that have the same opportunity to share the love of God, the words of God’s salvation, of Jesus teachings, in places where clergy aren’t always found.

Maybe there’s someone who needs to hear your story. Maybe they need to hear how God moves in your life, to hear how the love of God the teachings of Jesus have informed you, and continue to lead you each day.

Maybe someone needs to hear your story so they can see how God is moving in your life as well.

Maybe you, too, are a grain of wheat that’s about to be transformed into a stalk bearing much fruit?

But today, before the Greeks, the Apostles, and the locals, Jesus makes his message even clearer when he says: “32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.” (Jn 12:32-33)

And in this we can recall the crucifixion, we can recall the jeering of the crowds, and yet the faith of the centurion, of the thief, of those passersby who believed instead of criticized.

As he told Nicodemus, in last week’s gospel, like the serpent in the wilderness, he will be lifted up and all who look on him will have new life. (Jn 3:16-17)

But the way Jesus approaches this is equally as intriguing as the words he chooses, today, and yet, its contingent on the fulfillment of the image of the grain of wheat falling to the earth.

So, then, this is our primary image, today. Here in the early spring, as the snow leaves our lawns, as we start to think green and growing thoughts, waiting for the frost to leave, and the ground to dry, we’re presented with the image of a grain of wheat falling to the earth, dying, yet in that dying being resurrected to new life, a life that produces much fruit.

And in this way Jesus is telling us that each of us has a unique way to tell someone else how Jesus has changed, and continues to change each of our lives.

Each one of us has and continues to have a unique relationship with our Lord and Saviour, and we have our own way to share that unique relationship, that path of salvation, that way to be drawn to Christ, as he is lifted up.

Jesus reminds us that unless a grain of wheat dies, it remains a grain of wheat. Sure, it’s good in bread, but as a growing seed, it doesn’t reach its potential to inspire each of us to become a grain of wheat in our own right, to bear much fruit of the spirit.

And in that spirit, once again, Jesus tells us that his journey leads to the cross. That this journey isn’t for his glory but so that each of us can face a better tomorrow than we have seen today.

So not only does the grain of wheat need to fall, but we need to see the Christ lifted up, we need to be drawn to him, not in the macabre experience but in the transformative experience of the grain dying and becoming something new.

And in such an experience, then we are also transformed. We recall the steps that God took in order to break the bonds of sin and death.

We relive the crucifixion, not just in memory of God’s love for all of humanity, not to remember that not everyone mourned the loss of the Christ. After all some celebrated it, as well.

Rather Jesus foreshadows all of this in today’s gospel because Greek’s have come and want to speak with him. They want to learn from him. They want to take his teachings home and share them with everyone they meet along the way, and everyone they know at home.

And in our lives, we do the same. We share the stories of how our lives are touched, and how Jesus is at the centre of those changes.

We spread the grains of faith in fields that will bear fruit, but in that it will be transformed, and transforming for both the seed and the field, and God’s love continues to guide both. All we have to do is tell our story and the seed is sown.

Amen.

About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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