As always I want to ask how you are as we continue our journey through Lent in lockdown, March seems to be passing quickly, and in just one more week we will be preparing for Palm Sunday and then Holy Week that follows. Time for me seems to be passing both quickly and slowly, I still do a double take as I write the year 2021, as I remember vividly celebrating the new millennium, and yet over 20 years of it have already passed, for me they carried many life changes and no less than six moves all over the country.
In these days we are living with the governments “road map” to ease us out of lockdown, I am beginning to receive enquiries about weddings, and other events, which can be held once again in our church buildings. Some friends have celebrated the arrival of text messages from their hairdressers saying that appointments will soon be ready. All of this and signs of spring all around us, this week my daffodils all flowered, may well lift our spirits and give us hope.
Signs and symbols are important, and can point us to a decision, or be a confirmation of an event, or Jesus as the story unfolds in John’s gospel the arrival of the Greeks wanting to see him was a sign.
A Grain of Wheat Must Die
20-21 There were some Greeks in town who had come up to worship at the Feast. They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee: “Sir, we want to see Jesus. Can you help us?”
22-23 Philip went and told Andrew. Andrew and Philip together told Jesus. Jesus answered, “Time’s up. The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
24-25 “Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.
26 “If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice. The Father will honour and reward anyone who serves me.
27-28 “Right now I am shaken. And what am I going to say? ‘Father, get me out of this’? No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say, ‘Father, put your glory on display.’”
A voice came out of the sky: “I have glorified it, and I’ll glorify it again.”
29 The listening crowd said, “Thunder!”
Others said, “An angel spoke to him!”
30-33 Jesus said, “The voice didn’t come for me but for you. At this moment the world is in crisis. Now Satan, the ruler of this world, will be thrown out. And I, as I am lifted up from the earth, will attract everyone to me and gather them around me.” He put it this way to show how he was going to be put to death.
(John 12: 20-33 The Message Version)
Now it is important to note that it was not unusual for Greeks or other Gentiles to be present in Jerusalem, . First-century synagogues welcomed gentiles, so it is not surprising to find Gentiles in Jerusalem for Passover as well, what is significant is that they are looking for Jesus, while others would be admiring the temple the news of this new teacher, this miracle worker, this possible Messiah had piqued their interest, they want to see Jesus, and we hear the frustration of the Pharisees in the verse immediately preceding this passage “look the whole world is going after him”. The Greeks want to see Jesus, and it is to them and the gathered crowd that Jesus gives his last piece of public teaching before his arrest and crucifixion. A grain of wheat he say must fall to the ground and die if it is to produce fruit, sacrifice and death will bring about fruitfulness, let go of your life he says, having already declared that for himself the time has come. He calls others to follow his pattern, and shares his anguish, and the crowd all hear a voice from heaven, was it an angel, was it God? I will leave that to your imagination, but there was no doubt in the minds of those gathered that something was going to happen! I am sure if it had been explained to the what, if they’d had a road map for passion, crucifixion and resurrection they wouldn’t have believed it. Jesus was about to die on behalf of the nations, and not only on behalf of all nations only, but so that the dispersed children of God might be gathered together as one” All those excluded by race, gender, ethnicity, you can keep writing the list, are to be made one, Jesus death and the resurrection of the universal Christ, made flesh in the church throughout the world will see this come about, the grain of wheat is about to fall.
In these days we have seen a lot of death, and are probably wondering where the fruit Jesus talks about might be, there have been good things arising from the pandemic, communities and neighbours coming together, and much more, I am sure we could write a list quite quickly. There has also been great grief, and I suspect that there will be more, these are dark days, and as we emerge from them I suspect we will have many questions and will be asking ourselves what comes next.
As people who have faith in Christ we can in our minds skip forward to Easter Sunday, which began for Jesus disciples behind the doors of a locked room, where they gathered in grief and disbelief, when the women went to the tomb as the dawn was breaking they were dismayed to find the tomb empty, and it took a long time for what had happened to sink in, and still there was doubt and confusion among the disciples. As you prepare for Holy Week you might like to read the gospel accounts of the resurrection and allow yourself to consider the mix of emotions they reveal. The road was not easy, and Easter morning was not greeted with Alleluias! As we find our ways forward through this time I think that first Easter has a lot to teach us.
I leave you then with a poem, it is an invitation to Holy Week, and even though we are not there yet, this weeks gospel passage is set after the Triumphal Entry.
Invitation to Holy Week ( for Palm Sunday)
What have you seen
that draws praise
so easily from
your lips today?
what have you heard?
Has he touched your
Have you known
and do you know the wonders
of his love?
Is it enough to keep you close
even though he leads you to his cross?
Is there another
you could go to,
one you could turn to
whose peace would match
the peace that he gives?
Will you watch with him
will you enter his story afresh,
and walk with him along the way,
beyond the cheers and palms
to Gethsemane’s depths, with
blood filled sweat and tears,
and prayers where groans replace words
for the anguish
is too deep?
Will you come to the hill
where surrendering to nails
beaten and bloodied he gives
his all for you?,
walk with me,
and I will lead you
through death to life again….
it is a cycle
that bears repeating
As you continue your Lenten journey, may God bless and keep you, this day and always. As always if you would value a conversation please don’t hesitate to call me.
Reverend Sally Coleman