Wednesday 17 March 2021

Of Greeks and Seeds

Some Greeks had gone to Jerusalem to worship during Passover.
Philip from Bethsaida in Galilee was there too. So they went to him and said, “Sir, we would like to meet Jesus.” 
Philip told Andrew. Then the two of them went to Jesus and told him.

Jesus said: "The time has come for the Son of Man to be given his glory. I tell you for certain that a grain of wheat that falls on the ground will never be more than one grain unless it dies. But if it dies, it will produce lots of wheat. If you love your life, you will lose it. If you give it up in this world, you will be given eternal life.  If you serve me, you must go with me. My servants will be with me wherever I am. If you serve me, my Father will honour you." (John 12:20-26, CEV)

A popular poem at funerals, I'm told - though I've never used it, it shows up on the Internet lists of good poems for funerals - is "Death is Nothing at all", with the line "I have only slipped away to the next room".

It's a poem with an interesting history, as it was originally part of a sermon in which the preacher said basically, it's nice to think that death is nothing at all - but that's not the case.

A friend of mine died a few weeks ago. Same age as me. Mid-50s. No particular health issues that I was ever aware of. A real shock. She was a lovely woman with a huge heart and real care and love for people. For those of us who hadn't seen her for a couple of years, but still been friends online - you're left with that kind of dull ache.And where she's gone, for her loved ones, there will be a huge hole. "Death is nothing at all" doesn't cover it. Because she's not slipped away to the next room. Believe me, if she had, I could hear her talking about curtains. She loved talking about curtains.

Some Greeks come to see Jesus and we're not clear on why - they're up in Jerusalem for the Passover, and maybe they think that he's one of the sights. So they get Philip, and he gets Andrew and they both go and find Jesus. And Jesus - whatever it is that the Greeks want to know about - decides he wants to talk about death and life.

And he says a very odd thing about death - and in particular his death. He says it's necessary. A grain of wheat has to go into the ground and die. It ceases to be a grain of wheat in the ground - the moisture gets to it, and it starts to open up. But if it doesn't go in the ground, it doesn't grow.

Death is very serious indeed. It cuts us off from friends, family, sunlight and noise and laughter.  But it also sets us free. Jesus says "if you give up your life in this world you will be given eternal life." Thomas Hardy's poem, "Friends Beyond" imagines all the people of the village who are now dead, rejoicing that they're not worrying about worldly stuff anymore. They don't care who's got their belongings or who owns their houses.

I think Jesus is saying - we can achieve that this side of the grave, first up. We can know that everything in this world is God's - enjoy it, use it, help others with it - but don't cling on to it. Know that we give everything into God's hands, so we can utterly depend upon God. So the things you love now - maybe some you need to give up. Most, you need to offer up to God, give thanks for them, and use them to his glory. You don't have to give up stuff you like to follow Jesus - but you do have to give up stuff that gets in the way.

And if we depend on Jesus, if we follow Jesus - we can follow him into the grave, then follow him back out again. Our hope for the future goes beyond death. It goes out through a reopened grave, into a world where Jesus is the light that gives light to everyone. Where all things are made well. Where all our pains and sorrows are healed. Where we will be with God forever, and love him as he loves us.


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