Reflection: "Life and Death"
Today I’m going to let you in on the secret to life.
You probably already know what I’m going to tell you, though you may not have thought of it as the secret to life.
It’s something you’ve probably seen and experienced over and over.
It’s one of those secrets hidden in plain sight.
It’s also one of those secrets that can trouble the soul, so we often turn away from it, or close our eyes to it.Jesus said:
“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”.
So, there you have it - now you know the secret to life.
It’s the pattern of loss and renewal that runs throughout our lives and our world.
Even if you’ve never thought of it this way, you may have lived and experienced it, sometimes by choice and other times by chance - either way, it’s there.
Look at the way this pattern is present in your life.
Have you ever fallen in love and committed your life to another?
If so, you had to let parts of your old life go and something of your single life died so that you could be with that other person.
How about parenting?
If you’re a parent, you know that there are sacrifices of yourself and your life to be made in order for the new life of your child to emerge and grow.
We give up parts of ourselves for the other and we’re continually letting go of the child so they can grow up.
Have you ever been the carer of another?
If so, you could name the parts of your life that died so that another might live with dignity, compassion, and love.
This same pattern is in nature.
We can see it in the changing of the seasons, falling leaves and new blooms, and the setting and rising of the sun.
The secret’s out. It’s a pattern of loss and renewal, dying and rising, letting go and getting back, leaving and return.
It’s at the core of our baptism and it’s what we declare when we celebrate communion:
“Christ has died,
Christ is risen,
Christ will come again.”
What in your life do you need to let go of today?
What might you need to leave behind?
What needs to die so that something new can arise?
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that today’s gospel story is set in the context of the Passover feast.
The Passover is the celebration of the Israelites’ liberation from bondage in Egypt.
It’s about freedom and new life.
It’s about letting go, leaving behind, and moving into a new life.
There’s something about this pattern that is the lens through which we see Jesus.
Some Greeks come to Philip and say, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
Philip tells Andrew about the Greeks and their request.
Philip and Andrew tell Jesus and Jesus says to them,
“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.”
That’s his response to those who want to see him; to the Greeks, to you, to me.
And you’ve got to know that his reference to dying is about more than just our physical death.
We die a thousand deaths throughout our lifetime, through the loss of a loved one, a relationship, loss of health, missed opportunities, or dreams.
At other times we choose our losses and deaths.
We give up parts of ourselves for others.
And sometimes there are things we need to let go of - like fear, anger, resentment, regret, disappointment, guilt, the need to be right.
These things we cling to that deny us the fullness of the life we crave, and that God offers to us.
For us, seeing Jesus isn’t supposed to be a spectator sport.
It’s a way to be followed, a truth to be embodied, a life to be lived.
It’s being a grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies so that it might bear much fruit.
That’s where we see him.
It’s the letting go, the emptying, the leaving behind, and the dying that makes space for new life to arise.
Has there ever been a time in your life when you look back and say,
“I never want to go through that again, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.”
What happened at that time for you?
As difficult or painful as that experience was, it probably bore much fruit.
You were probably changed, and your life was renewed.
It was one of those times when you were the grain of wheat that fell into the earth and died, and I’ll bet it was one of those times when you knew that you had seen Jesus.
When you experienced the holy, when you were absolutely convinced that God was present and working in your life.
Letting go doesn’t mean rejection or walking away - and it doesn’t mean choosing absence over presence.
Instead, letting go is what allows us to be more authentically present to ourselves and others.
It makes room for new life and new ways of being present to arise.
Our letting go gives God something to work with.
Why then would we continue to cling to the old ways, to live as an isolated, self-enclosed, single grain of wheat?
The soul-troubling secret to life is that unless our grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, we won’t bear fruit.
I wonder what the grain of wheat is in your life today - the one that needs to fall into the earth and die?
What are the things that if you lost them, you’re sure you’d just want to die?
Maybe those are the very places waiting to bear much fruit in your life.
Maybe that’s where you’ll see Jesus.
However, remember that growth can be a slow process and the fruit of new life takes time - usually longer than we want it to.
Yet, even when unseen, unbelieved, or unrecognized, the power and life of God are present and at work in the depths of our life, in the dark and hidden places and that’s the answer to the mystery of life.
I pray that you can sprout into a productive new life in Christ.
"We know that God goes with us into every part of our lives.Our calling is to live fully for the Kingdom,
so go out into the world in peace to love and serve him forever. Amen"