Easter Sunday 2015
April 5, 2015
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Every year I love to hear that great hymn, “Now the green blade riseth.” We’ll be singing it today during Communion. It’s on page 17 of the bulletin, in fact. I love the dance-like sound of the tune. And I love the words. “Now the green blade riseth”—it reminds me of the joy we feel every spring when our grass greens up and the first dandelions bloom and the violets come out all over the lawn.
I had some fun this past week sprouting a bunch of grass seeds in that casserole dish as a theological experiment of sorts. The seeds were really dried out, and they surely didn’t look very promising. I was taken with how such dry and dead-looking bits could lead to new life. So I followed the directions on the seed bag and planted them about a quarter inch below the surface of the soil and tamped it all down. Then came the water—a little bit each day, to keep it moist but not to drown it. And lo and behold—after 3 or 4 days, the seeds began to sprout.
I’ve since learned from that venerable authority, the Internet, that the water activates enzymes inside the seed that allow it to break open and begin to release the part that becomes the root and then the part that becomes the green shoot. And when the seed begins to sprout, it releases energy that’s been stored up inside of it all this long, dry time. It’s as if the seed “dies” or at least radically changes, so that it might sprout into something new, something that can lead to a wonderful outcome. One shoot of grass may make 20 or 30 little seeds. So one seed at harvest time increases at least 20-fold. Then go and plant all those seeds, and you have a 400-fold increase the next season. All from one little dry seed.
Just 2 weeks ago we heard Jesus tell the parable of the wheat seed. He 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.” [John 12: 24]
Jesus could have been talking about how we need to die to ourselves—to diminish our selves—in order to produce fruit that affects others for the good. Staying wrapped up in our narcissistic selves helps few. But dying to ourselves frees us up to reach out and do real good in the world. That’s how we bear much fruit.
That’s one interpretation of the parable.
Another interpretation, though, is that Jesus was actually speaking about what would happen to him. He would die, he would be planted in the ground like a seed. And he would rise to new life from death, and touch so many millions and perhaps even billions of people throughout human history. He would bear very much fruit.
Listen to this reflection by Caryll Houselander, who was a British Christian mystic and writer in the 20th Century. She wrote,
“Christ was in the tomb; the whole world was sown with the seed of Christ’s life; that which happened thirty years ago in the womb of the Virgin Mother was happening now, but now it was happening yet more secretly, yet more mysteriously, in the womb of the whole world.
“ Christ had already told those who flocked to hear Him preach that the seed must fall into the earth, or else remain by itself alone. Now the seed of His life was hidden in darkness in order that His life should quicken in countless hearts, over and over again for all time. His burial, which seemed to be the end, // was the beginning. It was the beginning of Christ-life in multitudes of souls. It was the beginning, too, of the renewal of Christ’s life in [other] countless souls.”
[www.edgeofenclosure.org for Easter, 2015]
So Jesus in the tomb was a seed for us. He was a seed that sprouted in Resurrection, like my grass seed that sprouted like crazy last week. The resurrection was entirely the opposite of what anyone would have thought would happen. He was good and dead. But now, he’s alive. He’s turned the world upside down, and his resurrection is promised to us as a seed for our own resurrection.
* * *
Now, when we pick up the newspaper these days much of what we see is terrible stuff. Yesterday the biggest headline in the Times was: “Promised Mercy, Kenyan Students Got Bullets.” Another headline read, “Pilot Accelerated Before Crash.” And here’s one from this morning’s paper: “Islamic State Seizes Palestinian Refugee Camp in Syria.” And this is just the worldwide news. Our own lives may be dark and seemingly hopeless sometimes as we struggle with challenges of every sort.
This is where our faith in Jesus, who died and rose again, can be so life-giving. Jesus has promised us that he’ll always be with us, no matter what: this God Jesus / brings us hope and something to hold onto, even when the world seems to be falling apart. Faith is not a retreat from problems, but a way through them. Jesus is not our great fixer, but our great shepherd, carrying us sometimes on his shoulders through the muck.
I close with some words of David Adam, who was rector on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in northern England. He talks about how faith in Jesus is our seed of hope that helps us carry on. Adam writes,
“Rejoice in the risen Lord. [Take heart!]
Discover that through him:
Goodness is stronger than evil;
love is stronger than hatred;
light is stronger than darkness;
Life is stronger than death.
Victory is ours through him who loves us:
Jesus Christ our risen Lord.” [David Adam, The Road of Life, p. 86]