The Death of the Single Grain
“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. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:24-25)
This is one of those passages that continue to speak to me in new ways. In United Methodist liturgy, this is one of the suggested scripture readings for a service of committal at a graveside or columbarium. It has always haunted me that Jesus talks about hating our life in this world, and I have done much reflection on the meaning of the entire passage.
Sadly, this text has been used by many to create a theology of privilege reserved only for those who are worthy. If we can just figure out how to “hate our lives in this world” we will be destined for the pearly gates and an eternity of peace. I am not so sure this is what Jesus or the gospel writer had in mind.
Ultimately, it is about letting go (thus my continued curiosity). It is about folding ourselves into the whole of God’s created order … to give ourselves wholly to God that we might experience life that is more than eternal … it is abundant right now.
That is perhaps the gift of brokenness. It is the gift of turning wholly to God and offering ourselves fully to God’s creative work here and now.
Sadly, Christianity has moved to a place of self-centeredness where we are concerned only about our own salvation. Yes, we are concerned about others and want to bring many others with us, but many Christians are quick to judge about who gets in and who doesn’t … so long as I get in. This has often created the scenario where Christians are part of the problem, as church historian Diana Butler-Bass has described in her blog post titled Moral Malpractice & the Future of Faith. She writes about the harm that Christians have done in this pandemic through denial and defiance. Her closing line is, “If only there was a vaccine against self-centeredness.”
To “fall into the earth and die” is to see ourselves as part of God’s creation … the community God intends for us. This is what Jesus called the kingdom of God and what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called the Beloved Community. It is about enjoining ourselves to the world, which contains a sea of broken lives AND resources beyond our imaginations that together can create an ebb and flow of faithful living … if only we will let ourselves be swept up in the current.
So give yourselves to God in this moment. Let our brokenness be that which connects us to the brokenness of the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned (see Matthew 25:31-40). Let us then take our resources … our wealth, our talents, and our abilities … and sow them into the world in such a way that we might stand in solidarity with all who are broken as we offer pathways to wholeness and peace.
God of Abundant Living: May we take our brokenness and fold ourselves into your beloved creation that we might discover what abundant living is for all that you have made. Amen.