This sermon included a very tiny plastic bag of seeds, a pot of earth, a broad bean seedling, and a large calathea plant, for demonstration and visual purposes…
I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
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. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.
Seeds can be tiny! Sometimes really huge plants and trees can come from seeds so small, it’s hard even to pick them up! There are 500 in here!
And the thing about seeds is that they look pretty dead. They don’t need anything to just ‘be’. You can keep seeds for years, decades even, just in a cool dry dark place, and nothing happens. They just ‘are’.
But if we want something to happen to that seed, we need to bury it in the ground.
But there’s a funny thing about burying things – it’s what we usually do when someone or something dies. That’s when we bury things.
So there’s a paradox here.
Jesus lived in a very rural setting, so he knew all about plants and growing things. He also lived in a time when death was much more present. Most of us expect to get to old age. In his time, that was much more unusual. So death was very much a part of life for people in those days than it is for us.
He says, unless we bury the grain of wheat – the wheat seed – it remains just that – a single seed. It remains effectively dead because it doesn’t change or create anything.
BUT… if we bury it in the ground, as if it were dead, then it actually becomes alive! It germinates and grows and becomes a stalk of wheat …
which then in turn produces lots and lots of wheat seeds. Or in this case, a giant calathea plant!!
(By the way, this is also known as a prayer plant, because at night it raises its leaves upwards, as if praying.)
We could take the metaphor of seeds, dying, and growing a bit further.
Sometimes we have to let go of things, let go of control, if they are to have the space and freedom to flourish and grow into their full potential. If we keep a tight hold, then they will never have the space to be more than they are now.
Same with a seed – if we hold on to it as it is now, it will never have the chance to become more. But if we let go, if we bury it and seemingly let it die, new and abundant life will arise.
And then there is the idea of God’s presence within us. The reading from Jeremiah talks about this, and Jesus does too. The idea that God is no longer only found in the temple, or the church, or in the scriptures, but is actually present within us.
Jeremiah speaks of God dwelling in the human heart. But the heart is a deep and hidden place within us. And it’s pretty uncontrollable.
We try our best to control our hearts (the seat of our feelings and emotions) by being rational, and staying in our heads. If we are too successful, we can actually end up emotionally or spiritually stunted. We don’t grow to our greatest potential.
I’d like to suggest that there is a link here. We have to allow God’s spirit to dwell in our hearts, and we have to let the seed that is our inner self, our soul, be buried within the heart. And then we let go.
And in that act of burial, letting go of unyielding control, and letting God be present, miracles will happen.
The seed of our soul will blossom and flourish, watered by God’s spirit, fed by our hearts, and we will become the best that we can be, blessing those around us.
If in loving what is now – our self, our identity, our possessions – whatever it may be… If we hold on to it with tight control, we will lose the very thing that we value and desire to keep.
But if we bury that seed in our hearts, if we let what we love go into that place of nourishment and potentiality, then the life and fruit that will grow from it will astound us in its beauty and wonder.
Thanks be to God.