Sermon – 03-21-21 – Lent V – Cycle B
Scriptures: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:1-12; Hebrews 5:5-10; John 12:20-33
Sermon Title: “The Grain of Wheat Must Die”
Out of one grain of wheat, comes multiple stalks of wheat which produce multiple grains of wheat and on it goes. But the single grains must die to multiply.
Jesus says, “If you love your life, you will lose it. If you give it up in this world, you will be given eternal life.” (John 12:25 CEV) This dying to become alive is the essence of following Christ and of Christ himself.
In the death of Jesus, is the promise of the gathering of multiple souls – first to serve God, then to be gathered in the heavenly kingdom.
We heard in the Jeremiah passage (31:31-34) that God is making a new covenant with his people. God is placing knowledge of God’s self in our hearts. We know God because God is in our hearts. Not only knowledge – not only the knowing – but the living, the obeying, the dying to self. We have the desire to obey God’s rules, but greater than that is the death of our sins so that we can fully live for God.
How do our sins die? They die because we ask forgiveness and God forgives. It is the dying of Jesus on the cross that absorbs our sins. Jesus does not keep our sins like a sponge and will explode at a certain point because his body is bloated with all of our sins. No. The sins disappear like they never happened. Imagine the reality and the expansiveness of this truth!
Psalm 51 accompanies this truth in memorable words. “Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my wickedness.” “Indeed you delight in truth deep within me, and would have me know wisdom deep within.” “Remove my sins and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be purer than snow.” “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.”
The John 12 passage gives us this idea of glorification. Not for us. First Jesus asks the Father to glorify the Father’s name. Then the voice from heaven comes saying, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” I take that to mean that the Father’s name was glorified during such events as the creation, at the birth of Jesus, at the baptism of Jesus, at the transfiguration of Jesus, and will be glorified in the Garden of Gethsemane, and at the glorious resurrection! You may see a different view of this glorify verse. I would appreciate knowing your view. Think about it,
Now that I am thinking about it more, did you hear me say, “Not for us.” At first glance, it seems that glory does not belong to us. We were thinking of the glory of the Father’s name. But, can we ever say that humans are glorified? How about when we put away our haughty selves and our haughty clothing and “dig in” to help someone else? On our church 1zion.org website, there are mission trip pictures. Digging in. When we physically and lovingly care for a sick person – “digging in.” When we find ourselves being carried away for the Lord by caring for a whole city of dying people as Mother Teresa did – “digging in.” When we are at our best in serving God, other people see the glow that appears around us. Being glorified? I think so.
We can’t strive for this glow in our minds. We can’t see the glow ourselves. But other people can see the glow. We are glorifying the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all in one. But in turn we are being glorified. This is not about pride or feeling better than other people. We cannot have glory as our goal. Serving others must come from our hearts without thinking “should I or shouldn’t I?”
Some of us find it extremely hard to physically care for other people. Some of us find it extremely hard to make ourselves start a community garden and work in it – preparing the soil, planting seeds, pulling weeds, picking produce. Some of us are hopeless with a hammer except for the sure thing of injuring ourselves. Well think. Caring for sick and dying people, having a community garden working well, repairing houses does not just happen. Someone with the gifts of planning, of organizing, or with communication skills needs to get it going and keep it going.
We might get press attention, we might receive loads of praise from the people who plant vegetables or flowers, we might find a really good feeling in our minds, we might move a couple of notches in self-esteem. But the glory part? It cannot be the goal. It needs to be a surprise. Remember, we can’t earn our way to forgiveness. We can’t earn our way into the kingdom.
The entrance to the kingdom only operates depending on our faith. We need to say we believe in Jesus. We need to give glory to the Father in all things.
Jesus did not want glory for himself. But God had other plans apparently. Several times, starting in the Old Testament a mystery person appears. He is a “priest.” He appears and blesses Abraham after Abraham obeys God and wins a battle of some sort. This priest is named Melchizedek. His name appears with David in Psalm 110. He is mentioned in the book of Hebrews.
God is a mysterious God. God reveals some things clearly. Others, not so much. This priest is a “type” which is to say he is presented to us early in scripture as a model for someone or something to come. Melchizedek appears and disappears. As it happens, Melchizedek is a model for Jesus, the ultimate high priest. High priests make sacrifices to remove the sins of the people for whom they are responsible. God the Father says to Jesus, the Son, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”
The sacrifice of himself on the cross is Jesus being like a grain of wheat which has to die so that other plants may spring from it and live. We get to spring from this death on the cross. We can flourish, we can glorify God in our aliveness, in our growth toward bearing more grains, bearing fruit, sharing Jesus in a world that sorely needs Jesus. We can think of ourselves as lovely flowers bursting open, seed pods filling with seeds, then bursting open, falling on empty soil, in empty hearts, stirring hope where they land and are nourished. We need to be willing to burst open, to lose our selfish selves, to stretch and burst from our shells, to be alive and spreading seeds of hope to transform our hopeless world into gardens that glorify God’s name and God’s very self – all three selves: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen