Seedtime and Harvest

By Rev. Heidi L. Barham |  March 18, 2018

Read John 12:20 – 33 (RSV)
 
As we are quickly approaching Easter Sunday, or Resurrection Day, as it is also called, this passage gives us some food for thought as it relates to what Christ’s death means for us. 
 
When we consider the magnitude of the sacrifice that Jesus made, it can be overwhelming to say the least.  But we have the advantage of looking back at it from across the centuries, twenty-one of them to be exact.  So, I dare say, our perspective is vastly different than that of the Greeks and the disciples in our New Testament lesson for the morning.
 
In the opening verses of our text, we read about some Greeks who had gone to worship at the Feast.  They approached one of Jesus’ disciples, Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee and said that they wanted to see Jesus, and they wanted to know if Philip could help them. 
 
So, Philip went and told Andrew, and together they went to tell Jesus.  But, Jesus does not appear to address the request from the Greeks who wanted to meet Him. 
 
Or does He?
 
Rather than give Philip and Andrew a simple, “Yay or nay,” in response to the request from the Greek followers, He told them, “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.” 
 
In other words, as it reads in the Message Paraphrase, “Time’s up. The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” 
 
So perhaps, Jesus was saying that the time for meeting and greeting had passed; that there was something more important that needed to be attended to.
 
And that is the point when Jesus used the metaphor of a grain of wheat to explain the sacrifice that He must make.    Verse 24 in the Message reads like this, “Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over.”
 
In order for the seed to produce anything, it must be buried in the ground and it must be broken before new life can spring forth from it. 
 
Each week when we gather at the Communion table, we hear the words of institution read from 1 Corinthians as the loaf of bread is broken, symbolizing Christ breaking the bread and giving it to His disciples on the night He shared that Last Supper with them.
 
That bread which Jesus broke represented His body that would soon be laid in a tomb.  And He gave the disciples the assurance that just like a seed that is buried in the ground and is broken, new life would soon spring forth.
 
Each week, as we break the bread, it is a tangible reminder of Christ’s great sacrifice for us all.
 
And as we reflect on this text for the morning, it is a reminder that we, too, must be willing to live sacrificial lives so that new life will spring forth in us as well.  Looking at verse 25 we read, “In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.” 
 
When we relinquish control of our lives and surrender to Christ, we gain so much more in the process; not only do we receive the gift of eternal life, we are able to experience genuine joy. 
 
However, we need to keep in mind that joy and happiness are not the same thing.  When we surrender our lives to Christ, there will be situations that arise that do not make us “happy,” but because we have Christ at the center of our lives, we can still have joy, even in the midst of unhappy circumstances.
 
Now for the most part, it is not likely that we will be put in the position of having to literally give our lives for the cause of Christ, but it could happen.
 
And the question we must consider is, “What would our response be, should we be put in such a position?”  
 
That might seem farfetched, but all we need do is look back to the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC in the summer of 2015 to know that the possibility does exist.  That even in a house of worship, our very lives might be demanded of us.
 
But barring such an extreme circumstance as that, the text does speak to what it means for us to live lives of total surrender, being willing to set “self” aside in order to glorify God.
 
Verse 26 of the text says, “If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice. The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me.”
 
And just how far does Jesus expect us to follow Him?  All the way to the cross if need be. 
 
But along with that, following Jesus means to walk where He walks and to serve where He serves.  But just where is that?  In the midst of the people. 
 
In the places where hungry people need to be fed, thirsty people need to be given a drink, homeless people need to be provided with shelter and the sick and imprisoned need to be looked after.
 
In the places that are sometimes the hardest to go, because it requires making a personal sacrifice to get there.  But when we think about the sacrifice that Christ made for us -- let’s just say, our sacrifices pale in comparison.
 
Now as we keep reading in our text for the morning, we get a deeper sense of what Jesus was feeling in light of what He was facing and the sacrifice He would be making.  Dying on a cross; dying for the sins of the world; dying for a world that did not have a clue as to the enormity of what it was that Jesus was doing for them. 
 
Looking at the Message again, we read:
 
“Right now I am storm-tossed. And what am I going to say? ‘Father, get me out of this’? No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say, ‘Father, put your glory on display.’”  
 
Jesus knew that He came to glorify God, that everything He said and did was for one purpose and one purpose only -- to bring glory to the Father.  And that is what we are called to do and how we are called to live as well; to live in such a way as to bring glory to God.
 
As I was reflecting on this passage, I was particularly struck by the closing verses in the Message:
 
 “Jesus said, The voice didn’t come for me but for you. At this moment the world is in crisis. Now Satan, the ruler of this world, will be thrown out. And I, as I am lifted up from the earth, will attract everyone to me and gather them around me.” He put it this way to show how he was going to be put to death.”
 
I am not sure if anyone else has noticed, but, at this moment the world really is in crisis.  When I can stomach it, I try to watch the news or listen on the radio or read what I can on the Internet and I must admit, it can be very disheartening.
 
But the good news is that when we read to the end of the Bible we find the assurance that the best is yet to come.  The prince of this world, Satan, will be defeated and Jesus will be lifted up from the earth and draw all men, women and children to Himself. 
 
But until Christ comes back for us -- and we can rest assured, He is coming back -- we have a responsibility to sow seeds that yield the fruit of the Spirit, seeds of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22 – 23).
 
The world we live in is filled with anger and animosity, hatred and hostility, rage and resentment.  Yet, even in the face of all that, God has called us to live in such a way as to glorify Him.  Not going tit for tat or giving as good as we get, but being the bigger person, doing right, even when we have been wronged.
 
Romans 12 (16-18) says, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
 
That sounds like a tall order, but we find confirmation that this is how we ought to live by reading 1 Thessalonians 5 (14 – 15), “And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them.  See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all.”
 
And just in case you are still not convinced, we find further confirmation in 1 Peter 3 (8 – 9), “Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love of the brethren, a tender heart and a humble mind. Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling; but on the contrary bless, for to this you have been called, that you may obtain a blessing.”
 
Now I will be the first to admit, that it is not easy, but where in the Bible does it say this life will be easy?  God did not call us to a life of ease but to a life that will please -- please God that is.
 
And what pleases God?  Hebrews 13:16 tells us, “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
 
No matter how hard we may try to get away from it, we keep coming back to this idea of doing good for others; sacrificing self for the benefit of someone else; following Jesus’ lead.
 
Before we prepare to sing our Hymn of Discipleship, there is one last passage that I want to share this morning from Galatians 6 (8 – 10) that relates to the idea of seedtime and harvest; reading again from the Message:
 
“What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.  So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.”
 
The work may not always be easy, but God is still calling us to be faithful, if for no other reason than because He is faithful. 
 
And if you trust and believe that God really is faithful, then won’t you stand now and join in singing our Hymn of Discipleship, Great Is Thy Faithfulness #86.
 

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