The Fifth Sunday of Lent
The Fifth Sunday of Lent
March 29, 2009
John 12: 20-33
St. Francis, Norris
Two years ago, at Easter, we had a late spring freeze. As a result of that freeze, many items that are produced on trees and vines were frozen. At least the blooms were. As a result we had very little production of things such as peaches, blueberries, apples and even acorns. The hickory tree in front of the rectory, saw the leaves where the blooms were turn black after the freeze. They did not fall off during the year and I was afraid the tree would die. The blueberry farm did not even open that summer. Our family went a few times and picked what few blueberries we could find. Often the few we did find were small and sour.
That fall I was participating in a service at the Alex Haley farm. For those of you who have never visited, there is a significant apple orchard at the entrance to the farm. I noticed that there were no apples, at all, on the trees. It was the time of year that apples normally ripen, but nothing this year. It really is amazing. Nature that is. The circles or cycles of life in nature.
That oddball year made me think about how much we have progressed in scientific understanding and learning. If you were to go back a couple of hundred years, a spring freeze might have been devastating to this area. No apples, no peaches, no blueberries, or no nuts would have put a significant dent into the diets of the early settlers of this area. It isn’t like we could have shipped in those things from California or Florida.
The next thing that I noticed was the following year. It seemed as though nature stepped back in and made up for her shortcomings from the previous year. We got a double dose of blueberries, apples, peaches and I have never seen so many acorns as there were this fall.
That brings me to the point of our Gospel reading today. If you walk out into the woods or probably anywhere in your yard, you won’t have to search very long for an acorn. If you turn a few over you will find some of them sprouting and beginning to take root.
Andrew and Phillip came to tell Jesus that there are some Greeks that have come to see him. They are obviously attracted to Jesus and have heard what he has been doing and they want to know more. Instead of saying, “Great bring them to me.” Jesus goes off on a tangent talking about seeds and plants and life and death and masters and slaves.
What I think Jesus is doing here is sending the Greeks a message. If they want to see him and benefit fully from what he has been sent into the world to do, then he must carry on and complete the work that he was sent to do. This was the only way that the Greeks could truly come to know this Jew known as Jesus. After the resurrection anyone who wished to see Jesus could be drawn up with him. They too, could experience the love of God by being taken into fellowship and new life.
Jesus talking about seeds and falling into the ground and dying is merely the beginning of his answer. And the answer is that God will save the whole world through the death of Jesus. Not just the Greeks or Jews, the whole world.
Planting a seed means taking that seed and burying it and never seeing it again. It sounds sad doesn’t it? But if you wait a sprout will appear. The death of that seed has caused a rebirth. In the case of an acorn that rebirth takes many, many years. But if it takes hold that seed will turn into a mighty oak, in time. And from that mighty oak, there will be seasons where new acorns are scarce and seasons where new acorns are plentiful.
One oak tree may drop thousands of acorns but only a small percentage of them will sprout and become trees themselves. They may reach different stages of maturity before they actually become trees.
Jesus is telling us that we must be willing to be planted to become mighty. As acorns we are a part of the tree, but when we give up our hold and fall from that life we should realize that our death and planting are a beginning into a life better than we have yet known.
We need Jesus to help us attain that new life. Jesus is the planter. If you watch the acorns that fell this past fall, the vast majority of them will not take root. If you take them and plant them however they will usually root. We are the acorns. We will live our season and fall from the tree. If, while we were a part of the tree, we did the right things and followed what we knew to be right…then the planter will come and put us in the soil that will give us new beginnings as something much more than we were as acorns.
We do not know if the Greeks in question ever got to talk to Jesus. Scripture does not tell us. What we know is that Jesus realized at this point in his ministry that everyone (not just Greeks) would have the opportunity to see life in a way that had never before been seen. A life after death, a life after life. So it is even today. I guess we all would like to see Jesus in this life. It would make things a lot easier to have a face to face with the Lord wouldn’t it?
But we are just acorns. We hang on as long as we can, hoping we can avoid that single fall from the tree. The tree we have known for what we perceive to be forever. A time frame that is in reality just our season. A small percentage of the tree’s life. Many acorns have fallen before us and many will fall after us.
Here is the important part though. We need a planter after we fall. The physical tree that sustained our physical presence for our season, is not capable of planting. The physical world we live in is not capable of restoring permanent life. It is only through the belief in the planter that we will be sorted and planted for a rebirth beyond the life of the acorn.
None of us stays on the branch beyond our season. When the time comes, you will fall to the ground. When the time comes, I will fall to the ground. Our hope should be that we have put our faith in the planter and that when we do fall he will be there to plant us into a new and better life than we can even imagine as acorns. And After living humbly as the acorn, we can bask in the glory of becoming a tree. And we owe it all to our planter.