To Die Is to Live
by Joe Agne
Focus Scripture: Jesus answered them…”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.”
We don’t need to be farmers to understand how a single grain bears fruit. It dies. We know it in our own lives. The Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas of Grace Church in Amherst, Massachusetts, asked her congregation:
“What needs to die in order for you to be fully alive? What do you need to relinquish and let go — to drop, to renounce, to stop doing — so that divine life can move through you and so that you can bear fruit?”
A grain of wheat — a seed — looks lifeless. Open any seed packet, and you’ll find hard, dead-looking lumps or specs. Compare these to the photos of blooming flowers or thriving vegetables on the covers of the seed packets. It’s hard to believe the seeds harbor such life, but when you plant them and care for them, the miracle of life happens.
The Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas asked members of her congregation to think about their lives using the metaphor of the single grain, the seed:
“Where do you identify with that hardheaded, hard-hearted seed that keeps itself isolated and apart? Maybe you know what it’s like to have your life close in on its small ego-self and its insistent ambitions and needs. Maybe you cling tight to a certain point of view….Maybe you race through the day clenched by anxiety or stress, too busy to let go in love. Maybe you simply feel alone and small.
“Well, here comes Jesus, telling us not to live like that isolated grain of wheat but to go ahead and die. Die to yourself! Die to your worries! Die to your fear and your shame, and give yourself away in love! Let God break open that hard shell of yours!”
Lenten Practice: The Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas asks what needs to die for you to be fully alive, so you can bear fruit. Find a person with whom you can be down-deep honest and listen to each other answer her question.
Lenten Prayer: O God, help me to honestly answer what I and the world would gain if I were willing to “fall into the earth and die.” Amen.