“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.” (John 12:24)
For me, this is one of the most beautiful lines in the Bible. It’s a poetic metaphor of transformation: from death comes new creation.
For me, that’s what the death of Christ Jesus is all about. Making us, and all the world, a new creation. It’s the work of God, that all of us can be about. Partners with God in the new creation.
People are starting to write about what life might be like after the pandemic. There are those who would be happy if everything simply went back to the way it was before. But it turns out, in hindsight, the way it was before wasn’t a blessing for so very many of our neighbors.
Going back to the way it was, would in some ways look the same as it did: religious services in person; weddings in any venue with any number of people; parties, nightclubs, concerts, ballgames, dining out, going to performances -- all the entertainment options that we miss. There’s no substitute for sharing the experience of a live audience! But to me, none of that is really the new creation. None of that is dying to the old ways, so that the fruits of new creation can emerge. The pandemic laid bare so much of the inequality in society, and in the world. The economic recovery, “the K shaped recovery” as it’s being called, shows the great majority of our neighbors are being left behind even as the privileged keep moving on up.
“Unless a grain of wheat falls in the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies it bears much fruit.” Only in the death of the old ways, is the new creation able to bear its fruit. Christians say “Christ is the first fruits”, of the new creation God is always about. In Christ, the author of the universe, death, suffering, injustice, hatred, and violence are ultimately defeated! Transformation is already underway towards the new creation, because of what God has done for us in Christ. To me, that’s the great message of his death and resurrection. We aren’t there yet, of course. We see far too much of the old ways still among us. The Earth still suffers, with steadily rising global temperatures. The climate crisis, as Bill Gates tells us in his new book, will make this pandemic look like a piece of cake. Gates says if we don’t start dying to the old ways of fossil fueled industry, by the end of this century there will be hundreds of millions of people fleeing from the equator, creating massive upheaval and breakdown of human society.
The stakes are that high. How can we return to the old normal again? I think the old normal is always the path to stagnation, and death. Like birdfeeders that are never cleaned, becoming breeding grounds for salmonella. I think Christ calls Christians always to follow him into the new creation. Be partners with everyone, and with the Earth, in opening the doors, rolling away the stone, letting in the new creation that I’m sure is God’s will.
Many are pointing out that the pandemic exposed the inherent weaknesses of our old ways of being, just in our country. It’s shocking to me to hear how close so many tribes came to having their entire cultures completely wiped out because of the pandemic. Before Covid how many of us really knew that so many Ute, Navajo, and Pueblo peoples had no electricity or running water, let alone access to adequate healthcare? So many people of color in our country were living on the edge of survival before Covid. And so many, the majority of all the dead, lost their lives because of it. How can “going back to the way it was before,” be good news for them?
I think the promise of the new creation requires us as Christians to learn from the past, and partner better with each other, for a future that bears fruit for all people. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies it bears much fruit.” I hear a message of hope! A message for us to take heart because the new is all around us, waiting to be born. That for me is the good news in Christ’s death and resurrection. And the gospel tells me that each of us has that potential to be part of that transformative, hopeful change that opens the door to the new creation promised by our Creator.
There are stories all around us, of new creation coming into being. Of old ways dying, so that new ways can bear fruit to the glory of God. One of those stories, is Ann Makosinski, a young inventor who tells us “If you are alive, you produce some light!”
Once there was a girl who couldn’t study when it was dark because her house didn’t have electricity. One day her friend Ann came to visit, and together they talked about the issue. Ann was great at building things. And she was especially passionate about transistors: devices that regulate the flow of electric current. “What if I could invent a flashlight that is powered by your body?” Ann asked her friend. “After all, our bodies give off lots of energy in the form of heat.”
The girls got very excited. “Just think how many people could have electricity if this worked!”
Ann was just fifteen years old, but she already had a lot of experience taking things apart, and putting them back together. So she started to work on this mysterious new flashlight. She called it the Hollow Flashlight, because she built it using a hollow aluminum tube. When she presented it to the Google Science Fair, she won first prize! It’s the first flashlight that doesn’t need batteries, wind, or sun. Just body heat.
Today Ann is considered one of the most promising inventors of our time. Her dream is to make Hollow Flashlights available for free to everyone in the world who can’t afford electricity. “I like the idea of using technology to make the world a better place, and to keep our environment clean,” she always says.
Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. From death comes new creation. It’s the work of God, that all of us can be about. Partners with God in the new creation. Happy resurrection day! Pr. David