Faith is a life and death matter. It shapes how we live. It shapes how we die. It shapes how we live again.
The call to follow after Jesus comes in the shape of the cross which is a call to live and a call to die and a call to live again.
May we be blessed as we linger with this Sunday’s appointed gospel text.
20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 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. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. 27 "Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—"Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." 30 Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
One of my favorite lyrics from the group Superchick is from the song “Cross the Line”:
Everybody dies but not everyone lives
We have been given the gift of life from the hand of our creator. Every breath, every moment, every challenge, every joy and every loving relationship is a manifestation of God’s grace. If we truly understand that we will lean into the fullness and joy that God intended for us in this life. We won’t shrink back but will take in every breath, moment, challenge, joy and loving relationship knowing that God works all things for good for those who love God and are called according to God’s purpose (see Romans 8:28). All of us have moments of squandering the life that God intended for us. There is grace and new starts when we stumble. But God wants us to have life and have it abundantly (see John 10:10). Will we let God bring that to pass in us?
In our gospel text Jesus compares himself to a grain of wheat. As rich and as full and as good as Jesus’ earthly life was it was necessary to yield it so that much fruit would come. Jesus lived life fully but wasn’t clinging so hard to this life that he would miss his calling to engage the cross. We, too, are called to take up our crosses and follow after Jesus. We don’t seek after death nor pain nor shame nor martyrdom. But we don’t shrink back from those things either. As Bonhoeffer said so clearly in the Cost of Discipleship: when God calls us it is a bid to come and die. While it is true that everyone dies, not everyone dies with purpose or with grace or with bearing fruit in mind. Dying doesn’t refer only to end of physical life but letting things be buried that other things might come to fruition. Forgiveness is a form of death that yields life. Humility is a form of death that yields life. Service is a form of death that yields life. Pressing through fears and hesitations and self-doubts is a form of death that yields life. Having faith in spite of lingering and persistent doubts is a death that yields life. And abiding testimonies—through word, action and sometimes a martyr’s demise—are forms of death that yield life. Everybody dies—will we let God show us how to die well? Will we let God use our deaths to bear fruit and life?
Jesus promises that when he is lifted up from the earth that all people will be drawn to him. Jesus was lifted up from the earth on the cross (see John 3:14-15) in order to bring healing. Jesus was lifted up from the earth when the tomb was emptied. Jesus was lifted up from the earth as he ascended. We and all people are drawn to him. Our deaths, metaphorical and literal, are not the ends. There is a deep and abiding resurrection hope that is for us and for all. And that is a message that is worth living. And that is a message worthy of our deaths—deaths of all sorts. And that is a message that will surely bear out and raise us up again.
God, we thank you so much for Jesus’ death that brings deep and abiding fruits into the world and into our lives. Help us follow wherever Jesus leads knowing we never go alone and this promise will last forever. Amen.
ps- If you want to hear “Cross the Line” and see the official video you can at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FDBz6TcKa8