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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 2, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
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Lent 5B March 18, 2018

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 51:1-13
Hebrews 5:5-10
John 12:20-33

In our opening reading, which dates back to 587 B.C., over twenty-five hundred years ago, God tells the people that God is going to make a “new covenant” with them. Scholars tell us that this is the first time the term “new covenant” is used in the Scriptures.

God speaks these words from a position of deep intimacy. God says that God is the husband of the people. This gives us some sense of the love God has always had for us. And God says something that is almost too difficult to grasp—that God is going to put God’s law within God’s people, within us. God is going to write the law on our hearts.

Webster’s dictionary tells us that a covenant is a “solemn agreement between two parties.” When Moses brought the law down from Mount Sinai, that was a sign of the covenant between God and the people. The law was the glue that bound the people together and bound together God and the people.

For us as Christians, the New Covenant is expressed in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus. His life speaks to us. Everything he says and does means something to us. His words and actions, his attitudes and thoughts are like lighthouses guiding us to safety on a stormy sea. They are like springs of water giving us new, fresh lives.

Today, Jesus tells us one of the most important things he has ever said to us. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains just a single grain: but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” We could meditate on this for the rest of our lives, and, in a sense, that is what we do as Christians. Last Sunday, we were talking a bit about the writer Elizabeth Goudge. Her characters think about this statement of Jesus in many ways and in great depth.

Let’s imagine for a moment. Each of us is like a grain of wheat. Each of us is a little seed, enclosed in our protective capsule, our hard little shell. Imagine each of us, a little, self-enclosed seed wrapped in our secure little shell. Each of us is on a big rock. Far below is God’s fertile, loamy earth.

We’re sitting on our rock, but if we stay here, we will always be alone. We will never be part of anything bigger. On one level, it’s great to be on our rock. We are in total control of our little world up here. We can make our decisions and run things the way we want to. But staying up here is not what we were designed for.

We are being called to give up our control. We are called to jump into the earth. And it’s scary. Very scary. Will we disappear? What will happen to us? There’s something big we are called to do, but we’re going to lose control and give ourselves to something much bigger.

Finally, we take the leap of faith. We jump into God’s wonderful earth and bury ourselves in that good, warm soil and let the sun shine on us and warm us and let the rain come down so that we can sprout, and put down our roots, and reach up toward the sun and break through the earth and reach up and up and up to God and to the sun and grow until we are a part of a beautiful field of wheat.

We look around and see all this golden wheat, waving in the wind. And it is beautiful. This wheat will be gathered and made into bread, perhaps Communion bread. In the words of Richardson Wright, “We make, O Lord, our glorious exchanges: what Thou hast given us, we offer,  that we may, in turn, receive Thyself.”

As followers of Christ, we are called to jump into the fertile loam of God’s love. We are called to jump into the stream of goodness in the universe. We are called to take the risk of giving up what we think is so important—our thoughts and plans and theories—and jump into the loving arms of God and grow into the persons God calls us to be.

When we do this, we enter a process of transformation. We are caterpillars that turn into butterflies. We are little grains of wheat that become part of something very, very big and very, very good. We become part of God. We become one with God. The grain of wheat falls into the earth and it bears fruit. That grain has died to self and now lives to God.

The cross was a horrible instrument of torture designed to make people suffer untold pain and cruelty and to humiliate them. And to fill them with fear of the power of the Roman Empire. It was a form of death reserved for the lowest of the low. When Jesus breathed his last on that horrible cross, he was propelled into the arms of God. He fell into the good earth of God’s love. The Apostles’ Creed says that he descended to the dead. He went there to share God’s love with those in the underworld.

Nothing in this universe is untouched by God’s love, not even Hell.

If we are going to bear fruit, we have to give up our little islands of isolation and jump into God’s love.

And then we will bear fruit. The fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  It’s a lifelong journey, and we’re on that journey.

May we continue to take those leaps of faith.  Amen.

 

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