From today’s reading: I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (Jesus in John 12)
Lent is good for uncovering our untrusting death-prevention techniques. Unless we want them exposed, it is better to ignore the whole season. If we don’t ignore the season, Jesus is going to say something like he does in John 12, above. He is going to keep saying it is best to go ahead and die and rise instead of just trying not to die. We should stop just trying not to die, which we have been perfecting since we were born, and stop neglecting our meditation on rising, as we usually do.
Death-prevention is the preoccupation of humankind. I think the world’s outpouring of love for Haiti recently is an example of the instinct working for good. Our country’s astounding investment in national defense and offense is the more common expression. Generally, people do not trust God for their lives, so they are quite preoccupied with preventing their deaths. I say “generally” because quite a few people practice death-by-anesthesia with excess calories, smoking, and other addictions, and with all the other inventive ways we use to avoid the subject of death altogether.
As Lent draws our eyes toward the cross again, we are reminded again about holy dying. Some people even give up their anesthesia for a while so they can feel what Jesus is talking about. During Lent we heed the call to try on death. We need to heed the call because trying not to die is what one does until she comes to understand that she will live forever. Death-prevention is logical until one realizes that staying alive does not produce love or cause transformation so well (the logic of “capitalism” notwithstanding).
It is better to be a seed. These examples of what being the seed that dies might mean all came up in the last thirty minutes:
- Better to be a single seed than to make sure we don’t compromise about anything with our mates.
- Better to be a single seed than to shrink back from asking gunshop owners to follow a minimal code of conduct.
- Better to be a single seed than to make sure my hurt feelings are of paramount importance.
- Better to be a single seed than to resist what Jesus teaches or turn his teaching into something controllable and relative.
- Better to be a single seed than just keep doing whatever slavish thing the master requires.
- Better to be a single seed than be accepted by those who have another god.
There are good ways to die ahead. That’s why Jesus’ metaphor is so important. If italics been available he might have said, “If a seed dies it produces many seeds.” Because he knew that even if they killed him, he would rise again.
If you are like me, a lot of things seem like they just might kill me. I can get kicked into death-prevention very easily. Lent is good for getting to the deep fears and desires that make us run for our lives or fight for them. It is in those very places Jesus has planted his spiritual seed so that everlasting life can spring up. I pray for our courage to nurture the seedlings struggling for light in the darkness.