March 24, 2015 Gene Schlesinger

Unless a Grain of Wheat Falls to the Ground

This Sunday (1) I preached from John 12 and Jesus’s statement that “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single grain. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.” And (2) we gathered with our friends Jared and Katelyn Plant to (a) beat the mess out of a Justin Bieber Piñata filled with booze and Harry Potter paraphernalia and (b) spend time and pray with them one last time before they move to Palestine for three months. These two are related.

What Jesus is getting at can be explained in two steps: first, the deepest secret of life is love. Intuitively we all know this. To truly live is to love, and the truly love is to live. As Ephraim Radner puts it in his poignant book, A Brutal Unity, “To live is to give up parts of ourselves, and to live fully is to give ourselves away fully.” To love is to give yourself to another person. To love fully is to give yourself without reserve.

But the second step is this: in a world marred by sin, as that great theologian, Sammy Hagar, said, “love hurts.” When you give yourself away fully, you open yourself up to pain. It hurts, it’s like Bob Marley said, “No woman no cry,” but we also know that, though “A rock feels no pain and an island never cries,” that the pain is worth it. I would rather have my heart break when my friends move away than have no one that I love enough for my heart to break.

Jared and Katelyn are moving. And because I love them it hurts me. If they stayed I wouldn’t feel sad today, but it would be like the grain of wheat that, rather than falling to the ground and dying, remains a single grain. Letting them go and entrusting them to God, painful as it is today, will lead to “much fruit.” God will do more through their going than if they stayed. Through these hurts God is beckoning us to a fuller life than we’d have otherwise.

Most of us won’t move to Palestine, but still, think of what would happen if we all took this to heart?

How would your life be different next year?

In five years?

In ten?

When you reach the end of your life?

How would the lives of the people you love be different?

How would the lives of people you’ve never even met be different?

In our moments of clarity we know that this is what we really want. To love like this, even when it hurts. But there are just so many other shiny things to distract us. Lent is an opportunity to renew our focus by removing some of those things that distract us, but we still forget so easily. Lord, have mercy.

Pray that God would solidify a desire to love like this in your heart.

Be sure to make the most of the time you have with the people you love.

And surround yourself with people who will remind you that this is what you really want.

To follow what God is doing with Jared and Katelyn (and pray for them), check out their blog.



1 Sic. In my homily I was conflating this song with the other. (#whenimwrongisayimwrong)

2 See how I brought it full circle there? #fullcircle

3 Every life you touch touches other lives, which touch other lives. The interaction you have with your barista (for instance) has an effect beyond that interaction, and the results cascade and compound.

4 And actually listen to them when they tell you things you don’t want to hear.