Jer 31: 31 – 34
John 12: 20 – 36
During the worst of the winter, we had some water start coming in the house because of the ice dams on our roof. One bathroom closet had so much water coming in that I had to spend a frantic morning taking everything out of it so all the stuff wouldn’t get soaked and so I could jam towels against the walls and put buckets on the shelves.
Consequently, our kitchen table has been covered with the entire contents of our sizeable bathroom closet for about a month now. We also have boxes of mementos we took out of Bob’s parents house in the fall still stacked around the kitchen as well.
We have a little path carved through the boxes so that I can water the plants on the windowsills and we can get to the dog’s food bins. It has overwhelmed me every time I have gone into the kitchen and it has mentally been wearing me down as the weeks have gone by.
Spring fever finally hit me last week, and I started sorting through all the stuff on the table. I discovered a box of soap crayons that the kids used to use to draw on the bathroom wall. I discovered a gallon jug of Mr. Bubble – do they even make that anymore?
And there was a bin of misc. rubber duckys, plastic boats, lego characters, and one baking soda powered submarine. Considering my “kids” have been taking showers now for several years, it was a fairly easy decision to toss these items.
I found medications, unguents, and lotions that had long ago expired, some had solidified and some had separated into slime. I found used ace bandages that were stretched out and ragged. I found Halloween makeup that had melted, …you get the picture.
I was able to reduce four stuffed bathroom shelves down to four small bins mostly filled with a colorful variety of band-aids and a bunch of brand new toothbrushes and small toothpastes collected after years of dentist visits.
I was astounded by how much useless and unusable stuff had accumulated in that closet over the years. It felt good to clear out the clutter. The best reward was that it freed up our kitchen table for its intended purpose, gathering to share a meal as a family where we can sit and look at each other, instead of circling up around the TV as we have been this winter.
l hadn’t realized the emotional and mental weight of that accumulation of stuff until it was bagged up and gone from the house! Now, I feel a wonderful lightness of spirit every time I look at that table top oasis of cleared space in my kitchen!
The weight of accumulated stuff, mental stuff, physical stuff, spiritual, and emotional stuff, can be overwhelming. Like the frozen mountains of snow that surrounded this church for weeks, accumulated stuff can slowly imprison us and paralyze us.
Jesus says, “Anyone who holds on to life just as it is, anyone who clings tenaciously to the stuff of this life, to the familiar, unhealthy patterns in their life, over time, can destroy that very life.” When we won’t let go of unhealthy habits, when we won’t push our boundaries, or test our assumptions, or expand our horizons, or look at ourselves from a different perspective…
…when we let things build up over time, whether it is plaque on our teeth, or small resentments and frustrations carried in our hearts – our Spirits, become overwhelmed, depleted, and exhausted, and the law and inspiration of God, written into our hearts begins to atrophy. We go on auto-pilot and we stop embracing God’s world around us and we stop growing God’s world within us.
When we let things pile up, we can no longer see where we are going and, just like in my kitchen, we begin to move through the built up congestion on narrow little paths that hem us in and inhibit freedom of movement, that keep us from doing the meaningful things we want to do, and can eventually stop us, frozen in our tracks….leaving us in a state of life support – alive, but not living life, certainly not living God’s hope and call for our lives.
But Jesus says, “if you let go, if you let go of your life, the clutter and stuff in your life, the things that you have made of your life, if you empty yourself, if you are reckless and unfettered in your love, rooted in God and God’s law written in our hearts, you’ll have life forever, real, vigorous, and eternal.”
Jesus tells us that if we let control of our lives go, if we are reckless in loving, we will discover the life God intends for us – a life rooted in God’s love, and in sharing God’s love with others. Letting go of our “self”, emptying ourselves, surrendering our lives, means becoming that grain of wheat…
Jesus says, “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.”
“Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than one grain of wheat. But if it is buried, in God’s word, and nourished with God’s love, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over.”
A grain of wheat only emerges in the rich darkness of the earth, just as Jesus emerges from the darkness of the tomb, and the darkness of death. The grain of wheat then grows towards the warmth and light, finally bursting forth bearing fruit to nourish and feed others.
Jesus says, “If you walk in darkness, you don’t know where you’re going. As you have the light, believe in the light. Then the light will be within you, and shining through your lives. You will be children of light.”
As a church, we are walking in darkness right now, not knowing where we are going, not knowing what lies ahead, as we embark upon this process of discernment. Jesus calls us to leave our ‘selves’ behind and discover God’s intentions for us and discernment is one of the ways we can do that, as individuals, and as a community of faith.
Discernment leads us through a process of dying to “self” and guides us into becoming one mind, and one faithful body in Christ. Discernment is a journey of discovering the life that God intends for us, as individuals, and over the coming weeks, as a community.
Jesus tells us that when we find ourselves walking in darkness, to believe in the light…believe in the light…believe…in the light.
I want to leave you with this poem by Joyce Rupp. It is called “Seed Song.” And I want to invite you to imagine yourself as the seed in this poem. Maybe close your eyes, if you wish. And imagine it is you – your “self” being planted. You, not dead, but dormant, lying beneath the remaining mounds of snow, you waiting for something….
you…yearning for something….
I am the seed, so small, so dry,
lifted in the hand of the silent Sower.
into the earth I fearfully fall,
darkness covers me, silence surrounds me.
the terror of my heart is the only sound to keep me company.
all that is me, huddles together, trying desperately not to surrender any part of self.
“why was I planted?” I cry out.
“why am I here?” I entreat.
“take me out into light;
I cannot bear this deathly dark.”
I weary. I weaken.
the days become long.
I can no longer fight.
I surrender in this lonely place of waiting.
quietly, I sense
a penetrating warmth;
it surrounds me;
it fills me
and blesses my pain.
in a moment of peacefulness
I forget my fear.
I let go of my self, and suddenly, the husk that holds me
weakens and breaks.
“No!” I scream.
I am losing my self, but it is too late.
the husk is cracked; I cannot be contained.
It is then that I sense a deep power
deep inside of me, encouraging me:
“let go. let go. let go.”
it is an energy that pushes the husk…until it falls away.
as it slips aside, my eyes behold color.
ah! can it be? a tiny glimpse of green!
“how could that be?” I marvel,
“there was never green in the heart of me.”
yet, it is there;
each day it slowly stretches upwards
to where the warm seems to be.
I become less of a seed. I am losing my self
but the pain I once knew is lost in surprise;
something wonderful is greening and growing
deep within my heart.
days go quickly now.
I become one with the small stem of life.
oh! the glorious moment
when, ah, …breath of Spring…fast fills my face.
I move through the hard earth and taste the world which awaits my arrival.
from within my tender shoot comes a soft sound.
I listen. I hear.
it is a song to the Sower;
O Sower of seeds, did you always see
the gift of green that was hiding in me?
O Sower of seeds, how came you to prize
the beauty within, that I hid from my eyes?
O Sower of seeds,
the husk has been broken;
all praise to you for helping me open.
Accept now my praise,
my thankfulness, too,
for the seed you have sown
and the gift that you grew.
May you lead me to others
who await your good word,
so the seeds within them
can awake and be heard.
Let us pray,
O Silent Sower, nourish the seeds of love and compassion that you have planted in our hearts. Awaken us and send us out into your world to serve in your name. Let your light shine within us, and out through our lives. Let us be your children of light.