This is what I think is going to be my Easter sermon this Sunday, so members of my congregation may not want to read it (before then):

One phrase that really caught my attention in the Daily Office readings this past week was from John’s gospel:

“The truth of the matter is, unless a grain of wheat falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.” [John 12:24 The Inclusive Bible]

Maybe it had to do with hearing this passage in a new (to me) translation.  But I heard it with new ears.  I didn’t really hear anything new.  But I heard it more powerfully than I had before.

A grain of wheat is both food and a seed.  As food, a single grain provides almost no sustenance.  It’s really not worth much.  As a seed, God multiplies it, we don’t know how, and it becomes a source of abundant life giving sustenance.

Probably all of us experience small deaths all the time.  And as the CREDO Lenten Letter for Good Friday suggests, we often experience these little deaths as suffering.  And not all suffering is redemptive.  As Barbara Brown Taylor says, “There is nothing redemptive about famine, genocide, or incest.”  The deaths Jesus talks about involve choice.

If we choose to live for safety, security and approval, we may not suffer death in this world, but we probably won’t grow.  But if we choose to live what we believe and risk ridicule and exclusion, then we may die many deaths, but it the end we will grow and produce much fruit

I’m guessing that most of us haven’t read Canon Britt’s Easter message.  But I think is gives a helpful context for us, as Christians, in this challenging season of Easter.  And it moves us from looking at this in a personal context to seeing this in a communal context.

In it, she talks about the challenges and frustrations of being the Church in the Apostle Paul’s lifetime.  He talks in his writings about financial difficulties, conflict, theological disagreements and power struggles in his congregations.  Yet he tells them “God has bestowed on us in Christ every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms.” [Ephesians 1:3 NEV]  So as congregations we face challenges — suffering and even literal death.  But as an Easter people, we are called (in her words) to “practice resurrection” — to live lives of radical hope, humility, patience and gentleness.

And she reminds us that, “As unlikely as it sometimes seems, it is in our sometimes troubled, failing, cranky congregations that the praise and glory of God are revealed.”  It is out of this dark, fertile soil, out of these sufferings and deaths, that God brings new life into all creation.

We live in troubled times.  I’m pretty sure everyone has always lived in troubled times — at least for most people.  But I think that we in this congregations are more aware of these troubles in our own lives today than we have sometimes been.  Yet it is precisely here, in these troubles, that we can more easily find and experience God in our lives.

I think Simone Weil is talking about this in her book, Waiting for God:

“God created through love and for love.  God did not create anything except love itself, and the means to love.  … Because no other could do it, he himself went to the greatest possible distance, the infinite distance … [pause] the supreme tearing apart, this marvel of love, is the crucifixion.  … This tearing apart, over which supreme love placed the bond of supreme union, echoes perpetually across the universe in the midst of the silence, like two notes, separate yet melting into one, like pure and heart rending harmony.  This is the Word of God.  The whole creation is nothing but its vibration.”

This love of God, which we hear in the silence, which comes to us in pain and suffering and even death, is what we know and experience and celebrate in Jesus’ resurrection this joyous season of Easter.  It is what brings us together.  It is what unites us.  It is what empowers us and makes us a resurrection people of hope in a hurting world.

I say this to you in the Name of God:  Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.  Amen.

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