Homily for St. Timothy’s Anglican Church, Hatchet Lake, Nova Scotia
Tuesday in Holy Week, 16 April 2019, Compline, 7:00 PM
Psalm 71:1-14, Isaiah 49:1-7, John 12:20-36
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.
I speak to you in the Name of God: +Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Wheat is essential to life. World trade in wheat is greater than all other crops combined. And, the Canada Food Guide recommends a quarter daily intake of grains including wheat. Wheat has been around for a long time.
When I was a child, I spent a lot of time outside wandering through the wooded land and the farm fields that surrounded our home. For many years there was a wheat field across the street, and there was often when directly behind the house. I can’t help but think of these memories whenever this Gospel from John comes up.
Just thinking about it, I can still hear the summer breeze across the Spring wheat planting. The wheat didn’t stay green for very long, and as it dried and turned light brown the wheat amplified the whooshing sound of the breeze. On really windy days, we could hear the soothing, whoosh from within our house. This sound would continue until the wheat harvest in mid-July to mid-August.
As I said, I spent plenty of outdoor time in those fields. We would float our hands over the wheat stalks. Close to harvest time, the chaff would just lift away and the grain would be exposed.
This small grain, about as light as a feather, is what Jesus is talking about. This small grain dies when it is planted. It then comes back to life in order to produce much fruit. This particular fruit, its seed, it literally dies in order to come back to life and reproduce a new crop.
The Bible mentions wheat forty-eight times. Wheat first appears in the Bible in Genesis 30. And, in the Gospels we are given this image: “God’s winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire’” (Luke 3:17). That is from Luke and it refers to the purification of wheat by the burning off the chaff around the fruit, so that it may be planted, die and come to new life in order to bear much fruit. This is a process of refining.
It is like the refiner’s fire found in Malachi. “But who can endure the day of God’s coming, and who can stand when he appears? For God is like a refiner’s fire.” (Malachi 3:2). The refining process is such that what remains after the fire, what is pure, remains. That which is refined is then presented to the Lord as righteousness. It is a beautiful image.
It is also a scary image, burning away and dying. So it is no wonder in John that we hear Jesus teaching us about this image as we journey with him closer to the cross. Jesus is about to die so that God can bear much fruit in the world, so that the world might be refined in order to be reconciled to God.
This week is the week that grows ever-darker as we approach Good Friday. And, we find that today is just a little darker than yesterday. Jesus is being treated like the chaff of the world by his accusers. What they will soon learn, and what reminded of on this Tuesday in Holy Week is this. That which dies is brought back to life to bear more fruit.
Will you continue to follow in Jesus footsteps to the cross? You and I, after all, we are the fruit of the one who will die. What might die in us in order to bear more fruit for God?
For those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.