Although Jesus is talking about himself here, he goes on to say "Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also." (John 12:26) What does this mean for us? What is this business about dying like a grain of wheat?
Maybe it's about letting go of control. Maybe it's about our need to think we "have it together," or at least to make others think that we do. Maybe again, it’s about recognizing our limited humanity. It's letting go of the need to appear more than we are, and accepting our real and limited state. Our time on earth has a beginning and an end. We will not live in the same way forever.
When I read this verse, I looked up how many grains are actually on one head of wheat. According to the Farm Bureau of Kansas, there are about 50. Other sites said 30-50, but either way, that's a lot of individual grains of wheat. That is what is produced by the death and rebirth of one individual grain: another head of wheat composed of 30-50 more grains. If each of them were planted and sprouted into another stalk, we would have 900 – 2,500 more grains of wheat (30 x 30 and 50 x 50). You can see where this is going! In no time at all, by allowing itself to die, one grain has multiplied itself hundreds of times over.
This is the New Life that Jesus is talking about! After Jesus' death, the early Christian Church (and the later Christian Church) spread like wildfire. We wouldn't be here today if that hadn't happened.
But what about us now? How does this wheat image apply to us today? I think it means letting go. Can we let go of the needs and expectations that we force upon our lives, the lives of others, or upon the world? Can we "let go, and let God?" Can we trust that if we surrender ourselves to what God is calling us to in the moment, God will bring new life for ourselves, and for those whom we love?
We are followers of Jesus. We don't know what lies in store for us as individuals, as families, or as a church. And really, why should we know? It is not our job to control the big things in life. We do what we can. We make our best decisions, but we don’t determine the course of our futures…and that’s a good thing!
I keep this poem in my office and use it as a prayer.
As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.
- Denise Levertov (1923-1997)
Happy Easter! Pastor Kathy