(excerpted and adapted from the Family Faith Formation Newsletter of St. George's Episcopal Church in Summerville, South Carolina)
"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."--John 12:24
We've all buried seeds before, right? Well, it's true, we call it "planting" instead of "burying", but that's actually what we are doing; placing a seed into the earth so that it can "die" from being a seed (change), and become something else (transform)--that is, a plant. Many things change from one form to another, don't they? Even people! When we change, it can sometimes feel a little like "dying" from being one thing to becoming another. As we grow, we notice changes. For example, somewhere around the first grade we start to lose our baby teeth. Once when my grandfather surprised me and yanked out my first loose tooth (he said he just wanted to feel how loose it was!), my parents said I went white for moment. I was shocked, and when I saw a little blood, for just an instant I wasn't sure that I wasn't dying. But then they clapped and cheered me on for taking a new step into life. The reason my grandfather tricked me like that was because I was hanging onto that tooth! I was afraid to pull it myself or have anyone else do it for me. After that first tooth, though, losing all the rest of them was a snap! (Well, almost. Except for that basketball injury. Those were NOT baby teeth!)
In a far more costly and grim situation, Jesus knew that His time was approaching to be crucified and buried. His disciples didn't like such talk. So he used the analogy of a grain of wheat. If you don't bury the seed and let it "die", it can never do what it is designed to do; i.e., transform and bear much more grain. Jesus was trying to teach that He must first die, and then rise again to open the way to freedom and peace for us all.
After He rose, it all began to make sense to the disciples. There has to be a death before there can be a resurrection. It is the way of life. God wants us to trust Him in ALL our transitions, for if we will let go, He will lead us into transformation and life. Sometimes our transitions are painful and unexpected. But if we trust Jesus, even with the biggest transition of all--our deaths--He will lead us safely into new life. That is our hope and our heritage.
I have a good friend who has terminal cancer. He tells me (and I believe him) that he is grateful for his cancer. Although he never would have chosen this journey for himself, he has learned evermore to trust God for his care and peace, for his fulfillment and joy. He is understanding more each day that he is experiencing everlasting life now, because he is walking interiorly with Jesus. He has had to die to his plans, to his goals and to his very life. In dying to these things, he has found his life in the midst of the greatest transition a man can find himself. And Jesus is there with him. And Jesus has been there before him. And Jesus will show him the Way out of the tomb, because He IS the Way.
If you have children or grandchildren, help them to understand that whenever they experience a "little death" through some transition (new school, new grade, new sibling, new step-parent), that unless a seed "dies" (faces the death of the old situation and self) it cannot bear fruit (transform into the purpose for which God intended him or her to live). Teach them to entrust themselves to God at every step, for though weeping may last for a night, joy comes in the morning. When they are older, and more and more serious and painful changes occur (job loss, marital change, loss of a loved one) they will remember that unless a seed falls into the earth and dies.... They will know this pattern, and be able to find God right in the middle of it.
"Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Do you now? Go to your change-point. You will find Him there.