The Sprouting Of The Unexpected Seed

CALL TO WORSHIP: Come let us get ready to worship the Lord, our God; Gracious God, we worship You.

Let us get ready to worship God who made us; Gracious God, we worship You.

Let us get ready to worship God, who sent Jesus to live and to die for us; Gracious God, we worship You.

Let us get ready to worship God, who is with us by His Holy Spirit; Gracious God, we worship You.

Lord, as we come into Your presence, we remember that You long to meet with us. You have made precious promises to us, and we think of them now. God says, ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.’ Lord, write Your law deep inside us so that we may learn from You.

God says ‘They will all know me.’ Lord, we long to know You, from the youngest to the oldest.

We commit this time of worship to You now. Teach us, speak to us, and lead us.

For You are our God, and we are Your people. Amen

HYMN 270: COME AND SEE, COME AND SEE -StF.

PRAYER OF ADORATION:  As we come to God in prayer, let us spend a few moments, thinking about our own life’s journey, and about how it has brought us to this place.

Let us pray.

Lord of all time and space, You are outside the time which counts the minutes and the days of our lives. You are outside space, which gives shape and meaning to the places where we live. You know the journeys that we have taken to be here today; not just the journeys that we have taken in our lives, by car, or on foot, or by bicycle; but the journeys of our lives that has brought us here to meet with You. You know the special things about each person’s life; the people we have met, the things we have done.

We praise You because You meet every person in the way that is best for them. You don’t treat us all as if we were the same, but deal with us as individuals. This has been true from the very beginning of time, when You first spoke to our ancestors, long gone.

Sometimes, people have listened to You quickly; sometimes they have taken a long time to hear Your voice, wandering far from You, but You have always loved them. We praise You that Jesus heard Your call, lived his life as You wanted, and took the road to the cross. Because He died for us, we can live joyfully, with a real lasting hope.

For the lives that You give us, for all that You have done for us in Jesus, and for the way You journey with us by Your Holy Spirit, we offer You our praise and our worship, now and always. Amen

TALK FOR ALL: AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME

A desert in California, in the south-western part of the United States, is the hottest, driest place in North America and perhaps in the world. (Death Valley) The hottest temperature recorded there was 134 degrees Fahrenheit – 56.7 degrees Celsius.

It is a barren place – dry and brown. It is difficult for plants to live or grow in this desert because it hardly ever rains and when the rain does come it is a small amount.

The year, 2005, more rain came to the desert than had happened in over fifty years. Many times more than the usual rainfall fell upon the desert and when that happened seeds that had been resting (lain dormant) in the desert for all those years began to sprout and grow. Conditions were just right. There was enough water, sun, and fair temperatures to cause the seeds, which had developed thick coverings, to bloom. Soon there were huge meadows of wildflowers growing there – beautiful fields of yellow, pink, blue, and purple flowers. It was a once in a lifetime occurrence.

This idea of timing – being just the right time, is talked about in the Bible. Jesus told his disciples, “The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (12:23). He was telling them that everything God had planned for his life had happened, the time was just right, and soon events would happen that would glorify God.

Jesus said to his disciples, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (12:32). We could think of what happens with a seed that, when the time is right, it blooms.

We can see, all these years later, that what Jesus did by dying and then being raised up to be with God, was a once in a lifetime thing that gives each one of us the opportunity to be a child of God. The time is right for us to accept God’s wonderful love.

HYMN 286: WHAT KIND OF LOVE IS THIS-StF

PRAYER OF CONFESSION AND THANKSGIVING: Loving Lord, Sometimes we pretend that nobody can see the things that we do, so they don’t matter. But You are with us all the time, watching us and caring for us, and when we go wrong, it grieves You.

We know that we have done wrong in the things we do, the things we say and the things we think. We have come to you to say that we are sorry for all the ways in which we have hurt You.

Just as You are the only one who can see everything that we do, so You are also the only one who can wipe away our wrong-doing and give us a new start.

We thank You that because of Jesus, our sins are forgiven. Help us to look to Him as our example, and to live more faithful lives by the power of Your Holy Spirit. Amen

READINGS: JOHN 12:20-33

HYMN 319 – CHRIST TRIUMPHANT, EVER REIGNING- StF

SERMON: THE SPROUTING OF THE UNEXPECTED SEED (JOHN 12: 20-33)

The movie series based on The Lord of the Rings has brought new prominence to the author of the books on which it is based, J. R. R. Tolkien.  Tolkien was many things: a university professor, a medieval scholar, a writer of fantasy, and a Christian.  During the First World War, young Tolkien served in the trenches with the British army, and that experience is said to have had a major impact on his fiction.  During World War Two, while Britain struggled against the Axis powers, Tolkien, no longer young, wrote these words to his son Christopher:

“I sometimes feel appalled at the thought of the sum total of human misery all over the world at the present moment: the millions parted, fretting, wasting in unprofitable days–quite apart from torture, pain, death, bereavement and injustice.  If anguish were visible, almost the whole of this benighted planet would be enveloped in a dense dark vapour, shrouded from the amazed vision of the heavens!  And the products of it all will be mainly evil–historically considered.  But the historic vision is, of course, not the only one.  All things and all deeds have a value in themselves, apart from their ’causes’ and ‘effects.’  No man can estimate what is really happening in the light of eternity.  All we do know, and that to a large extent by direct experience, is that evil labours with vast power and perpetual success–in vain: preparing the soil for unexpected good to spout in.” [I have substituted “in the light of eternity’ for Tolkien’s Latin phrase sub species aeternitatis.] Tolkien describes the powerful, successful work of evil as amounting to, a preparation of soil where unexpected good will sprout.

Tolkien talks about soil.  Jesus talks about seed.  Hear again our Saviour’s words from today’s gospel: “The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Most certainly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  From a solitary seed, Jesus tells us, much fruit will come forth.  Unexpected good will sprout.

Both what Tolkien says and what Jesus says amount to statements of faith.  They point to what is beyond our ordinary experience, and transforms that experience.

In the case of Jesus, he looks ahead to what will soon happen to him.  Like a single seed, he will be buried in the earth.  He will die to his oneness, his solitariness, and be raised up, not only in his own glorified body, but in the lives, in the bodies, of his followers.  His enemies will think him dead, but he will be raised to a life more abundant than before, and become the Christ of countless places and countless people.

Tolkien tells us of how, strangely, it is evil that prepares the soil.  Much evil there was when Jesus was put in the grave.  Religious and political power had conspired to kill him.  Men had disowned their discipleship by betraying him, deserting him, denying him.  The machinery of evil had spit out its product: a corpse, a body left without life, and endeavoured to lose that body in the dark soil of its own misdeeds.  In Tolkien’s language, the machinery of evil had laboured with vast power and, with reason, had anticipated perpetual success, but this was not to be.

Jesus looks ahead to his resurrection, and does so long centuries before our time.  But this resurrection outside Jerusalem is not some freak event, isolated and unique.  It provides the basis for what Tolkien says about the sprouting of unexpected good from the soil over which evil has laboured.

Tolkien speaks in a time not much before our own.  Moreover, he speaks in universal as well as specific terms.  The sprouting of unexpected good is a deep law of life.  The most potent example of this is the one that turns Lent into Easter and announces an inclusive harvest when time will be no more.  To catch a glimpse of these things requires the eyes of faith.

Next Sunday is the Sunday of the Passion, when we hear about the seed’s death and burial.  Throughout Holy Week, the same song is sung in a variety of keys.  During those dark days, we feel how rich is the soil which evil has prepared.  Then comes the Sunday when unexpected good sprouts out of this dark, rich soil over which evil has laboured with vast power and–seemingly–perpetual success.

Today we hear it all by anticipation in what Tolkien writes to his son about the soil, and in what Jesus tells us about himself, the seed.

Yet Jesus does not rest content with declaring that in the soil the seed will sprout.  He speaks of much fruit, an abundant harvest.  He speaks of being lifted from the earth, like a plant reaching heavenward, and thus drawing all people to himself.  This is a promise, and it is a reliable one.

It’s normal enough to believe in the force of gravity.  We see it demonstrated all the time, and sometimes we are the demonstration!

There is also a gravity that is moral and spiritual, that drags us downward into alienation and death, into that soil over which evil has laboured with vast power and–seemingly–perpetual success.  It is normal enough to believe in this gravitational force.  We see it demonstrated all the time, and sometimes we are the demonstration.

But by faith we recognize another force at work, the power of resurrection, a moral and spiritual force that draws us up from the dark soil of death, away from the grip of evil, in order that we may sit with Christ in heavenly places.  The power of resurrection is at work in the saints, in all who claim the faith of Jesus.  By faith we recognize it at work in the world.

This power turns to its own holy purpose the soil over which evil has laboured with vast power and–seemingly–perpetual success.  From that soil sprouts unexpected good.

Do you believe this?  Don’t take my word for it.  Die along with Christ in that soil.  Become part of that unexpected good.

HYMN 240: COME WITH ME, COME WANDER, COME WELCOME THE WORLD– StF

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION: Today in the Gospel reading, some Greeks came to Philip. They said to him, ‘Sir, we would like to see Jesus.’ Today, we will think of these words as we pray for others and ourselves.

Let us pray.

Lord, this is Your world; it is Your creation, made and loved by You. There is no part of it where we cannot meet You.

Where can we meet with Jesus?

We can meet Him here in this church; when we hear the Bible read, we hear Him speaking clearly. When we close our eyes to pray, He can speak in our hearts. Help us to remember that by His Spirit

He lives in everyone who loves Him. Lord, make this church and every church into a place where those who come can meet Jesus. Lord, You are everywhere. Open our eyes so that we may see You.

Where else can we meet with Jesus?          

We can meet Him at school or at work. He does not leave us at the gate, waving goodbye as we walk in. He goes with us, helping us to live and work in a way that pleases Him.

He looks at us through the eyes of those we meet, reminding us to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. Lord, You are everywhere. Open our eyes so that we may see You.

Where else can we meet with Jesus?

We can see Him in those who are sick, sad or lonely. We can see Him in the faces of those who are hungry; we look at those who are unjustly treated and hear His voice speaking to us. When He was on earth, He cared for the poor and needy, and He call us to do the same. Lord, You are everywhere. Open our eyes so that we may see You.

Where else can we meet with Jesus?

When He was on earth, He cared for the poor and needy, and He call us to do the same. Lord, You are everywhere. Open our eyes so that we may see You.

Where else can we meet with Jesus?

Lord, because You are everywhere, we may meet You in any part of Your creation. Help us not to be so busy, that we fail to see You. Speak deep inside our minds and hearts, so that we may recognize You and respond in the right way. Lord, You are everywhere. Open our eyes so that we may see You. Amen

HYMN 289: WHEN MY LOVE FOR CHRIST GROWS WEAK -StF

BLESSINGS: Almighty and ever living God, Jesus took the road to the cross, obeying You to the end, so that we might have a new start. As we take up the journey of our own lives, may we go with a new spring in our step, rejoicing in how much You love us. May the Blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be upon us and remain with us always. Amen