‘Unless a grain of wheat goes into the ground and dies it remains just a single grain.’ ‘Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.’ In these tough sayings, Jesus uses strong statements to show us that everything the world tells us is important, must be overturned if our desire really is to follow Christ. God’s values are not our values. In our Lenten study this week we were challenged to consider what it means to be fully alive. If being alive is only about breathing and our heart continuing to beat, then life means very little. But if being really alive means being open and available to others and living our lives in a way that is selfless, then Jesus’ meaning starts to become clearer. A selfish life, we heard, leads to ultimate death, but those who love God and neighbour are truly alive in the Spirit. In a consumerist, materialist world, were ‘me and my needs’ are supposed to be at the centre of everything, this is indeed a radical way to see things.
Yet, as Lent winds down and Holy Week approaches, the readings also begin to shift the focus to the dramatic choice looming before Jesus. Jesus reminds us here, before Holy Week, before even his parting words to the disciples, that his death is not the end at all. It is no accident that Jesus helps us make sense of the resurrection before he helps us make sense of the cross. The whole order of things is mixed up, turned on its head. Life is death and death is life. The cross is not the answer. It is the question. In the whole Jesus event, his life, death, resurrection and ascension, we see a God who longs to be in a relationship with us. Whatever fixation we have had on the cross, well, here Jesus blows it out of the water.
This week’s readings show us that God works in hidden spaces: in the inner being, in the secret heart, in the earth. There is work that God needs to do in us in secret; out of sight, away from the glare of day, removed from public view. Yet God has a habit of bringing into the open what is within us. God’s inward work is for the purpose of opening us outward. God draws us deep inside, then draws us back into the world to bear the fruit that comes when our inner lives are congruent with our outer ones, where love of God and love of neighbour get back into balance with that inner self.
This week’s readings: Jeremiah 31.31-34; Psalm 119.9-16; Hebrews 5.5-15; John 12.20-33