"The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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." John 12:23,24
Several years ago our family moved to Chile, South America. We arrived on January 7, and exited the airport to a beautifully balmy day. Living for the first time south of the equator, we were about to experience "reverse seasons." In January, warm weather isn't so strange; after all, it's not much different from Florida, a typical mid-winter escape. But as February moved into March, it began to get chilly. And as Easter drew near, the walnut trees behind our house began to drop bushels of nuts onto our patio. Armed with hammers, my youngest daughter and a friend were tasked with cracking the shells and extracting the succulent meat. After soaking the nuts in sugared water and baking them in the oven we had an abundant supply of treats to pass out to friends.
No bunnies, no lilies, no tulips, no forsythia, just bags and bags of walnuts to mark the celebration of Easter in this new country. How do you celebrate Easter when the days are becoming shorter, the trees are becoming brown and dry, the earth turning cold? It was odd to realize how much the church calendar depends on the metaphors of the northern hemisphere. But we were no where near spring, and the images closest at hand (literally) were the nuts in my back yard. That year, as Holy week approached, I found it much easier to consider the events of Good Friday, more than those of Easter Sunday, and the words of Jesus ran fresh in my ear. "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."
In the following poem, Luci Shaw has us consider the seed of God, planted first in the womb of Mary, planted a second time in the tomb of Joseph of Arimethea. There is a third planting, though, which she yearns for. It is what the prophet Jeremiah alludes to in the Old Testament reading when he quotes Yahweh's words"
I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jeremiah 31:33)
God is after nothing less than taking humans, made in the image of God, yet marred by sin, and transforming them into beings like himself. As surely as a walnut, planted in the ground will spring forth into a walnut tree, so the spirit of Christ, planted in each willing heart, will birth a true son or daughter of God, full of the fruit of every good thing.
God dug his seed
into dry, dark earth.
After a sprouting up
in hopeful birth
and healing bloom
and garland grace,
he buried it again
in a darker place.
Twice rudely planted seed,
root, rise in me
and grow your green again,
your fruited tree.
published by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company in Accompanied by Angels, Poems of the Incarnation. (2006)