Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Harvest Sermon: John 12: 20-33 Unless a grain of wheat...

Are you a morning person? When the alarm goes off, do you jump out of bed, wide awake, ready to start the day, full of chat? Some of you might be, but I’m not like that. It takes me a little bit of time to waken up, and in the meantime, I don’t like noise, or chat, or anything really. If I’ve to be up at a particular time, then I have to set a couple of alarms on my phone to make sure that I really do waken and really do get up!

Now if you’re like me, and you find it hard to waken, maybe you need a stronger alarm than just your phone (or your mum shouting at you for the tenth time to get up...). Here are some very effective alarm clocks that you can’t ignore.

So here’s the first - the carpet alarm. It wont shut up until you’re out of bed, with both feet firmly on the floor.

Or what about this one - the sub morning. It keeps going until it’s fully under water, so you have to take it with you to the bathroom. And once you’re there, then you’re up, and you might as well jump into the shower. (Although, if I had this one, I might be tempted to properly put it under water by throwing it into the toilet...).

Here’s Clocky - when the alarm goes off, he jumps off the bedside table and runs round the room, so you have to go chasing him.

Now this one makes you think - the alarm goes off and throws four jigsaw pieces out - to stop the alarm you have to get the four pieces in the right place.

Maybe you know what to buy someone for Christmas now! Each of these effective alarm clocks are hard to ignore. When the right time comes, then they let you know, you know about it.

And that’s what’s going on in our reading tonight. In verse 23 Jesus says ‘The hour has come.’ His alarm has sounded, he knows that it is the right time - but he’s not talking about the time to get up; it’s not morning time he’s talking about. It’s his time: ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.’

Now how did he know that his time had come? There were no fancy alarm clocks. Instead, it was a group of people with a special request. When the Greeks, the people who weren’t Jews, came wanting to see Jesus, it’s as if the alarm has sounded. Jesus knows that it’s now time for him to be glorified.

Now when you hear of glory, and being glorified, what do you think of? Maybe the glory of the Welsh rugby team, having beaten the English last night. Or loads of fans shouting out your name. Or having thousands of followers on Twitter or Facebook. But Jesus talks about something that might sound strange.

In fact, you might think that the time has come for a lecture at Greenmount Agricultural College, because of what Jesus says. Let’s look at it together. ‘Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.’

On the way in, you hopefully received a seed. One seed of corn. Have a look at it now, up close and personal. It’s not very big. There wouldn’t be much eating in it. As my granny would have said, ‘it wouldn’t fill a hole in your tooth.’ Even if you took your seed home and made popcorn from it, you wouldn’t have much.

But if you were to take it home and plant it, then eventually, you would have an ear of corn. One seed, kept by itself, remains just a single seed. But a seed that dies, planted in the ground, produces many seeds.

This is the basis of how food production works. One apple seed grows into a tree producing loads of apples. Or one cocoa bean grows into a Wispa.

Now why does Jesus say this? What has this to do with the Son of Man (Jesus) being glorified? Jesus is saying that he is the grain of wheat. If he stays as he is, then he’s just on his own. But if Jesus dies, then he will produce many seeds. As Jesus dies on the cross, he makes it possible for the harvest, for lots of seeds to be born through his death. Jesus’ death produces life. Jesus’ death brings multiplication of life.

Jesus is the seed the produces many seeds. As we come to Jesus and believe in Jesus, so we are one of his seeds. We too have this same choice in front of us - do we keep it to ourselves? Or will we follow the way of Jesus, as we serve him and follow him? That’s the choice that Jesus puts before each of us tonight, whether we’re young or old.

Jesus says: ‘Anyone who loves their life will lose it’ - that is, if you keep you for yourself, and do your own thing, and only care about yourself, then you’ll ultimately lose out. But, ‘anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life’ - Jesus is using the opposites of love and hate to show priority. To hate your life is to live for the good of others; to love and care and serve and share. To follow the pattern and example of Jesus.

That’s what Jesus did. He ‘hated’ his life, by following God, and doing what the Father wanted. in doing so, Jesus went to the cross. He died. But by doing that, ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ The Greeks were the first to come, wanting to see Jesus. The alarm had sounded. The hour has come for Jesus to be glorified, by his death on the cross. The death which brings multiplication. The seed buried to produce an abundance of seeds.

We are the seeds Jesus has produced. Before us is the same choice that Jesus faced. Will we live for ourselves, or for God’s glory? To help you think it through, here’s a simple question - now, maybe it was thinking about grain which makes bread, which makes toast, and that made me think about breakfast, but here’s the question: Eggs or bacon?

I’m not asking which you would prefer? (The answer is probably both!). but when it comes to following Jesus, are you eggs or bacon? You see, a hen pops out an egg, and it goes on unconcerned. It’ll probably lay another one tomorrow.

But for you to eat bacon, the pig has to give its all. Total commitment. You can’t just take a slice of bacon from the side of the pig.

Jesus died for us - the seed that produced many seeds. Are you eggs or bacon? With your little seed, will you protect it and keep it; or will you die to self and give yourself for Jesus and others? The alarm clock is sounding. Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

Pray: Lord, take each of us, and use us for your glory, as we give ourselves to serve you, and follow you. Amen.

This sermon was preached at the harvest in Colebrooke Parish Church on Sunday 27th September 2015.

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