Creating fields of love and new life as followers of Jesus

Plants flourish in the hall at Ascension.
Full of foliage: the hall at Church of the Ascension. Photo: Contributed

The hall at the Church of the Ascension (pictured below) is a testament to my love of things green and growing. The whisper of ferns, the leaves and blooms of hibiscus, trails of ivy and tradescantia: these things remind me of the potential and possibility for growth that is in us, and in our world.

I’ve got a passion for germinating seeds. Grapefruit, lemon, orange, avocado, mango. When I see a pale little grapefruit seed or hold a smooth brown avocado pit in my hand, I am reminded that so often what looks like nothing much has the potential to be so much more. As I bury those seeds in pots of earth, I pause in the hope that in the darkness of that earth—where I can’t see what’s happening—roots will sink down, and shoots will spring up. Those little seeds will become so much more as they transform into lush green leaves and bear fruit. I am reminded that what looks like death can be transformation.


Springtime, a season of planting and new growth, new life, offers us an opportunity to revisit Jesus’ words in John 12: “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.” In verse 25 Jesus goes on to speak of loving and losing, hating and keeping life.What do these verses mean for us as followers of Jesus?

If we look to the chapter before these verses in John 12, we see a movement beginning to gain traction. Jesus has raised Lazarus from the dead. A great swell of people believed in Jesus because of this, and the authorities, concerned about the growing number of people believing and following him, plot to kill him. Jesus could have run for the hills at this point. He could have gone into hiding, living a quiet life as a rabbi, making a difference locally but not globally. That’s not what he did though. He continued to Jerusalem.

Jesus knew that setting his face to Jerusalem and continuing on meant that he would die. This offers us an invitation to think about death and dying. It’s not about whether Jesus will die. It’s about how, and what for. It’s not about whether we will die. We are all dying, laying down our lives, minute by minute, hour by hour.  The invitation is to think about how we are dying—how we are laying down our lives—and what for.

A grain of wheat cannot grow unless it dies. It has to sit in the darkness of the earth, waiting for its moment to sink its roots, and send up a green shoot toward the sun. If stalks of wheat are left blowing in the field, they will eventually die. Some of the grains may be scattered by the wind and take root and grow. But…they may not. If you pluck the heads of wheat though, and break them open into grains and plant them, the chances of a good crop are much higher. It’s not about whether we’ll die. It’s about whether we are determined to remain an intact stalk of wheat blowing in the wind, or whether we are willing to be broken open into seeds and buried in the earth to bear fruit. Jesus could have remained an intact stalk of wheat, living life under the radar, blowing in the wind and eventually dying without bearing fruit. That’s not what he did, though.

Jesus was willing to be stretched and broken open, willing to be buried, willing to be planted, in order to bear fruit. Jesus was willing to suffer and die so that God could raise him from the dead, showing us that death is not the worst thing that can happen to us. The way that Jesus died, and his Resurrection and Ascension, created a field of wheat—a field of followers—that yields a harvest more than 2000 years later, continuing to point to a way of life that offers endless potential for growth, transformation and love.

How are we to live and die as followers of Jesus? And what is our laying down of our lives and our dying for? We are invited to live and to lay down our lives, willing to be stretched and broken open just as a head of wheat is broken up into grains. We are invited to be willing to be planted. Our lives are for growth. As followers of Jesus, we are invited to live and die in a way that creates fields of love and new life in this world. May it be so!

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