Monday, March 30, 2009

Homily, Homily

Besides undergoing spiritual direction training, another way that I have been stretching myself and growing lately is through being asked to do the occasional homily at our church when our priest is not available. This is an exercise that both challenges me and terrifies me. The process of writing the homily is great for me - it gets me back into writing. The problem is then you have to stand up on Sunday in front of a bunch of people and actually read out loud what you wrote. This terrifies me. A thousand things run through my head as I stand there, "This is no good", "What if they laugh at me?" "I have no idea what I'm talking about here..." etc. etc. I'm keenly aware that I'm making this all about "me", instead of God. It is a deeply humbling experience and I have nothing but the utmost admiration for my priest and minister friends who get up there and do this every single Sunday. So far I have been blessed by lots of kind comments and no criticisms. Then it occurred to me that I need to stretch myself even more. I need to share what I have written on my blog, and that terrifies me too. Although I have very little idea who reads this blog, or why they do, I still have this strong desire to please, to get it right and to be liked. And I realized that I can't be authentic, I can't be real, if I'm afraid to post something. So, in the interest of spreading my wings just a little bit farther I present to you last Sunday's homily, based on the text of John 12:20-33, because maybe somebody out there needs this today:

“I tell you the truth, a grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die to make many seeds. But if it never dies, it remains only a single seed.”

In her novel, Amazing Grace, Kathleen Norris shares snippets of a conversation that takes place during an afternoon women’s Bible study where much of the wisdom is passed on in the stories the women share. She writes: “When I dared to speak, I said that my favorite passage in the chapter had always been Mark 4:27, because it speaks so eloquently of an ordinary miracle: that the farmer “should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.” That seems to apply to so much that I do, I said, commitments that I make when I have no idea what I’m getting into, and somehow they grow into something important, before I know it. My marriage, for instance, I said, and the women laughed, knowingly. It also reminded me, I told them, how mysterious are so many of the things that we take for granted. We know how to plow a field, and how to seed it. But germination and growth are hidden from us, beyond our control. All we can do is wait, and hope, and see. “Only last Saturday,” a woman interrupted, “at the Lutheran fall bazaar. The place mat was real different. I saved mine.” She drew it from her purse and unfolded it. There was a picture of a wheat field and a quote from Martin Luther: “If you could understand a single grain of wheat you would die of wonder.”

An ordinary miracle. We plant a seed in the ground, we water it, fertilize it and if all conditions are right the seed will blossom into some plant we can eat or beautiful flowers to admire. But none of this will take place if the seed is not planted. It remains simply a seed.

Our modern society is a bit removed from that ordinary miracle. Sure, some of us might have small gardens in our backyard, but for the most part we’ve gotten pretty used to walking into the produce section of Zechner’s and picking up whatever vegetables we feel like eating. We don’t think much about the work that went into bringing them there - the tilling of the soil and the planting of seeds, hoping that they will produce a full crop. We just expect it to be there.

And perhaps that was what the crowd was like around Jesus that day. Some were following him around and some came to see what all the fuss was about. They’d gotten used to him wandering and preaching and maybe they had some expectations about what they were going to hear from him. But instead Jesus starts talking about seeds dying, losing your life to gain it, and being lifted up from the earth.

I wonder if the crowd that sat there that day, listening to Jesus talk understood that he was talking about himself. That in a few days, he would be crucified and buried in a tomb. Everything was about to change. When they found the tomb empty, would they remember these words?

For a few days they would be plunged into grief and loss, their world shattered by Jesus’ death. Yet, we know, the story doesn’t end with an empty tomb.

One of my current favorite CD’s is called “Unfolding” by The River’s Voice. There’s a song on it called Regeneration and I’d like to share the words with you.

(regeneration from Unfolding (2001)
the seed is planted in the ground
the rain and sun come pouring down
from deep within
new life is born
the roots take hold,
the seed is torn
but in its death the seed renews
the promises, the many hues
of God's creative gift to all
through summer, winter,
spring and fall

In it’s death the seed renews. No, the story doesn’t end with an empty tomb. In fact, the story is still going on. Jesus' death and resurrection transformed the world. We were given the gift of new life, all from a single grain of wheat. If we really understand this, to paraphrase Martin Luther, it’s amazing we haven’t all died of wonder. * o

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would have loved to be sitting in the front pew!!!! well written!!!!