Sunday, November 01, 2009

A seed is an act of faith...Address for Journey On

A seed is an act of faith…

If I knew I was going to die tomorrow, I should plant a tree today..
So Martin Luther King summed up the faith and hope that is represented by each seed consigned to the earth.

When we look at a single seed it is so ridiculously tiny…really not much to go on to represent the future. Last spring I dropped a seed packet in my kitchen and many individual seeds were quite simply lost, among the dust on the floor –but within themselves, each and every one of them was replete with potential.

We recognise this whenever we place a seed in the soil.
We trust that, though most of us probably don’t understand quite how it works, given a bit of care and reasonable conditions, that seed will germinate and grow to provide new life where there was none before. And we are able to believe this because we’ve seen it happen for us, year after year…but nonetheless, each planting is, truly, an act of faith.

Paul would have us think quite a lot about what happens to the seed as it lies in the ground…but I’m not sure that his analogy is too helpful for us today, any more than when it appears among the suggested readings for use at a funeral or memorial service. After all at that time, most of us are completely focussed on the reality of saying Goodbye to the beloved body that has been put aside by the person we love, the remains we are just then putting into the ground. We don’t need anything else to remind us of just how perishable, how fragile that precious shell the body can be. We wouldn’t be here at a service like this if we weren’t each of us having to live with the consequences of that fragility, day after day after day.

So Paul’s clever analogy with gardening doesn’t necessarily make things much better. We know the science but translating it to another context is a different matter. It can be so hard to visualise any sort of bodily resurrection. Even if we’re sure that we’ll see our loved ones again, it’s very difficult for us, this side of the divide, to imagine quite how that will turn out. Sometimes, not understanding makes it seem simply impossible to believe: I’m afraid I don’t have any sure-fire answers to that one, because, of course faith is never the same as knowledge, and we can’t use the same objective reasoning to confirm our hopes for eternity. It just doesn’t work that way.
It’s one of those times when we can only trust to faith- if we have it - or to the instinct that confirms for us that something, someone we have loved so much cannot simply vanish as if they had never been.
I believe that…
I believe it from my own experience of the death of my parents and other dear dear people…
I believe it because I have Jesus’s own promise that it is so…but I cannot, in all honesty, tell you exactly how it will come to pass in God’s economy, in which nothing and no-one is ever wasted.
So, though I want you to think about seeds I’m not going to explore Paul’s words too much at the moment.
Who can really understand the Resurrection?
But he’s right that we all understand gardening.

I want to think, though, about other seeds…the seeds of faith and hope that lie in each one of you, the seeds that have enabled you to carry on even when grief is sharpest, on the days when the separation is almost too much to endure.
Sometimes, I know, they seem so fragile that you doubt that they will actually grow at all…but each day you get up and engage with life and remember to have breakfast you are saying
“It IS worth it…Death shall have no dominion over me
Writing earlier in this same letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminds us that we carry within us seeds that can bloom and flower in our relationships, the seeds that make us fully human.
“These three remain - faith, hope and love
When we are grieving the loss of someone dear to us, it’s tempting to say
“I’ll give up on love – because that way lies only hurt and desolation…”
but even if we no longer feel ourselves able to give or receive love, love nonetheless surrounds us. The love of our families and friends is a huge comfort – but it’s not something that we are all blessed to enjoy. The love of a community feels rather different – sometimes a little impersonal…but it’s still worth having…And even if we feel ourselves cut off from all these everyday experiences of human love – even then, we are still shaped and held by love…endless love, which is stronger than anything in the whole of creation.

We may not be able to say that we understand what happens next, but we can continue to nurture the seeds of faith, and trust that all shall be well, that the God whose who nature is love did not create anything to be destroyed or wasted.
We can hold onto those split-second reminders of his greater reality, the moments when an unexpected kindness, a child’s smile turns the world bright again for us, however briefly…We can cherish those seeds and keep them warm and close to our hearts, the place where they most need to grow. That growth may take a long time, for after all we’re not planting for the short term, something to spring up and die back in a season, but looking for something to sustain us each day.
So, no quick fixes,no short cuts, but I promise that as we journey on in faith, the glimpses of hope, the hints of love will slowly grow and come to fruition until we can each own for ourselves the promise
'Love is not changed by death and nothing is lost, and all in the end is harvest'

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