Readings for the day (5th Sunday in Lent, Sunday, March 18, 2018):
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Spring is coming, I can feel it. And before you know it the pools and lakes will be filled once again with people of all ages taking a dip in the pool to stay cool during those hot summer days. Now unless the pool is heated to about 95 degrees, no matter how hot it is outside, the water takes some getting used to. When I’m at the lake, swimming with our children, I start with getting my feet wet. And on a hot summer day, the cool water feels pretty good. So I take my children by the hand and we walk a little bit further out into the lake. As we walk, we get a little deeper and the water appears to be getting a little colder. Before I know it, my children are standing on their tiptoes, trying not to have the cold water get any higher on their bodies. And that’s when I completely submerge myself in the water.
What are you passionate about? Do you have a passion? Something that is a priority for you, something that is very important to you. What’s your passion? It is something that you feel very strongly about. It excites you. It energizes you. It consumes you – taking a lot of your time. For example, people who are really passionate about football, know the ins and outs of the game. They know who the players are, what their stats are, who would be a good player for say the Vikings quarterback position. People who are passionate about football spend as much time as they can researching everything they can find about the game, the players, and the coaches. It is the people who are passionate about football who have been saying for weeks now that Kurt Cousins was going to be the new Vikings quarterback.
What is your passion? What drives you out of bed in the morning to tackle the day? Right now, one of my passions is basketball. It’s not at the top of my priority list, but it’s pretty close. For the next two weeks, any free time that I have (like this afternoon) will be spent watching the NCAA tournament. Every year I look forward to this time, this time of countless hours of basketball. What’s your passion? Maybe it is basketball or football. Maybe it is your family. Maybe it is sewing or exercise. Maybe it is your work. Whatever your passion is, it will be at the top of your priority list. And no matter what, you will find the time for what you are passionate about.
We are nearing the end of Lent; next Sunday is Palm Sunday. In the Gospel reading today, we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves. The text that we have before us is what Jesus says right after His triumphant entry into Jerusalem. So after all of the pomp and circumstance of entering Jerusalem and being praised as the King of Israel, Jesus issues a call for discipleship, for faithful followers. Jesus calls for us to be passionate about our faith. He calls for us to be like the grain of wheat that falls into the earth and dies. The thing about Jesus’ call for discipleship is that He doesn’t call us practice our faith only when it is convenient for us. Nor does Jesus calls us to come and just get our feet wet. No, He wants us all in. He wants us to jump in and be completely submerged in this faith. Jesus desires for us to make our faith and belief in God the main thing we are passionate about. But in order to be passionate about this faith, you must be all in. You can’t be wishy washy. You must be like the grain of wheat. In order for the single grain of wheat to produce much fruit, it first must be buried in the ground. Actually in order for the single grain of wheat to produce any fruit, it first must be buried in the ground. And what happens to the seed if it is not fully buried in the ground? It won’t grow. The only way for the seed to produce fruit is for the seed to be completely buried in the ground. The seed must be all in. It cannot be only partially covered by the soil.
Jesus call us to be His disciples, and He desires us to be like the grain of wheat by being all in with our faith. We can’t be living this faith only part way. It is either all or nothing. Faith that is only in part way is like a seed that is not fully buried in the ground. Neither a partially covered seed, nor a partially active faith will produce any fruit. And faith that isn’t all is, not a passion. And we aren’t fully passionate about our faith because we like the past. We like holding on to the past. The shallow water behind us is comforting because we know how it feels and we know what to expect. Looking forward to the future brings up so much uncertainty. We don’t know what it will be like or how it will feel. We have no idea what to expect. But in order to faithfully follow Jesus, the only way to go is all in for our Lord.
And when we go all in, it often is terrifying because not only is the future unknown, but we are also giving up control. When the grain of wheat goes all in and is completely buried in the ground, it dies. It needs to die. For that’s the only way to produce fruit abundantly. And this is the reason why we struggle with going all in with our faith. Going all in means giving up the past. If the grain of wheat never goes all in, it will remain a single grain. But if the grain of wheat goes all in and dies, then it will no longer be a single grain. Rather it will be a plant with roots and produce it’s own fruit. I know we don’t like to see things die. We like to hold on to the past. We like things just the way they are; even if we aren’t producing much fruit. But death is necessary for resurrection. You can’t have Easter Sunday without Good Friday. There can be no resurrection without first experiencing death. So the only way to get to new life, producing fruits of the spirit, is for us to go all in, letting go of the past, and be completely submerged by God’s love. And there you will find your passion. Faith that excites you. Faith that energizes you. Faith that consumes you.
And for Jesus, you are His passion. You are what He is passionate about. Jesus didn’t just get His feet wet. He went all in for you. He went all in to die in order to rise to new life and to bear much fruit. And He did all of this; going all in for you. Amen.
© 2018 Anthony Christoffels. All rights reserved.