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Main Street Community Church, Frodsham

Loving God
Loving Frodsham

Easter 2018

23 Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 I tell you the truth, unless an ear of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 The person who loves his or her life will lose it, while the person who hates his or her life in the world will keep it for eternal life.’
John 12:23–25, as given in the talk, based on the NIV.

This talk was given by Paul Wintle on .

The talk was part of our Easter Celebration service. The service also included the baptism of Jo Meek. Paul refers to this in his talk.

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Transcript

This is from scripture, John 12:23, and 24, and 25, three verses. Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the son of man to be glorified. I tell you the truth unless an ear of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed, but if it dies, it produces many seeds. The person who loves his or her life will lose it while the person who hates his or her life in the world will keep it for eternal life.”

Somewhere, possibly over there, there were some seeds, some crest seeds, maybe. If anybody wants to plant some crest seeds or put them onto a bit of a paper and water them gently and then put them on top of one of the cups there. It’s just a representation of something that I’ll be talking about briefly this morning before we come to the baptism. I wonder what is the most exciting thing you have ever done. Perhaps it’s ridden in a speedboat. Perhaps you’ve done a parachute jump or maybe even walked on a rope bridge over the high roaring seas.

Maybe the most exciting thing you have ever done is got married. I know that Brenda and David who can’t be here this morning, celebrate five years of wedded bliss today. O r perhaps you did something that nobody thought you would ever do. Perhaps the most exciting thing I can recall doing was flying by myself, having never flown before to Australia. There I climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge, I went to the Royal Opera House, I hired a car and drove myself into the Blue Mountains National Park where I went on the steepest railway in the world and went on the cable car that hung over a thousand feet above the canyon.

I felt free knowing I hardly knew anybody for hundreds of miles in that direction and thousands of miles in that. I felt alive because I was experiencing something I’d never done before. Earlier, my dad, Alan, read Matthew’s account of the resurrection. We read, “Suddenly Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said. They came to him, [they] clasped his feet and [they] worshipped him.” [Matthew 28:9 NIV]

In his book, “Who is this man?” John Ortberg writes:

Doesn’t Jesus seem … a little understated here?” These women were devastated. They loved him. They came to the tomb.… All of a sudden this rabbi, whom they had loved, who had died, whom they saw buried, appeared to them as one risen from the dead. You wonder, What profound statement, what amazing explanation will the resurrected Jesus give to mark this moment.

All he said was, “Greetings.” … [Hi, nice to see you.] Nice day, isn’t it? …” … [As one commentator puts it:] “And look! Jesus met them and said, ‘Hi!’ ”

In other words, “What did you expect?”

… “Didn’t I tell you?”

There’s a story I heard where a school chaplain was speaking to some children and asked the question, “What were Jesus’ first words to the disciples after he’d been risen from the dead?” One little girl waved her hand and said, “I know.” She says, “Ta-da! “

[laughter]

It’s as good a translation as any. Then Jesus went straight on to reaffirm his assignment for his disciples, “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee.”[Matthew 28:10 NIV] Today, this very Easter Day, we remember people in the Easter story whose lives were never to be the same again, because after the darkness and the sadness of the events leading up to the cruel, heartbreaking loss of their friend Jesus, they experienced the most exquisite joy of seeing him alive again.

To put it another way, from that Sunday morning, everything changed. When Jesus died on the Friday, his disciples were disheartened, dismayed, disappointed, disillusioned, and dispirited. Then suddenly they weren’t. They remembered what Jesus said not long before he died. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls [down] to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” [John 12:23, 24 NIV]

They began to understand. T hey had been in darkness. When Jesus died and was laid in the tomb they thought that was it. The tomb was a cold, dark place from which nobody returned, until now. He was laid to rest in a garden tomb. The Romans were guarding it just in case any shenanigans occurred by Jesus’ friends to steal the body. There was no need. God was quite capable of raising Jesus from that garden tomb.

In John’s account, Mary thought that Jesus was the gardener, the person who tended the area, the gravedigger, the undertaker. In many ways I guess she was right. He knew where he was, Jesus knew where he was and who he was. It was him. Gardens are places where things are laid to rest, those living and those not. As my parents will tell you, I’m not much of a gardener myself. In fact, I’m quite pleased with my patch of green grass that I’ve got in my garden.

Previously I had quite a long garden and there was stuff to be done and I didn’t do it. Whereas my dad, he knows a lot about gardening. He’s got a bigger garden, it’s different, he’s got a greenhouse, he’s got a veg plot, lots of flowers, lots of plants, a few squirrels, and probably a few weeds, but not many. He knows that there are times to plant bulbs and to plant seeds. He knows how to make them grow by putting them in the right soil, by watering them, by looking after them.

Jesus was a gardener of sorts. He knew what he was saying when he said, “Unless a kernel falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed, but if it dies, it produces many seeds.” All civilization is based on this one observation. We need to plant seeds in order to have a harvest to grow a crop of food. In a similar way, Christ one single seed died in order that he might produce a massive harvest of people who would follow him. Not just then, but in the 2000 years since and on into eternity. Then the next verse in John 12 says, “The person who loves his life will lose it while the person who hates their life will keep it for eternal life.” Strange thing to say.

We know how Jesus lived. We know how Jesus died. This is, Jesus said, the way life works. You have to be willing to sacrifice something. If anything is ever going to be the way it was meant to be. In other words: no sacrifice, no harvest. Only it isn’t seeds this time, it’s me, and it’s you, it’s us.

Yet this is the promise God gives to us. It’s enacted in the raising of Jesus to life. This life is ours too. If we follow Jesus, Eternal Life: we get to escape the tomb, w e get a life in its fullness.

This means there’s hope. What got released on that first Easter Sunday was hope. A strange hope that actually called people to die to selfishness and sin and greed; die so that a greater self might be born – and many people did. This hope changed things. This hope isn’t just pie in the sky when you die. It’s real, it’s evidenced in the fact that we believe Jesus is alive. Jesus is alive and well and working in our lives. Jo’s baptism in a moment is testament to that. God loves Jo and her hope is in Him.

Not the passive “hope it won’t rain tomorrow,” but the sure and deep and confident hope conviction that there is better to come. To close, I will quote the lines of probably my favourite film, The Shawshank Redemption. Where Red is finally set free from 40 years of a life sentence. He sets out to find his friend Andy across the border in Mexico. In the final images of the film, we see Andy, Red’s friend dressed in white refurbishing a fishing boat a wooden fishing boat at the edge of a long coast line next to the Blue Pacific Ocean, and we hear these words. “I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I hope I can cross the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.”

Jesus is risen. We have that hope, that assurance that there is something beyond what we know. We can trust Jesus leads us into this eternity but also into the right now with hope.

What’s the most alive you have ever been? Is it now? Is it that you follow Jesus? Is it that you know that Jesus is alive in your heart right now? If it is then great. If it isn’t, then perhaps what you are hearing or experiencing or listening to today will be some more evidence that there’s more to life than what we do until the day we die. That Jesus did walk this earth, that He was and is the best model for how we live and this model to love one another stands the test of time.

The tomb is no longer empty. This is what we’re enacting now. As Jo comes to be baptized, it’s a very special moment for her journey, for her faith. It’s a moment when God’s presence and blessing meets Jo. Meets us. Where Jo makes her personal yet public commitment to faith in Jesus as master. Baptism signifies the end of our old life and of being born a fresh and new to life in and with Christ Jesus. This act speaks of turning again because that’s what repentance means, turning again, of being cleaned. The water represents this washing action.

In a moment we will go down into the water and as Jo safely goes under the water, this represents the tomb: dying to her old life. As we pull her out of the water, it represents new life. Fresh, clean and ready to come out of that grave of her old life. We will pray for her to receive the Holy Spirit, come out of the pool, dry off and join you for coffee and cake. This example was set by Jesus himself as he was baptized by John in the River Jordan. He commissioned His servants, His friends to make disciples and to baptize them.

We know that the early church practised this ritual of baptism and so we come to this moment as during the last verse of the next hymn, I ask Paul to join me in the pool and Jo will join us after. We’re going to sing a fantastic hymn. “Oh Jesus I have promised to serve thee to the end,” but before we do that, let’s pray.

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Scripture quotations marked NIV are based on the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission.