Summary: A sermon for the 5th Sunday in Lent Year B

March 21, 2021

Hope Lutheran Church

John 12:20-33; Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

When It’s Planting Time

Friends, may grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Yesterday was the first day of spring. Today our daylight will be just ever so much longer than the night time. We measure our life by seasons. The writer of Ecclesiastes wrote:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die;

A time to plant, and a time to reap.

Seasons. We must be approaching planting time because the seed displays are back at Fleet Farm. The back of those packets contain a map of the United States. They tell you when it’s okay to plant in your region. Plant too soon and your young plants might get destroyed by frost. Plant too late and you may not have enough growing days for your harvest to mature.

Timing is everything. In a few weeks farmers will be preparing their fields and planting frost-hardy crops like oats and hay. An old wives’ tale instructs us to plant your potatoes by Good Friday.

Our lives revolve around seasons. Seasons don’t run on a clock. They’re not based on chronological time. The ancient Greeks had different words for time. There was chronos, which was clock time. Tick, tick, chronos time can be measured.

But their other time word is Kairos. Kairos is the fullness of time. Your recipe may tell you how long to bake your cake. That’s chronos. But the good old toothpick test measures by Kairos time. The cake is done when it’s good and ready.

Something happens today in our reading from John’s gospel. And when it occurs, it’s like a timer buzzer went off in Jesus’ head. A Kairos timer alarm.

It was Passover season in Jerusalem. Jesus and his disciples were there. Some Greek foreigners were also present. They managed to find Philip and they made a request of him. They would like to see Jesus. When Philip tells Jesus about them, “Beep! Beep! Beep!” The Kairos timer goes off in his head.

“The hour has arrived,” Jesus announces. “It’s time for the Son of Man to be glorified.” The glory Jesus is talking about is a bit counterintuitive from our normal conceptions of glory. It’s connected with dying.

Jesus says, “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.” His glorification has to do with dying. He’s going to expend himself just like a seed does when it’s planted.

A transformation occurs in germination. A seed is engineered for the long haul. The main bulk of the seed is comprised of complex starches. They’re a hard, stable molecule with a long shelf life. When the seed is placed in a moist environment, those starches break down into simple sugars. And once they turn into sugars, there’s no going back. The moisture also awakens the dormant germ embedded inside the seed’s interior. When it wakes up, it’s hungry and very happy to be surrounded by all of that sugar.

The sugar’s energy allows the germ to grow. First comes a fuzzy white root. And then the tender green shoot emerges.

Who knew that so much was lying inert inside the seed? Seeds are all about potential. Life remains dormant within the stable conditions of the seed. Seeds are built for stability. They protect the life within. The oldest seed ever to germinate was a date palm seed 2000 years old. It had been abandoned in a perfect environment for a seed. It was found on the top of the Masada fortress in the Judean desert.

The hot and dry desert conditions protected and preserved the seed. But seeds weren’t created for staying seeds. They were made to sprout and grow. A seed is potential life; the seedling is life itself. In order for the seed to bring forth life – to become what it was destined to be – it must give up its perfect, protected environment. It has to give everything up! It needs to be planted in the earth and die.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die;

A time to plant, and a time to reap.

The arrival of the foreign Greeks signaled to Jesus that the fateful hour had come. It was time to plant the seed of salvation.

The Greeks wanted to see Jesus. But if they are to see Jesus, I mean really see Jesus, they have to view him in all his glory. They have to see him on the cross because that’s what he came to do. Jesus needs to fulfill his destiny. The full magnificence of Jesus won’t be revealed until he’s nailed to the cross.

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