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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, March 20, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | John 12:24–26                  

Very truly, I tell you, 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. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. (NRSV)

Well, there it is.

The paschal mystery. The crux of our Christian faith. Just like the seed that must break open and spill its life into the ground so that there may be wheat, Jesus has to die so that he may be resurrected. So do we.

Intellectually we get it; John’s seed analogy is helpful, as are our contemplations of the seasonal cycles and stories of radical transformation (if you were alive in the ’70s you may remember the caterpillar in Hope for the Flowers letting go of what she was in order to become something else). As religious people we talk about the paschal mystery regularly, if sometimes a little glibly. We understand how it works.

When it comes right down to it, though, we resist. We know our human lives will end someday. For many of us, that seems pretty far away. But there are all those other deaths along the way, some we anticipate and some we don’t see coming until we’re right in the midst of them. The death of someone we love. A job that’s gone. Families that disintegrate, relationships that end. Illness. Plans that life demands we let go of. Those deaths are painful and wrenching (“hard and bitter agony for us,” as T.S. Eliot writes in “Journey of the Magi”). I don’t know about you, but it’s pretty impossible to hold onto resurrection when I’m in the midst of that kind of suffering.

Lent asks us to practice, to look this reality square in the eye. Over these weeks we try, once again, to come to terms with what the paschal mystery is so that, when Holy Week begins, we can walk with Jesus through his suffering, death, and, ultimately, resurrection. As he is with us in our own.

Jesus, who leads us through the paschal mystery, be with us in our resistance, fear, and grief. Sustain us in hope: for that which we cannot imagine, for life transformed, for all that you promise. Amen.

Written by Susan Quaintance, Program Coordinator, Center for Life and Learning

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