Year B. Lent 5.
I plan to invite the people to listen to a contemplative (slow, with pauses) reading of the psalm as a prayer of confession. we will sing Trish Watts's 'Yielding' (Sanctuary) as an affirmation of grace. I like to allow people time to linger with the assurance of forgiveness; contemplative singing is a wonderful way to invite God's forgiveness to resonate.
this song will be sung again after the reflection, as people are invited to write words or names on the shape of fruit in prayers of intercession for situations in which we long for seeds of hope and the courage to break open those seeds for hope's full potential to be known.
What follows is the basic outline of the reflection I plan to offer – for our weekly celebration of communion, a brief 2 – 4 minute reflection is shared, so I may still need to edit this a bit.
The image of a seed breaking open captured me on this engagement with this story of Jesus. What image is strongest for you as you hear the story for yourself; what image comes to mind when you listen with the ears of your community?
I have engaged with this text through a story I am working with for my (in)humanity series; what story, poem, film, piece of music or artwork comes to mind for you? How might that shed light on the gospel portion for the day?
What do you wonder as you hear this story? Listen to your imagination, what has stirred for you, what has struck you, as you hear this story today?
As I heard this story and reflected on it, I wondered about the naming of Bethsaida, and the approach of the Greeks to Philip. Did they know him? recognise him from their town, a more Gentile region of Galilee?
I wondered, too, about seeds and dying. About Jesus and his response, which seemed at first to me to be quite enigmatic. Not unusual for Jesus, or John, or especially Jesus as portrayed by John.
But as I wondered about seeds having to die, or at least to break open and cease to be what they are in order to become, to live into, their fullest potential, another story came to mind.
I am preparing this story as one in a series of stories called (in)humanity, stories from history of human fear and human courage. I don’t have time to tell it in full today, but the story that came to mind is of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, sent to Budapest during WWII to provide diplomatic protection to any Jews with Swedish connections.
A seed of hope.
When the documents with which he had been supplied ran out, Wallenberg rigged up a machine in his car, and stopped when he saw any Jewish person (Swedish connection or not) harassed by a soldier, printing documents on the spot with a forged Swedish triple crown to protect whomever he could. He refused to go home when he was called as the danger to himself grew more imminent; he stayed because he could not choose to protect himself when there were other humans whose lives he could protect.
Wallenberg broke open an offered seed of hope in order for a fuller potential to unfold – and with it, truth and technically the very legitimacy of the diplomatic protection, broke (though in practice, his charisma was convincing enough to ensure success). And his courage and conviction did indeed spread a far wider blanket of security over Jews in Budapest than had been thought possible.
As the Greeks approach his disciples, approach him, Jesus recognizes this moment as the moment of breaking open. From a Jewish teacher, healer, prophet, mystic with a message of God’s love for the world, Jesus will now be broken open as a messenger for all the world. He is caught up in the breaking open of the seed planted with him, in him, through him, a seed of love for, covenant with, not only Israel any more, but all who would follow this way of Love.
This breaking open of what was in order for what may be is that way of Love, the path of discipleship with Jesus the Christ. In what ways are we, this Lenten season, being reminded by the story and the Spirit, to break open towards our fuller potential?
As we sing again, take the shapes of fruit or flowers and write a prayer, a word, a name, a place – where in the world do we long for seeds of hope to be planted? where in the world, or in our own lives, do we need courage for breaking open seeds of hope in order for the fullness of love and life to flourish?
The prayers and liturgy will be shaped by words from Dorothy McRae-McMahon's Liturgies for High Days, an Australian and Uniting Church voice, as is my own, speaking into the multicultural community at New College, which itself is heavily shaped by the Church of Scotland.
May the Spirit inspire and delight as you engage with the Story of God to bring it alive in the midst of your communities this week.
* In future, I hope to be able to offer reflections on or creative responses to lectionary texts each week, from the perspective of a storyteller and poet. If you would like to help make this happen, and are able, please consider subscribing as a patron via patreon. Thank you.
We are fully human together.