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John 12:20-33

I tried growing some seeds in a raised bed garden we made at a house we were renting in Virginia. Some years ago we had a yard that had poor soil, so we brought in a small truck load of dirt and made some raised beds. It was a first foray into gardening with mixed results but it brought joy. We got a few edible plants to grow and even planted a a dogwood tree. My mother-in-law gave us a nice lilac bush. It was an investment considering we were renting and these weren’t things we could take with us when we moved. But it brought joy and imagined these were things that could be enjoyed by future tenants. When we moved we said good-bye to the garden, a spot we continued to pass by over the years. Unfortunately not long after the move, the new tenants decided additional parking for their vehicles was more important, so they removed the raised beds and parked cars directly above the fertile soil. As well, the tree well around the dogwood wasn’t built to deter vehicles, so before long it had been backed into and the tree trunk was cracked. Nevertheless the branches still produced buds and flowers for a little while. And the lilac bush that was growing amazingly had been dug up. The landlord even informed me that he thought it was too nice a bush to leave in a rental. Rather than offer it to us, he dug it up, and planted it at his farm. Where I hope it has continued to enjoy a good life. But nearly all signs of the raised beds, the dogwood, and the lilac bush have been erased from this garden we tended with loving care. Nevertheless the memories live on and the erasure doesn’t negate the good the garden brought into the world during its short life.

          We all have planted seeds that germinated, even took root, but someone else drove over or dug up for one reason or another. That is a hard part of life when things we love and care for don’t always flourish beyond our care for them. That doesn’t make them any less valuable that they once existed and flourished, however disappointing. There is also a certain letting go that can be healthy. I wonder if that is partly why Jesus is getting at, preparing disciples to let go of their lives. When we let go of seeds we plant, the seeds may yield an even greater harvest than if we never planted to begin with. And while my example of the garden feels like a loss, it would be a mistake not to see the gains of the first harvest. Not to recognize that plants seeds helped our family appreciate gardening.

          The same can be true of planting the seeds of our lives and the gifts we bring. Sometime in life we hold back, afraid of planting seeds. Sometimes we’re afraid that the gifts we share won’t be well received or appreciated. That can include gifts we share at home, at work, at school, at church, in the community. And the danger is that if we keep deferring planting seeds, we find we’re still hanging onto them today. And that’s a pity not to take a risk, not to serve others for fear of whether we succeed, or fear of what others might think.

          Some of this fear is amplified around hustle culture, the internet hype around making a quick buck through new technology, rather than cultivating a career that serves others. The latest scammers promise riches through paying them to learn their easy secrets, whether to write and sell books using AI, through intricate sales funnels that capture online clicks, through Bitcoin, or whatever it might be. They say “be like me.” They got rich and so can you. Except we know the likelihood is that the door has already closed once the “10 easy secrets to get rich”  blog posts and online courses starts circulating. One thing hustle culture ridicules is people working jobs that help people, whether it is healthcare, education, or public service of any kind.

          Yet we know, we desperately need more nurses, doctors, educators, trades people, public housing advocates, and public servants of every kind who have our collective interest at heart, and so on. We need more people working in service of love of neighbour, rather than fewer. And we need to build an economy that fosters well paying jobs that serve the public, rather than drive people towards pursuing scams and pyramid schemes that most often simply rob people of what few dollars they have.

          Jesus wants us to know that the seeds we plant are enough. The seeds we plant are worthwhile. Just as he sacrifices himself in his journey to the cross, we know collectively we bear the new life of resurrection. So too Jesus calls us to lives of seed planting, to growing food for a harvest both literally and figuratively. And for us to be bold, to take risks, even enjoy that sense of serving neighbour and community.

          I see examples of this every week at Church of the Cross. People gathering out of joy serving others. Whether it is setting up tables and chairs for Lenten soup supper, feeding people with a meal, tending to the gardens around the church, serving in the many ministries, including singing in the choir. These are all ways in which we are planting seeds for the benefit of others. Ways in which we are living into the promise of Jesus’ resurrection. Ways we honour him asking us to risk gardening.

          It is fitting that today falls on St. Patrick’s day, which has its own gardening image of the Holy Trinity - the three-leaf clover representing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Something so plentiful some people see it as a weed in their lawn to eradicate, that also reminds us of the nature of God. There is a sense of God’s abundance spreading and growing so easily. It doesn’t matter if you pick a clover because more will grow in its place. A sense of God’s abundant love.

          Wrapping up I want to give you time to discuss in small groups the question in your bulletin. Question for discussion: Where do you see grains of wheat falling into the earth and sprouting to new life around you? You may relate stories of frustration that I had planting a garden in Virginia or stories in which you already see flourishing through a different lens. Afterwards we’ll have time for two people two share one sentence each from their discussion.