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March 31, 2006
Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts that will be read in many churches this Sunday. The first is the usual sermon preparation eMo. The second is intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregations' attention on the Church's ministry to the poor and victims of natural disasters or war, through the work of Episcopal Relief and Development. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.

The Life in the Seed

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.
John 12:15

You sure talk about death a lot, somebody said last night. That's true. I think people should talk about death more than they do -- or rather, they shouldn't shrink from the topic as much as they do. But we won't discuss it. Won't make wills or buy life insurance, won't choose health care proxies, won't think about what kinds of medical care we will or will not accept at the end of our lives. Won't think about heaven, about what it must be like to cross the threshold from one life into another. Won't even say the word "die," some of us, as if talking about it might bring it on. It's too upsetting.

But "upsetting" is what happens to a pyramid of apples in the grocery store if you walk by and pluck one from the bottom of the pile: you upset them, and they roll all over the floor of the produce section. "Upset" isn't really something that happens to human beings. We were never all that set to begin with. We get sad, sure. Scared, maybe. But not "upset."

We're messy. Life is messy -- messy, and then it ends. Nothing to be "upset" about; it's supposed to happen. We have to leave here, in order to make room for our replacements. The apples in their neat pyramid will rot if nobody buys them and eats them. They can't stay around forever.

What good is a seed? None at all, unless it falls to the ground, ceasing very soon to be anything like it was when it fell. What are your chances for remaining just as you are now? Absolutely none -- and, if you did, you'd be monstrous, a person stuck in the wrong time, a living artifact of the past struggling to stay afloat in a present and a future for which you were unequipped. Nothing stays as it is. Everything hurtles into the future, faster and faster all the time, it seems to us.

That this is sad is a matter of interpretation. The more you think and wonder about death, the less tragic it appears. We are the ones who assert at least once a week that this life and this world, much as we love it, is far from being all there is. That there is an immense context to us, a context of which we are almost completely unaware, waiting to be discovered and experienced.

No thanks, says the seed. I don't want to taste water and feel the sun, feel a tiny green shoot in my heart grow and grow until it bursts out into the light. I'll pass: don't want to become a great sunflower or a nodding poppy, an oak tree. Nah -- just let me stay here in my envelope with pictures of these things on the outside.

But the Gardener has other ideas. You're going to love it once you get going, he says, and presses the seed into the warm earth, sifting a little soil on top of it and pressing again. He pours a gentle shower of water on top and blesses it all. Enjoy your next chapter, he says. I know I will -- I can't wait to see what you become.
Jeremiah 31:31-34
Hebrews 5:(1-4)-10
John 12:20-33
Psalm 51 or 51:11-16
And here is the ERD meditation:

Stopping by the Plant Stand

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.
John 12:15

Here in my town, we're waiting impatiently for the flats of flowers and herbs and tomatoes to come in down at the hardware store. Soon the rough shelves the guys put up every year will be covered with bright blooms, and we will wander through them to our hearts' content, choosing plants to take home and love for another summer.

The world is changing, though. Driest March on record, it said in the paper yesterday, and I believe it. I need to go out and give everyone from last year a drink, as they make their annual beginning -- something you don't usually have to do in early spring. Not here.

Of course, everywhere isn't here. Climate changes all over the world. Some crops upon which a village has relied for centuries languish through the waterless months of their short lives, and do not yield enough to support the families who raise them.

Horticulturists have worked for decades to produce drought-resistant strains of fast-growing, high-yield crops that can sustain a family and a village. The way of raising them is different from the ancient ways. When Episcopal Relief and Development sends ten trays of seedlings, information about how to grow them and tools needed to do it and assistance in marketing the excess, a village is on its way back to being able to feed itself again. In Argentina, Congo, El Salvador, Venezuela, Brazil and the Philippines and many other countries, this practical help gives people who already know a lot about farming what they need to survive changes in climate that will be as permanent as anything about the weather ever is.

Enjoy your trip to the plant nursery. Buy something beautiful for your garden, and take good care of it once you get it in the ground. I always overspend when I go -- everything is so lovely, I can't help it. But consider this: for fifteen dollars, I can send ten flats of plants to a village in need of food security. For another $45, I can add the machetes, pickaxes, hoes, spades and rakes another farmer will need, now that his own tools have been lost in the earthquake, the mudslide, the tsunami, the war. Not a bad way to spend $55, since every plant that springs forth from the ground is hope bursting forth from the tomb.
Here's the link for seeds and tools from ERD. of Life. Or you can telephone 1-800-34-7626, ext 5219.
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