The World Keeps Turning

Dear Church Family,

Did the world stop turning in March 2020?

You do not need me to tell you that in the UK we have been living with the effect of Covid for around a year now and our entire lives have been dominated by Pandemic-related news just like the Brexit discussions before Covid. In fact, our lives have been so pre-occupied you could be forgiven for thinking that the world stopped turning a year ago and nothing else has happened. But of course, that is nonsense, all the day to day detail of our lives has continued, just differently. Major issues and events around the world have continued, many just haven't been reported in the news, the world has continued to turn, people of faith have continued to thank God and to worship, just differently.

2000 years ago Jesus told his disciples, in so many words, that the time was fast approaching when it would feel to them like their world had stopped turning, but that in fact their mission in the world was only just starting to turn. And so it is for us, our world has been hugely impacted by Covid but it has not stopped turning. Our mission to be a conduit through which the love of God, brought to the world through his son Jesus Christ, continues unabated and allowing ourselves to be used by God ('Used' in the most positive sense) is at the very heart of this Sunday's gospel reading; 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.” John 12. v24

Each and every one of us has the potential to 'bear much fruit', we just need some fertile soil to fall into and a willing farmer or gardener to help us reach maturity. There is a short tale that illuminates this saying of Jesus very well:

It was a stormy night. The wind blew in all directions; the rain came down in torrents. An elderly man and his wife sloshed up to the desk of a small hotel in Philadelphia. Half in apology he asked: “Can you possibly give us a room? All the big hotels are filled.” “Every room is taken, sir,” replied the clerk, “But I can’t send a nice couple like you out in the rain at one o’clock in the morning. Tell you what: you can sleep in my room.” “But where will you sleep?” asked the guest. “Oh, I’ll make out,” replied the young clerk, “don’t worry about me.” The next morning as the guest paid his bill he told the young man who had given up his room: “You are the kind of manager who should be the boss of the best hotel in the United States. Maybe someday I’ll build one for you.” Two years later the young clerk received a letter with a round-trip ticket to New York and a note from the guest of that stormy night asking the clerk to meet him in the big city. The old man led the young man to the corner of 5th Avenue and 34th Street. Pointing to a towering new building, the old gentleman declared:” There is the hotel I have built for you to manage.” Almost speechless, the young man, George C. Boldt, stammered his thanks. His benefactor was William Waldorf Astor. The hotel was the most elaborate of that day, the original Waldorf Astoria.

A small act, but a big dividend. The young manager must have put himself out that night when he gave his room to this elderly couple. We say he “died to himself” in thinking of others. If he had only known, he was putting a seed into the ground; that seed would sprout some years later when he would be made manager of the fanciest hotel in New York.

Now I am sure that story has been embellished from the actual facts of the time but none the less it illustrates the point that “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.” And this of course is a principle in the spiritual life: only dying to ourselves brings out into the world a harvest of fruit. I am sure there are times, particularly over the past twelve months, when we find that hard to believe and much harder to live. But it is what Jesus did in letting himself be crucified for us on the cross: for in his dying to himself, redemption was won for all mankind.

Let us pray this Lent and Easter that as another opportunity opens before us to witness Christ’s Passion that we too may become the Grain of Wheat that falls into fer