by Rachel Sensenig, pastor of Circle of Hope in South Philly
The season of Lent invites us to identify with Jesus on his journey to the cross. Ironically, as we look at him there, in scripture and in community, we find him identifying with us and leading us to hope of new life.
The context of his death is so much like ours: world powers competing in dangerous ways, the questioning of religious tradition, the oppression and marginalization of the poor and others, confusion around who God is and what God is doing. It is in this context that God meets people and demonstrates sacrificial love.
I visited some stations of the cross for my birthday last week and was most drawn to this image: Jesus speaking to the daughters of Jerusalem. Even though he was literally dying, so weak he couldn’t carry his cross anymore, Jesus saw these women crying and stopped to let them know. He acknowledged their pain, even as he was experiencing so much of his own. And he called them daughters, revealing God’s parental Love that keeps finding and saving us.
It is this love that can soften us to new life this Lent. Jesus said, “Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24.) He was talking about his own dying, and us as the new seeds that would come by faith. If we are seeds, then we’re also meant to break open into something new. That process sounds drastic and painful, but the way that it actually happens according to seeds is by a gentle and gradual softening in the ground, a yielding and decay of the outer seed wall in order to release the potential inside.
I’m comforted by this metaphor that God does not expect us to reinvent ourselves out of thin air or manufacture a new self. Jesus is talking about yielding to a process that God does in and for us, that reveals our fullest life. Instead of striving for goodness we can let go of our defenses. We’re invited to get vulnerable and let each other in. Our beliefs that we are unworthy or hopelessly stuck can fall away. We become open to the presence of a loving higher power who is helping us attend to this new life and keeping us in the soil together.
I appreciate the words of the poet Dinos Christianopoulos that have been used by liberation movements around the world: “They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.” He was sidelined by the Greek literary community because he was gay, but he could see the overcoming power of nature in himself and his friends.
You may feel buried by your own struggles this Lent, like those daughters of Jerusalem buried by grief. There’s a lot to grieve and worry about these days, even as pandemic life is opening up a bit again. But maybe our struggles can help melt our seed walls. Maybe we can ask each other for help. Maybe there is a new tender sprout of us forming in the hiddenness of the earth, evidence of who God saw us to be all along. The apostle Paul said that our lives are hidden with Christ in God! So that even if we feel buried for a long time we can trust that something new is growing in the darkness. May Jesus lead the way for us this Lent, revealing that God doesn’t stop short of miraculous resurrection.