The Three Mile an hour God
A homily preached at Carntyne Parish Church on the Tuesday of Holy Week 2018.
John 12: 20-36
‘I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.’ V24
I was in a local supermarket the other week,
And the cashier who served us was very friendly and chatty,
My mum and I enjoyed a brief conversation with her,
As she processed our shopping through the checkout,
and helped us to fill our bags…..
As my mum went to put her final carrier bag in the shopping trolley,
And fetch her purse from her handbag,
I noticed that the two people who were behind us in the queue,
Were irritated at us engaging in conversation with the cashier,
So much so that they were craning forward to see,
What the hold -up was,
As my mum tried to find her credit card….
It made me reflect upon how,
programmed we are as a society,
for everything to be speedy and quick….
The self-service checkouts are a prime example of this,
Meant to speed things up,
Without the need for human contact,
When the reality is that we normally we have to call over the cashier anyway,
When it so often fails to process our shopping….
And the sad thing is that,
We are so busy complaining we have no time,
rushing from one thing to another,
That we no longer relish each moment,
And we are all impoverished as a result…..
Living our lives takes time,
And Jesus knew that……
In this evening’s Gospel reading,
He tells us that unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground,
It remains only one seed,
But if it dies,
It produces many seeds……
Growing wheat in Jesus’ time,
Was labour intensive,
And it still is today…..
When a wheat seed is placed in the ground,
The hard, protective shell around what’s on the inside falls away,
And what remains is a seed that produces new life,
But it takes at least 8-10 months,
Before it bears fruit,
And can be harvested……
The grain cannot be harvested until it is ripe,
Or it will not keep well….
Once it is ripe,
It needs to be cut at just the right time,
Or it will fall onto the ground and spoil…..
It’s a long process,
And requires lots of patience,
There are no shortcuts,
And Jesus describes to us in the text tonight,
That this is the spiritual process,
For those who would want to follow him,
And it’s a lifelong process,
Constant cycles of losing our hard, protective outer shell,
To reveal a seed which produces abundant life……
This process takes TIME,
And how often do we resent this,
Because we live in a world of quick fixes,
Next day deliveries,
And immediate internet access…..
The buzz words within our daily lives include the words-
now, quick, speed, hectic,
I remember a friend telling me that one week his diary was fairly light,
And he had the luxury of an unusually quiet week,
But when he met a colleague in town,
Who asked him how his week was,
He couldn’t bring himself to say that it was actually very restful,
And that he was finding much needed time to draw breath,
And so he lied and told his colleague with a sigh,
That his week was just the usual crazily busy……
In our culture to be busy,
Is to be productive, successful,
It is something to adulate and applaud……
But following Jesus takes time,
And it is often a painfully slow process,
As we develop into who God is calling us to be,
A constant cycle of losing the hard, protective shell,
Which surrounds us,
So that we can bear more fruit…..
And time is not ours to master and control,
Time is a gift that God has given to us…..
And the purpose of time,
Is to love God and love one another more fully….
Our understanding of time as we know it through hours, minutes and seconds,
Is a relatively new concept.
It was medieval monks who created the first clocks,
Because before that people planned their day,
Through the rhythm of sunrise and sunset…..
Medieval monks clocks only chimed on the hour,
And their purpose was to alert the monks that it was time for them to gather and pray,
In other words,
Clocks helped the monks remain faithful in their worship of God…..
But by the middle of the 14th century,
The clock had moved outside the walls of the monastery,
The introduction of minutes and seconds,
brought new and precise regularity,
To the life of workmen and merchant,
Separating the time people worked professionally,
From the time in which they lived religiously,
And so ironically,
The clock which the monks had created had lost its spiritual roots,
And time was now perceived as fully in the service and control of human beings……
And what has resulted is that we have become a people who think we have to fit God in,
Rather than fit into what God is doing,
Through his gift of time…….
One of the curious aspects of Jesus,
Was that he was never in a rush……
His disciples used to get frustrated with him,
From walking away from a busy, demanding crowd and taking some time out….
The Gospels describe to us someone,
Who lived fully in God’s time,
And fitted into what God was already doing….
Jesus engaged with people,
One could argue that he wasted time with people,
Often of course the wrong sort of people according to those in power,
Namely the outcasts and misfits…..
And even when his friend Lazarus died,
Jesus waited till the time was right,
To go and see Lazarus’ sisters,
Even when to wait,
Was to risk others thinking that he might not truly care……
The theologian Kosuke Koyama,
Says of Jesus that he was and is the 3 mile an hour God,
God moves slowly,
And so does Jesus,
The average speed a human being walks is 3 miles per hour,
And so Jesus being fully human,
would have walked at 3 miles an hour as well……
Koyama says that God walks slowly in Jesus,
Because God is love,
And love takes time,
Love always moves slowly….
There is a great power,
The Gospel reading tonight is an analogy of death and resurrection,
The wheat seed dying to bring new life alludes to what is about to happen to Jesus,
But if we look more closely,
If we ponder the text more slowly,
And look beyond the surface,
There is hidden depth,
It also speaks to us of how Christ calls us as his disciples,
To follow him,
By embarking upon this mysteriously slow process,
Losing our hard, protective shell,
And thus being able to produce abundant fruit like Christ,
Which is a lifelong cyclical process,
An eternal journey………
And God gives us all the time in the world,
To do this,
Because time is a gift,
And in and through God,
Time is eternal………
Jesus was aware of this,
And despite his brief 33 years,
He knew he had sufficient time to do what God’s gift of time calls us to do,
to love God and to love others…..
And loving others,
It is a slow process……
This Holy Week,
Let’s trust in God’s time,
Which is always more than enough,
And let us set aside our need for speed and everything instant,
Breathe a sigh of relief,
And follow the example,
Of the three mile an hour God,
So perfectly manifested,
In the life, death and resurrection,
Of our Lord Jesus Christ,
In the name of the Father,
and Holy Spirit,