Seeds of life
16th April 2020
Here’s the reading and reflection from today’s Communion service which you can also find in video form on our Facebook page here. Our next online service is Breathe which is at 4.30pm tomorrow (Friday). You can watch it on our Facebook page.
Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
They asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying?’
‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she said, ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’ At this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realise that it was Jesus.
He asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?’
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’
Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’
She turned towards him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means ‘Teacher’).
Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them that he had said these things to her.
Maybe Mary comes to the tomb with her heart bursting with the pain and anguish of her loss. Maybe she comes utterly numb – sleepwalking through her tears. Either way she has a need to reach out to her Lord one last time in love – to do one more thing for him, the deep yearning of so many who are bereaved.
But she is denied that possibility. She stoops to look into the tomb, but it is empty. The body has gone. Even though it was cold and dead, it was precious to her – it was how she had known him.
Mary turns away. She takes no comfort from the angels’ message. Where can she find anything to hold onto? Where can she find him? Her world has been shattered.
She sees someone – and guesses that it is the gardener. ‘Who are you looking for’, he asks. She spills out her desperation. And he recalls her to herself – her true self. ‘Mary’ he says – and she knows – she knows that it is him.
Where can we hear that voice, which calls through the confusion and anxiety we may be feeling? How can we connect with the new life of Easter in a way that is real?
I want to offer a couple of ways. Early on Easter morning I stood outside our back door in my bare feet, and listened to the birds. I looked at the beauty of our little garden, of the tree behind, of the sky as the sun grew higher. I felt the grass. I sensed the life all around me, the life beneath me – the life which even during this pandemic is still bursting our all around us.
Sometimes it might seem incongruous, holding together the grim news with the beautiful weather outside, but for me on that morning it felt that this was somehow the wider picture, the deeper layer, underneath everything – this God given life pulsing through our world.
Mother Julian, who lived in Norwich in the 14th century, has this picture:
Our Lord showed me a tiny thing in the palm of my hand, the size of a hazelnut. I looked at this with the eye of my soul and thought: ‘What is this?’ And this is the answer that came to me: ‘It is all that is made.’
I was astonished that it managed to survive: it was so small that I thought that it might disintegrate. And in my mind I heard this answer: ‘It lives on and will live on forever because God loves it.’
God’s love holds all that is – this is the source of life in all that is around us. And this love connects deeply to the Easter story.
When Jesus was laid in the tomb, his life was no longer there. But his love – the love he gave – the love he was given back – that was still very much there. You can see it expressed in the care of Nicodemus and Joseph, in the presence of Mary and the other women. The love of Jesus himself, and love of the Father for him, could not be killed by the cross. And just as the source of all life is love, so from that love flows the new life of Jesus – and I could feel it here, in my Easter garden.
But what about us? Where can we find that new life for ourselves? I had another picture given to me this week. On Palm Sunday I did some gardening – which might surprise those of you watching who knew me in a previous life. One of the things I planted were some little dried peas – like this one, and look! Pea shoots! The miracle of life.
I’ve been thinking quite a lot about seeds – about the sorts of seeds which we might plant during this time as people, and what they might produce in the future. But I sense too that God is planting seeds in me. When I look for the new life of Easter, as well as sensing that life out in the world all around, I sense it also stirring deep within me.
I’ve been reading a lovely book called the Easter Garden – which Jo has also been reading from – in fact she gave me this copy. I was very struck by this passage by Gary Davies;
If you understand the lesson of the seed, which is death and resurrection, you will look with fresh insight on your own life. You will begin to recognize many moments and situations in which life is not opening up to you and yielding its true harvest because you are trying to preserve life in its present form. It is like a man who insists on keeping a seed in a matchbox and yet wonders why there are no flowers in his garden. You may need to let a particular aspect of your life die to its present form in order that new life may spring from its husk. You must have the courage to bury that seed, whatever it represents, in the dark soil of God’s keeping, and to trust Him with it. Soon, very soon, there will be signs of Spring again in your life.
Mary stood before the gardener, her life utterly changed. But from that dried out seed, from that place of deep darkness, he brought new hope, new life. That life would never be the same as it was. Mary would now know the Lord not through her eyes and her touch, but in her heart. May we know that same life within us…
God of all our growing,
call our shoots up from the soil
in the sharp spring season
of our awakening.
Nurture the resurrection life in us,
in the fragile, burgeoning thrust of green,
in the delicate bud, the trembling leaf,
the first tentative signs of our growth.
Send your Spirit where the new season dances
and bring us into the promise of spring. Nicola Slee
We pray for our world – caught up in the fear, and confusion, and many kinds of loss through this pandemic – and for all those living through darkness for other reasons…
Lord of love and life, may your arms of love reach out to those who are frightened, to those who are ill, to those who are hopeless, and may your touch bring new life…
Lord of love and life, your Easter promise is that your love cannot be quenched even by death. We pray for those who have been bereaved, and those who have died – help us to trust that they are all held in your loving care…
Lord of love and life, we pray that we may know the seeds of love coming to new life deep within us. Help us to nurture the resurrection life in us, and to tend well all that you are growing in us during this time, that there may be, through your grace, a lasting harvest for our world…