The Johannine account of Palm Sunday includes Jesus speaking these famous words: "Unless an ear of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." (John 12:24 NIVi).
At one level, this is a statement of the obvious, an agrarian image that speaks of the necessity of one part of season's harvest being set aside to ensure another one. And yet it is a powerful reminder of the costly sacrifice that has to be made - season after season - for a new harvest to be possible.
Three years ago, my little congregation was forced to close a much loved chapel building. Since then, alongside a growing commitment to mission, we have worked long and hard to discern how best to handle its disposal. Finally, after two rounds of planning applications and lots of hard work by architects and advisers - to say nothing of the generous support of our Baptist Association who advanced us the cost of the all this work - during Holy Week we finally received the news that planning consent had been granted and we were now clear to sell the site for re-development.
There is still a lot of work ahead of us, and it will be someone else's job to turn the outline plan of seven new houses, suitable for first time buyers or young families, into a reality. Our own future home is less clear, since the site value will not buy us another chapel Despite all this, I have a real sense that this is an Easter story, a resurrection story...
Part of the harvest of a byegone era was the Victorian chapel that has now died, that must be razed to the ground, in order that others may enjoy the land on which it was built, that this place may continue to serve the community ina way appropriate to its needs. The seeds from that season - both the people who have found faith and the money that will be realised from the sale - must now be sown for a new harvest in a new era. Death, yes, but new life, abundant life, also.
The chapel has died!
The Church is risen!
Resurrection is come again!
"... seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown." (Luke 8:8, NIVi) May it be so, Lord, may it be so.