Lent Reflections 2024: Lent 5 – As a Grain of Wheat Falls

Lent Reflections 2024: Lent 5 – As a Grain of Wheat Falls

The Very Reverend Catherine Ogle brings our reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, encouraging us to see in Jesus Christ the grain of wheat that falls in order to bring new life, and who is with us when we also stumble and fall..

Text below:

Here I am in the deanery in the inner close of Winchester Cathedral. And I’m glad to say that despite all that tremendously heavy rain we’ve had, spring has come to the close.

After the Christmas market we have to reseed all the lawns. And I’m glad to say that the grass seed which was tucked up under blankets to protect it from the frost and from the birds has begun to germinate and grow. It’s great to see the bright green again.

Jesus often teaches using examples from the natural world and from farming; as we approach Holy Week and Easter, these words of Jesus from St. John’s Gospel are hugely significant: ‘Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains just a single grain but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’

And we know when Jesus says these words, that he’s talking about himself, that like a grain of wheat, he will lay down his life and die in order to produce an abundant harvest, in order to give us fullness of life and abundance of life for all people who seek Him and follow His ways. Jesus invites us to follow him in this way of service and self sacrifice.

For many years now, I’ve been helped on my journey through Lent, and Holy Week to Easter, by the work of artists who have opened my eyes and helped me to see things and open my mind and my imagination to different ways of looking at things and different ways of seeing and understanding Jesus. Many churches have what’s called Stations of the Cross – like this example showing Jesus falling under the weight of his cross, worshipers can follow Jesus’s journey to Golgotha by following the Stations of the Cross. I’ve been particularly helped on my journey by the work of a German priest and artist, Father Sieger Koder – his work is always striking and also theological. Here is his version of Christ falling, a painting which suggests that added to the weight of the physical wooden cross, under which Jesus stumbles, is the weight the dark and heaviness of human sin in its different forms, pressing down on him.

And the second striking image by Koder is of Jesus’s final fall. And when I look at this painting, it seems to me that Jesus has shown like a grain of wheat fallen, held down, mingled with the dust of the earth. The grain gives itself up to germinate and grow, losing itself in the process of creating a harvest. In this painting, the sun shines and light falls on the face of him who is the Light of the world. Jesus teaches that what we hang on to we lose, but what we give away we gain.

In John’s gospel, people come to Philip, the disciple, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ And I believe we’re still challenged today: to see Jesus, the one who suffers and is lifted up off the earth on the cross, to die and to see in his suffering and his death, not disgrace but rather the glory of God’s love, in our suffering Saviour.

The Great Screen in Winchester Cathedral is a magnificent sight. At the centre is the crucified Christ – and I’ve seen people stand in front of this and cry. Perhaps they can see and feel how the cross connects with them. But not everyone reacts in this way. I remember a group of teenage boys seeing the cross and asking me how can you believe in a God who is so weak?

It takes the eyes of faith to see in the cross the glory of God, that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. This is God who loves us so much that he is prepared to suffer and die for us in our place. It takes the eyes of faith to see that God is love – love so powerful that it suffers and overcomes death itself, as we will celebrate on Easter Day.

I hope that this Holy Week and Easter each one of us be led to see Jesus more clearly. And to understand that as we stumble and fall, and as we have painful experiences, Jesus is with us. He knows us. He understands us and he has been there before. He knows everything that we’re ever likely to suffer and is prepared to take our place.

The priest and poet Malcolm Guite has a beautiful sonnet on this theme, which ends with these words:

He sets his face like flint and takes our place 
Staggers beneath the black weight of us all, 
And falls with us so that he might break our fall.

I do wish you a profound Holy Week and a joyful Easter.

Let us pray…

Eternal God in the cross of Jesus, we see the cost of our sin and the depth of your love. In humble hope and fear. May we place at his feet all that we have and all that we are through Jesus name.