Seed Birth

My generous neighbor left me four beautiful plants as she returned to her permanent home last month. I am the happy recipient of rosemary, basil, cilantro, and mint.

They are already dying.

I neglected to tell her that when it comes to plants, I have a black thumb. I have actually been known to kill plastic plants. Kid you not. I either over-water or under-water, but in the end, no plant has ever survived my care.

I take heart in knowing that in general, a plant has to die before it can be reborn. That is exactly how seeds work. The seed is the dormant product of a thriving plant, and once planted in the ground, it becomes a thriving plant as well. Perhaps I can collect the seeds of these plants to give to her when she returns.

Thanks be to God, that is exactly how it works when we die, too:

1 Corinthians 15 (Common English Bible)

35 But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? What kind of body will they have when they come back?” 36 Look, fool! When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t come back to life unless it dies. 37 What you put in the ground doesn’t have the shape that it will have, but it’s a bare grain of wheat or some other seed. 38 God gives it the sort of shape that he chooses, and he gives each of the seeds its own shape. 39 All flesh isn’t alike. Humans have one kind of flesh, animals have another kind of flesh, birds have another kind of flesh, and fish have another kind. 

When we die and are buried, we exchange our earthly bodies for heavenly ones. Paul teaches us that both types have a kind of glory:

40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies. The heavenly bodies have one kind of glory, and the earthly bodies have another kind of glory. 41 The sun has one kind of glory, the moon has another kind of glory, and the stars have another kind of glory (but one star is different from another star in its glory). 42 It’s the same with the resurrection of the dead: a rotting body is put into the ground, but what is raised won’t ever decay. 43 It’s degraded when it’s put into the ground, but it’s raised in glory. It’s weak when it’s put into the ground, but it’s raised in power. 44 It’s a physical body when it’s put into the ground, but it’s raised as a spiritual body.

Take a look at the beautiful language in verse 47. Paul said that the Adam was made from dust, but the last Adam, Jesus, is made from heaven. Our resurrected, spiritual bodies come from heaven above! Like Jesus, our resurrected bodies will walk and eat, but will not be bound by the constraints of the earth. I am so relieved about the eating part.

If there’s a physical body, there’s also a spiritual body. 45 So it is also written, the first human, Adam, became a living person, and the last Adam became a spirit that gives life. 46 But the physical body comes first, not the spiritual one—the spiritual body comes afterward. 47 The first human was from the earth made from dust; the second human is from heaven. 48 The nature of the person made of dust is shared by people who are made of dust, and the nature of the heavenly person is shared by heavenly people. 49 We will look like the heavenly person in the same way as we have looked like the person made from dust.

As you contemplate this idea of your glorified, heavenly body, give thanks to God for the gift of the resurrection. We need not fear death. Death is but a transition to a glory unknown, thanks be to God.

Morning Glory by Vic Miles

Things Aren’t Always as They Seem

Yesterday’s children’s sermon involved a little trickery on my part. I showed the children a large red tube of “toothpaste” that my husband had just brought back from Germany. I squeezed a dollop of this German mittlesharf senf onto a toothbrush and watched their surprise as they realized that it wasn’t toothpaste at all … it was mustard. We then talked about the fact that you can’t tell what it inside by looking at the outside of things.

Or people.

Today’s scripture is a like that. Jesus pointed to the humiliation of the cross and called it “glory.” Notice that Jesus used some form of the word “glory” five times in the space of two brief sentences. We join Jesus and the disciples in the upper room just after Judas has left:

John 13 (Common English Bible)

31 When Judas was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Human One has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify the Human One in himself and will glorify him immediately. 

As soon as Judas left, the process of glorification was set in motion. The arrest, the beatings, the sham trial, and the execution were now in motion and Jesus’ death was assured. Crucifixion on a crude cross was designed for the punishment, humiliation, and debasement of convicted criminals, yet Jesus saw this as his glorification. For Jesus, to be fully known and understood was to be glorified. Finally, the world would know why he had come and through his death on the cross, the world was saved. He took the ugliness of the cross and made it beautiful.

33 Little children, I’m with you for a little while longer. You will look for me—but, just as I told the Jewish leaders, I also tell you now—‘Where I’m going, you can’t come.’

Glory came with his resurrection. Glory was delivered in the form of eternal life for all who believe. Jesus entered into his glory and invites us to follow. But we have one important thing to do first: we must learn to love each other.

34 “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. 35 This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.”

The invitation to glory and the commandment to love one another is inextricably linked. What if that became the one and only requirement for entry to heaven? What if your eternal life was predicated on your demonstrable love for others? Would there be enough evidence to convict you to eternal life?

Where there is hate, let us sow love. It’s not too late. It’s never too late to follow Jesus into a glorified life of loving as he loved us. Let’s get to it.

Glory Fountain by Kathy Schumacher