“I am telling you the truth: a grain of wheat remains no more than a single grain unless it is dropped into the ground and dies. If it does die, then it produces many grains.” (John 12:24)

The days are visibly longer now, and not just through the artificial changing of the clocks. The sun has finished much of its gradual snow-melting work (although I haven’t put away my snow shovels just yet). Soon the ground will be ready to accept the seeds we plant in gardens or the seedlings we’ve nurtured in the warmth of our winter homes. And at the end of this month, we’ll celebrate that the Seed of the new creation, Jesus the Christ, has died and returned to life.

This Seed doesn’t merely return to life, it rises to richly abundant life. Christ’s life is far greater after his death than it was before – and it was pretty amazing to begin with. He healed and fed many people; he commissioned his followers to work so that all might have health and nourishment. He preached good news and forgave sin; he gave us the authority to forgive anyone in his name. He gave human shape to God’s love in one historical and cultural context; by his love, people everywhere and in any time can bear God’s presence to the world. Christ showed us how to surrender his life as a witness to eternal love; we are gifted to live in his resurrection.

The abundant life of the resurrection can take many shapes. The resurrection looks like $50 we gave to Chris Holmes’ fifth grade classroom as a thanks for their shoveling the church steps and ramp during the winter. This month, we received a nice thank-you describing their plans to buy a new snow shovel and have a class pizza party. Then we heard that when they went to buy the pizza, Poor Gary’s wouldn’t take their money – so the class sent the $50 we had given them on to another charity. That’s how the resurrection life gets around!

Or the resurrection can look like leftovers. We ended up with lots of uneaten casserole after our last college outreach dinner, so I took a pan to a local family in need. Your contributions originally went to support one kind of local outreach, but they became a blessing for someone who needed them even more. They weren’t leftovers after all; they were an unexpected abundance.

I got that idea from a farmer in the first church Leanne and I attended together. On what seemed like every Sunday from July through October, Warren would show up at church with bags of produce: zucchini or tomatoes one week, lettuce or green beans the next. Once it took the congregation a month to work their way through a table full of turnips. Warren didn’t even like turnips! He just planted them to make sure there would be extra. That’s a sign of either resurrection thinking or borderline insanity.

Of course, Warren wasn’t the only farmer/gardener to share extra produce – he’s just an extreme example. Every church we’ve attended, including Hope, has had a table co-opted by garden surplus from time to time. Leanne mentioned this to me the other night after a column on food shelves struck a chord with her. She said, why not share extra produce with the folks who come to our church looking for help getting by? We all agree that fresh fruit and vegetables are good for you, but they’re also some of the most expensive calories you can buy in the grocery store. A little surplus from one garden can become a luxury for someone who has less.

Gardeners, you already know you can get rid of excess produce at church. (Many of you choose to can your excess or do something else with it, and that’s great too.) And you can contribute it to the Quad Cities Food Shelf or the Salvation Army. Here’s yet another option: drop it off at the office, and I’ll pass it along to a family who has visited us for financial assistance. I keep the names of our guests and their contact information, so I can easily find someone who may appreciate the extra. This won’t be any formal program, just another way to share the abundance of life with the world.

It’s absurd to mention this now, of course, before the seeds are even in the ground. But that’s why they call it hope. The seeds we plant now will bear fruit. The Seed of new life bears fruit in the abundance of our generous love. The resurrection is like this hymn refrain: “Jesus lives again, earth can breathe again, spread the word around, loaves abound!”

In Christ’s peace,

Nathan

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