A close-up photograph of a stained-glass window depicting a golden knot

Scripture Reflection: What We Gain by Letting Go

“Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” — John 12:25

A Look Ahead to Sunday’s Readings

As the season of Lent draws to a close, the Gospel of John foreshadows Jesus’s journey to the cross, the tomb, and resurrection. The setting is the Passover. People from all over are gathering in Jerusalem to worship, celebrate, and remember God’s liberation of the Hebrews from bondage in Egypt — yet they are living under Roman occupation.

Some Greeks approach the disciples and ask to see Jesus. Jesus’s answer? He says the hour has come for him to be glorified — “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” It’s probably not the answer they expected.

Jesus goes on to say those who want to serve him must follow his example: If we cling to our lives, we’ll lose them. But if we let go, we’ll find lasting and connected life. Jesus is offering an invitation to free ourselves from the selfishness that closes us off from others and keeps us, and our neighbors, from flourishing. Paradoxically, it’s in letting go of power, the endless work of protecting ourselves at the expense of others, that we find true freedom — our deepest wants and needs met in community.

“Now is the judgment of this world,” Jesus tells the gathered crowd, “Now the ruler of this world will be driven out.” It’s shocking news, especially for an occupied people. Even political and religious power cannot contain or extinguish God’s revolutionary love.

Death, literal and metaphorical, is not the end of the story; it’s the beginning. In Jesus’s death and resurrection, a single grain becomes an abundant harvest, and through us God’s love grows and amplifies across the world.

Read all of Sunday’s scriptures.

Here are five ways to think about what it means to let go:

Theology  “This week’s Gospel reading teaches me . . . that I don’t have to strive and strain to see Jesus,” writes Debie Thomas. “He is the one who allows himself to be lifted up, so that what is murky or overwhelming or frightening . . . comes close and becomes visible.”

Poetry  Poet and minister Edwina Gateley describes the trembling and visceral feeling of the moment before letting go:

Time to go
From all I am
To all I have
Not yet become.

Music  In this season of Lent, we ask God to be with us in our weakness. Listen to the Choir of Westminster Abbey sing “Miserere,” with the ancient Latin phrase miserere nobis, or O Lord, have mercy upon us, set to music.

Spirituality  Meditating on the spiritual lesson of the compost heap, in which death is recycled into new life, Suzanne Guthrie writes, “Can I give more than I get? Can I let myself die daily in such a way as to help build up the redeemed matter of the world?”

Visual Art  Think about Sunday’s Gospel passage while looking at this painting of a wheat field by American artist John Rogers Cox. What feelings does this work elicit?

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