[#pictureLent] March 16: GRAIN

12 Feb 24 Think-01.jpg

By Rev. Emily Ann Davis    
First Congregational Church of Crystal Lake
Crystal Lake, Illinois

First, read John 12:20-24

When my husband and I moved into our neighborhood, we knew it had charm. We’re in an old, historic suburb 40 miles outside of Chicago, with an old movie theater, quaint downtown, and streets full of houses from the mid-1800s. But my favorite part happens to be a preschool just down the road. 

Its teachers have a habit of taking their students out for walks fairly often—to visit the village tree farm in winter, take in the sights of budding plants in the spring, to watch the progress of local construction projects that never seem to end. 

Once, out for a walk myself, I came upon them and found that every student was holding a small piece of paper with holes cut through. “These are our cameras,” one child explained. “They are for close-ups when we want to see better.” At which point she wandered off to take a close-up of a bug.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind a close-up of Jesus. Just like the Greeks in today’s story, I often find myself wishing that I could see him well. But he’s a slippery figure—especially in John’s gospel. When we meet him here, he’s never exactly in focus. Instead, he’s a guy talking in parables and abstractions: 

Son of Man. Hour at hand. Fruit and wheat.

It’s the kind of stuff that leaves me scratching my head, rubbing my eyes, and wishing I could get a better look at him. But maybe there’s something to this idea that we need to squint a bit and closer. Especially at the small things. Like bugs. Like grain.

I find that people are searching more and more for Jesus these days—though not necessarily in the church. As people of faith, we need to think about where we might direct their viewfinder; and we should probably examine our own sights while we’re at it, as well.

This Lent, I’m looking all around my neighborhood. And so far, I’m finding him everywhere. In weeds and in wheat, in bread and in wine, along shores and hillsides. But also in the stranger and the marginalized. The looked over and the left behind. 

Every time I lean in for a close-up, I see him. It’s amazing. I’m learning to appreciate things and people I never noticed before. It hasn’t failed once yet.

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

1. What have you seen of Jesus in the past weeks? Where have you found him?
2. Is there anyplace—or anyone—that you haven’t looked at yet?
3. What of Jesus might you show to others—in your church, in your home, far beyond?