Arising Green

Now the green blade rises from the buried grain,
wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;
love lives again, that with the dead has been;
love is come again like wheat arising green.

In the grave they laid him, love by hatred slain,
thinking that he would never wake again;
laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen,
love is come again like wheat arising green.

Forth he came at Easter, like the risen grain,
he who for three days in the grave had lain;
raised from the dead, my living Lord is seen;
love is come again like wheat arising green.

When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,
your touch can call us back to life again;
fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been;
love is come again like wheat arising green.

Now the Green Blade Rises
Evangelical Lutheran Worship #379

Back in March, at one of our Tuesday text studies, some of my area clergy colleagues and I were talking about the end of winter – giving thanks for warmer weather especially after all the frigid cold we got in February.  However, a couple of my colleagues were a little less thankful that the warming temperatures were melting the sparkling white blanket of snow that had covered their yard – because what the melting snow revealed beneath was not very pretty.  Not only did it reveal the dingy, drab muddiness that is the hallmark of early spring, but it also revealed what a popular – ahem – rest stop their yard is for a number of the neighborhood dogs.  Put plainly, they were discovering that the end of winter had revealed a lot of crap.

Early spring can be a fickle and hard season to love – it doesn’t have the lush green loveliness of summer or the gorgeous colors of fall or even the cold, sparkling beauty of winter.  It’s the season of wind and rain and mud.  (It’s also the season that DST makes us get up an hour earlier, yuck!)  But I love that it is also the season of potential and of promise.  There is magic in that mud – the raw, creative power to make tiny things grow into marvelous things, if planted and given the chance.  It thrills me every year without fail when I catch a glimpse of the first trees budding out, of those first green blades rising from the soil – because buried in that soil, even among the dog poop and mud, are seeds of hope.

It’s one of the reasons I love this hymn so much.  “Now the Green Blade Rises” is my favorite Easter hymn; I love the way that the author uses this language of planting and growing and the cycles of the earth to talk about the death and resurrection of Christ.  After his crucifixion – “love by hatred slain” – Jesus is “laid in the earth, like grain that sleeps unseen”; and then, “forth he came at Easter, like the risen grain.”  And likewise, the soil in which Jesus is planted is not exactly pretty.  Jesus lived a life of preaching and teaching justice and mercy and peace.  But his love for the world was like the spring sun melting the snow, revealing the ugliness underneath – the selfishness and violence of humanity that led to his brutal death on the cross.  Yet even planted in that ugly soil, God managed to bring forth abundant life, even out of death.

It makes me feel a little more hopeful as I wonder what God will bring forth out of this difficult time.  A year of pandemic has been a little bit like melting snow, revealing some of the ugliness underneath.  It’s revealed the deep and bitter divisions in our communities and our nation; it’s revealed our sense of impatience and selfishness and apathy toward our neighbor; it’s revealed the ways that love of lesser things – like a building or a particular way of worshiping – has crept into the spaces in our hearts that should belong to Christ alone. 

But in God’s hands, this soil bears that same creative potential to bring forth new life – if we are willing to let ourselves be sown like seeds to die and rise again to new life in Christ.  Even in a year that has been so marked by illness and death, the hope and promise of Easter remain as strong as they have ever been.  Though our hearts may be wintry, grieving, in pain, or in any other condition, I have faith that God’s touch can – and will – call us back to life again.  Christ is risen, my friends, and love is come again – like wheat arising green.

First published in St. John’s April 2021 newsletter.

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