I’ve recently been reflecting a lot of the story of Jesus meeting with some Greeks shortly before his execution. Jesus says to them,
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.’
I’ve often wondered whether Jesus was familiar with the Greek story of Persephone, who had to return to Hades (the world of the dead) each Winter because of a pomegranate seed she ate while she was held captive there. I wonder about whether Jesus was attempting to communicate interculturally.
I’ve also been recently rereading an article by the Indian Catholic priest Kaj Baago. Writing in the 1970s Baago noted that most Indian Christians had no desire to try and convert their Hindu, Muslim or Buddhist neighbours and had more interest in recovering some continuity with these traditions in their Christian faith. Baago suggested that Indian Christians should return into the Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist traditions and work out what it looked like to follow Christ from within those traditions. He referred to Jesus’ parable to the Greeks about the need for the seed to die and be buried in order for new growth to occur.
In the work of Christian mission I think we’ve often felt a need to control the message, to make sure that the people we are called to minister to end up with an understanding and practise of Christianity that is the same as ours. When Jesus talks with the Greeks using imagery from their culture and not his there’s something different going on. Jesus is giving up control over the message, and he won’t have control over what his Greek visitors do with it. It might look like his message has died, but there might be the chance that something new, different and amazing will grow from it. I think if we stop trying to control the message, and are okay with it dying, something new, different and amazing might grow from it.