Do as the Dandelions Do

Preacher: Anna Lisa Gross

Scripture: John 12: 23-28

On lazy summer days we made dandelion crowns for each other, threading one end of a stem into the other. We made chains from dandelion stems, once from our front door, across the porch, across the yard, all the way to the neighbors’ front door.

We picked bouquets of yellow dandelions, and blew the seeds from white ones. Today’s scripture in the message calls us to 

Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.

Dandelions offer up seeds lighter than air, to float on a breeze or child’s breath – did you make a wish as you blew those seeds into their next life? If we do as the dandelions do, we let go.

Dandelion’s name in Latin is lion’s tooth, because

the plant is “as effective as a lion’s tooth” for treating certain diseases, or

leaves get jagged/toothy as the weeks go by, or

yellow flower like a lion’s mane

That yellow flower opens each morning to the sun, and closes as the sun goes down. After weeks of opening and closing each day, the flower closes a final time, dries, and dies to the world. Lacy seeds take its place and life continues. Oh does it! Dandelions might be a pain to your lawn-keeping, each plant reproduces asexually, independently, up to 5000 seeds per year, clones of parent.

A grain of wheat buried, a dandelion seed blowing on the wind, sprout and reproduce again and again. Anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.

The last year and a half challenged us. If we held on to life “just as it is” we would destroy that life. We would risk our health and others. We couldn’t continue our favorite traditions – from the little things, like getting coffee with a friend indoors, to the big things, like the weddings and holidays the way we’re used to. If we held on to life just as it is, we destroyed our living. But if we let go of what we thought *ought* to be, if we could open up, let go and keep loving, we find life, vibrant and funny and poignant life.

We’re going to do a survey: since March 2020, raise your hand if you have

sung in a virtual choir – recorded your part for Annual Conference or this congregation

Raise your hand if you have forgotten to mute your mic during a zoom when you were talking to someone in your house

Raise your hand if you have gone to a wedding, birthday party, retirement party, Easter or Thanksgiving on zoom or google hangouts or one of those

Raise your hand if you have gone to work or a church meeting in your pajamas

Raise your hand if you’re in pajamas right now!

“Time’s up!” said Jesus. “The time has come for the Son of God to be glorified.”

“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is, destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll

John 12:23-28      from The Message

Let’s return to today’s scripture:

have it forever, real and eternal.

“If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice. God will honor and reward anyone who serves me.

“Right now I am storm-tossed. And what am I going to say? ‘YHWH, get me out of this?’ No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say, ‘YHWH, put your

John 12:23-28

glory on display.’”

A voice came out of the sky: “I have glorified it and I’ll glorify it again.”

John 12:23-28

You’ve probably pulled a dandelion or two or two hundred in your life. Each dandelion plant can live over a decade if any part of root survives. I think that’s the key to giving our lives away, to giving our whole selves away, to letting our seeds or energy or time or money or hope or love drift into the world on the breeze or a child’s breath. Our root. A dandelion can die to life with a deep tap root – what is your tap root? Your faith? Your faith community? A relationship with a spouse or sibling or friend? The art or music that makes your life meaningful? 

Each dandelion plant can return to life, again and again, if even part of its root survives.

If we do as the dandelions do, we pour our life force into our deep root, even as we let go of our lives and spread as seeds on the wind. That lightness of being is how we respond to Jesus’ call to follow and serve. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice!

It takes time to grow a supporting root. A dandelion doesn’t have a thick, strong tap root in its first year of life, and each year it grows, its root holds it more firmly in life.

And dandelions grow this root one day at a time, as their flowers open and close to the sun.

When we do as the dandelions do, we know we are living day by day, and also living each day for the sake of our future. What are your best practices, morning by morning, evening by evening, for the goodness of your life today and for the goodness of the roots that will sustain you for years to come?

Dandelions remind us to hold so loosely to our expectations and demands that we can let go and find the life that is really life, as our scripture proclaims.

Many people call a plant a weed if it grows where we don’t want it to. Ralph Waldo Emerson defined a weed as “a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered,” but in most cases, a weed is a plant whose virtues we’ve forgotten. 

Dandelions became our “enemy” as the front lawn got popular in 18th century England – to demonstrate wealth (we don’t need to use our land for food/income)

In the US after WWII as suburbs and rapid new neighborhoods were subsidized by the federal gov, with cookie-cutter houses and yards that could all look the same if everyone treated their yard the same, and also because a plant killer was developed through weapon research (which kills broadleaf plants but not grasses) dandelions became pests rather than the nourishing food and soil healer that humans had known them to be. And another reason people wanted uniform lawns of green grass? One humanizing theory says returning soldiers with ptsd needed order amid chaos, something to control.

STOP SCREEN SHARING

We might relate to that, in the stress and anxiety of this fall. Raise your hand if

you had more stress than usual in the last year and a half

and raise your hand if you’ve been reminded off what is most important to you in the last year and a half

How do we stay alive to the sweetness of the world, while staying present to the heartache? By celebrating beauty, holding joy in our hands, but loosely. And holding this joy while we also name the grief and worry we’re holding, too. Life is restored in this mix of both.

Right now I am storm-tossed.

And what am I going to say? “God, get me out of this?” 

No, this is why I came in the first place. 

I’ll say, “God, put your glory on display.” 

A voice came out of the sky: “I have glorified it and I’ll glorify it again.”

START SCREEN SHARING

dandelions grow where soil is compacted, breaking open pathways for air, water, nutrients and all sorts of life with taproot

their long taproots pull up calcium for topsoil and plants

Early flower for pollinators

can grow in more shade than grass, and in more acidic soil than many plants tolerate

fill in bare ground, like a path where you walk often- welcome, friiends.

A housefly lives 2-4 weeks. A redwood about 700 years. Humans are somewhere in the middle.If we had little deaths – like a tree shedding leaves every winter or a snake shedding skin every two months – would we be better prepared for our final death? And is there anything final about that death anyway?

Jesus calls his death his hour of glory, and teaches that giving up our lives saves our lives, that letting go of our own lives generates life around us, like a grain of wheat becoming the seed of new life. Can we learn from dandelions how to give our whole selves up as seeds floating on the breeze, with a deep taproot that grounds us in the goodness of life?

Like a dandelion rises and opens wide to greet the sun, let’s rise in our spirit, raise our voices, and sing together of life that is truly life! Amen.

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