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With an Open Hand

A Lent Reflection for Sunday, March 17 by Rev. Sally Carlson

Lectionary reading for 03/17/2024: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 119:9-16; Hebrews 5:5-10; John 12:20-33

Selected passage for reflection: John 12:20-33


John 12:20-33, The Message

20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up[a] from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.


I love to garden. I love picking out and buying seeds and imagining all the things I can plant and grow. Well, actually I love to plant my garden but struggle with watering, weeding and maintaining it. Okay… in truth, I love the IDEA of a garden. I had a couple years where the seeds made it into the ground and I did a passing job of keeping it up, but in the last couple the garden has remained firmly in my imagination! Maybe a few pots but that’s it, and my dear husband is the one who keeps them alive! In reality, I seem to like to visit and enjoy other people’s gardens.

As I reflected on this passage, I was struck most this time by Jesus’ references to a seed needing to be planted in the ground if it is to produce fruit. It seems obvious to anyone with even a passing knowledge of plant life, but when the metaphor points us back to our own life, we very often miss the point! ‘Anyone who holds on to life…’ How tightly do we hold on to our own lives and not live into all that Christ has for us? How many things look good to us from afar (that metaphorical packet of seeds that we bought because we like the thought of planting them), but never release them for God’s glory? Over and over again I find myself holding tightly to my own stuff, often out of fear or a sense of scarcity.

I love the Message’s translation of the next verse, ‘But if you let it go, reckless in your love…’ It is a beautiful thought - to love recklessly like Jesus. We hold tightly to so many things, our life and dreams and goals in particular, and in the process don’t love the world - our neighbors - the way we are called to. We save our love for only certain people, or offer it with condition. We love, but with a scarcity mindset. As if there isn’t enough to go around. But what does being reckless in our love look like? We can look to Jesus to see what that is like. Again, I like the idea of it, but do I actually follow through? That is still a work that Christ is doing in me, and by His grace and with His power it is possible!

For the last few years during the season of Lent I have tried to cultivate a practice of saying ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye’ to things in my life. In order to make space for Jesus to do new things in me, I need to say goodbye to some old things - be it habits, thoughts, or whatever that keep me from hearing and recognizing the voice of God in my life. I say goodbye to help clear the noise in my brain and fog my eyes so that I can see Jesus in a new way. And maybe I can let those seeds out of the packet this year and actually plant them. Letting go is challenging, but it can also bring freedom to live and love more abundantly.


In what ways have you been holding on to your life? What is Christ calling you to let go of so that you can be ‘reckless in your love?’ As you reflect again on this passage, imagine that you are in your garden with seeds ready to plant. What seeds need to go into the ground so that new things may bloom in your life?


Creator, Saviour, Spirit. Help us to let go so that we can be reckless in how we love and serve. Help us to see your world as you do, and love it as you do. Relieve us of the fear of not enough and replace it with the knowledge of your abundance. Be with us. Amen.

About the Author 

Sally Carlson serves as associate pastor at Shoreline Covenant Church in Shoreline, WA. She loves reading, the outdoors, hotdish (she’s from MN!) and a good cup of coffee! Sally especially loves walking with people as they walk with Jesus. Sally lives in Shoreline, WA with her husband, Daniel. 

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1 Comment

i have been thinking about how roots grow for quite awhile before we even see growth above ground. This has been encouraging for me because I am in a season of growth that seems to have little to show for it! Thank you for your encouraging words. I definitely need to say good bye to some things!

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