The beauty of a dying onion

Published 11:58 am Saturday, April 19, 2014

by Brandon Robbins

Have you been enjoying the weather recently? It’s amazing! I love this time of year! No bugs. Nice breezes. Perfect temperatures.

It’s the time of year when my wife starts gardening. As I write, she’s pulling weeds from the beds in our front yard. Soon she’ll be planting herbs, purchasing flowers, and generally doing all the work that saves me from looking like I live in a bachelor pad.

Last year, she got really excited because she got a new flower: a Yorktown Onion. Long-stemmed with a lobe of purple blossoms, it’s a flower native to my hometown of Yorktown, Va. Apparently, Yorktown Onions are so rare that it’s illegal to pick them from the side of the road (so let’s just keep this between me and you!).

Actually, my wife purchased her Yorktown Onion at a garden sale near where my parents live. She was so excited to get it home and display it in our front yard. However, like any perennial plant, a Yorktown Onion has a short life. After a few weeks, I noticed her placing a pot underneath the plant. I asked her what she was doing, and she responded, “I’m waiting for it to die!”

Admittedly, I was taken aback by her response. “Waiting for it to die (?),” I thought. “Then why on earth did we buy it?”

But there was a deeper meaning behind what my wife was saying. She was waiting for the plant to die, because when it did, it would drop its seeds. This was the reason for the pot underneath of the plant. She was hoping to catch the seeds in the pot. This way, next year, she wouldn’t just have one Yorktown Onion; she might have dozens. In fact right now, several buds are sprouting from the dirt, complete with tiny purple lobes just waiting to open up.

What my wife realized was that the death of her precious Yorktown Onion wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. As much as she loved admiring it and hated to see it wilt, she realized that its death actually produced greater life.

As Christians, we believe that the same thing happens on Easter. This past Friday, we celebrated Good Friday, the day we reflect upon Jesus’ sacrifice. You might ask yourself, why would we celebrate such a day? For the very same reason my wife celebrated the death of her beautiful plant.

For we believe that Jesus’ death is not the end of the story. He is more than just a martyr who died for the cause of good deeds and important teachings. His death represents new life.

Even though Jesus’ exhaled his last breath on the cross, his life was not over. On Easter morning, the tomb in which his lifeless body was laid was empty. Something unexplainable, unimaginable, had happened over the course of those three days: he had conquered death. He didn’t just come back to life to live for another few years. He rose from the dead, never to die again.

This is the difference between resurrection and resuscitation. When a person is resuscitated, he or she is welcomed back into this world for another few days, weeks, or even years. But Jesus was resurrected. He re-entered life never to taste death again.

And because of his resurrection, we never have to taste death either. Of course some day, our eyes will close, never again to re-open. But that will not be our end. For through Jesus, we will receive new life, a life that will never be extinguished.

I believe that this ‘new life’ represents two experiences. I believe that it speaks of heaven, a place where we will be in God’s presence to live eternally—a place where death cannot touch us. But I also believe this new life is something we receive here on earth, something we can experience in this life.

While we live, each of us experiences various forms of ‘death.’ Maybe for you, it was a marriage that did not survive. Or a painful realization that those care-free days of your youth had passed you by. Maybe it was the loss of a job. Or the loss of innocence inflicted by a harsh and unforgiving world.

I believe that Jesus brings us new life in these areas of our lives too. He brings healing to our wounds; light to our darkness. He offers us salvation that doesn’t just await us upon our deaths, but is available to us this very moment. I mean if he can conquer death, is there anything in our lives that could possibly be too big for him to overcome?

Jesus offers us the hope of a different, better life. A life filled with meaning and purpose. A new life in which God can shape us into the people God has always desired us to be, the people we have always longed to be. And just as the Yorktown Onion uses the sacrifice of one to produce new life for many, so too God uses our new lives to bring new life to others, providing food for the hungry, freedom for the oppressed, hope to the hopeless.

At Courtland United Methodist Church, this is precisely what we’re going to be celebrating Sunday. We’re going to be celebrating the empty tomb, the resurrection, the fact that God has brought new life into this world, both in us and through us. And we’re going to do it by beginning a new series called “The Bible Code,” a series that opens our eyes to the patterns within the Bible that reveal to us not only how long God has planned this for our lives, but how such ancient patterns can transform our lives right now, today.

So may you join us and Christians everywhere, in celebrating Easter next Sunday. May you experience the power of the resurrection, the excitement of new life not just some day in the future, but in this life. And may you allow this new life found in Jesus’ sacrifice to not only change you, but to change the lives of many through you!

BRANDON ROBBINS is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or