Wednesday, November 4, 2009

An Unexpected Encounter with Amaranth

My mother and I are both on wheat-free diets, due to possible sensitivities to that grain. If you've ever been on a wheat-free diet, you know that there are a number of other less famous grains that are well-tolerated by most wheat-sensitive people. Among these is the tiny grain amaranth, which now makes regular appearances on our table.

We even attempted growing amaranth about 10 years ago. Terrible idea. The seeds are so tiny that it's nearly impossible to separate them from the chaff by hand. Trust me, buy it in the store!

Well, last Friday amaranth made an unexpected appearance in the middle of our men's Bible study. We were looking at 1 Peter 5:4, where Peter says that faithful church leaders will be rewarded when Jesus returns. They will be given an "unfading crown of life". The Greek word for "unfading" is "amarantinos". Describing this word, Thayer's lexicon has this to say:

Another form of the word, "amarantos" is used by Peter back in 1 Peter 1:4 to describe the "unfading inheritance" which awaits all followers of Jesus. What a great promise!

But there's a negative side too. Some things do "fade away". If you know much about word origins, you know that the prefix "a" often means "not". Such is the case with "a-maranth". The "maranth" (or, in Greek, 'maraino') has a broad range of meanings related to 'wasting away'. This word, maraino, is used only once in the New Testament, in James 1:11.
For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.
These three verses form a challenge to us to invest our lives in things that will not fade away.

But, my lesson in amaranth wasn't over yet. After the Bible study, I went to the health food store to pick up some groceries. They hadn't opened for the day yet, so I stood outside waiting. While I was waiting, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but an amaranth plant, which seemed to have grown up "volunteer" next to a tree near the entrance. This was amazing timing because I haven't seen an amaranth plant since we grew them 10 years ago! Here are few pics:

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