A story by Rev Hilary Bond:
It all began with a handful of soil; dust we sometimes say, but it wasn’t really dust; not the dry weightless stuff that dulls a shiny surface or collects in hard to get at corners; but dust with possibilities. Dust with the potential for life. Dry, but already loaded with the intentions of God.
The Creator breathed life into the dust-form that was Adam, and set him down to stand on the dust from which he had come.
Adam, his senses newly formed and finely tuned heard the splash and the gurgle as for the first time Sister Water rose from the dust bringing life to everything she touched. He watched as the first trees (coming from the same source as him) answered the call of their creator “come forth!” and shoots, then leaves, then branches began to push their crowns towards the smiling face of Brother Sun. Smaller plants appeared, and Adam reached out in joy and wonder to touch the glossy smoothness of the apple and the delicate softness of the petals of the rose. Sweet perfumes filled the air; jasmine, lavender and mint, as our sister Mother Earth began to play her part.
From this good and fertile soil the Creator formed every creature that walked, swam, crawled, hopped, scuttled and flew; but still something was missing. And so, from Adam’s now living breathing dust the Creator fashioned Eve. He set her down beside him, and sitting back to rest He saw all that he had made; and it was very good.
Then someone else spoke. The serpent’s words were not those of creation and blessing, but were crafty and questioning. Had he also come from the good earth and the hands of the Creator? His words brought disquiet, temptation and the desire for what was wanted but not needed. Choices were made, forbidden fruit was tasted and consequences abounded. The serpent would eat the dust upon which he was condemned to crawl. Adam and Eve would live a very different life from now on in a very different place. And the soil? The good soil from which all life had come? Through the selfish desire of humankind it would be cursed. The life that teemed within it would have to suffer not only thorns and thistles, but also the need for those weeds to be torn from it so the people could live.
Now, where there had been joy and delight, there was toil, pain and tears; but also gifts. Our sister Mother Earth, sustained by God, responded to hard working hands and brought forth at least enough, and often plenty. Children grew, but the curse of self destructive choices remained until in a fit of jealousy brother spilt the blood of brother and the ground itself cried out in sorrow and distress.
It could have all seemed desperate and dark, but there was always hope; the promise of healing, the offer of restoration. Sacrifices were offered by way of Brother Fire, and then there was a promise; “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
The pattern of human nature repeated; relationship with God, relationship damaged by bad choices, realisation and repentance, forgiveness and restoration; over and over again.
The rhythm of life in and around the soil repeated too; prepare, plant, tend, harvest, over and over again.
And for both the promise remained.
Good soil; rich, dark and crumbly; smelling of life too small to see but there all the same. Was that what Jesus had in mind as he told them the story of the soils? About the need for soil that was not choked with weeds, not hard and compacted, not shallow and exposed; but alive and ready to receive the seeds. Soil that was ready to wrap the roots in loving, living darkness even as the shoots wound their way upwards towards Brother Sun, as they had from the beginning. From this he said, from this good soil, the Kingdom will come.
The promise remains. Some have heard and understood, but still we take more than our sister Mother Earth can give. We fill our Sister Water with the plastic we cannot unmake but do not wish to see, and Brother Wind takes to himself and carries around the world poisons almost unseen – but deadly. This we hold in our hands.
The promise remains. Eden will one day be restored and then there will no longer be any curse upon anything that came from the Creator.
Until that day let us serve with the humility of those who know their kinship with the soil from which they came and to which they will return along with everything else that the Creator called forth from that handful, that world-full of soil. It all began, you know, with a handful of soil.